Where I grew up in New Jersey, there wasn’t a lot of ethnically diverse cuisine, but there were Italian restaurants every 50 feet, and almost all of them were good. As such, I never really opened a menu, because any decent Italian place serves ravioli, which has been my favorite meal since approximately age five.
As an adult, as my close friends know, “all-things-pumpkin” joined ravioli on my list of favorite foods. Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pudding (which I make myself, and once prompted my roommate to say, “What the hell is this? This big bowl of orange goo in the fridge?”).
Well, late last week, in the little outdoor-but-heated café attached to the Evita Museum (which was great, but less relevant), my two favorite foods came together: Pumpkin-stuffed ravioli with thyme cream sauce. I was dying. It may have been the best meal I’ve ever eaten. I have thought about it no less than three times a day since I had it.
Unfortunately, in Buenos Aires overall, I have not been so lucky. My roommate once said—and I believe she was only partially kidding—that Trader Joe’s was the best thing that’s ever happened to her. And now, I have this to say: I don’t miss my bed, or my car, or anything like that, but I miss Trader Joe’s.
Argentina is known for its beef, and it’s legit: The steak here is undeniably the best I’ve ever eaten. The problem is—particularly for someone who eats red meat at home maybe two or three times a month—there’s just So. Much. Meat. So, eventually, you tire of beef, and you branch out to see what else the culinary world here has to offer, and unfortunately, it’s not all that much:
· Empanadas. Empanadas are everywhere and they’re good, they really are, but they’re also just dough and meat—and, occasionally, cheese. They also, too often, include:
· Ham. Sweet Jesus, they put ham on everything here. I don’t even really like ham (it’s kind of one of those foods that’s, you know, fine, and I’m okay to eat it if someone puts it in front of me, but I’d never seek it out). Here, though, you can’t avoid it. Ham empanadas. Ham on croissants. Ham on chicken sandwiches. Ham underneath the steaks. It’s lunacy.
· Superpanchos! This means hot dog, and this means I love it. No complaints on this one except for the fact that they often put ham on them.
· A complete lack of salads. I’ve ordered exactly three salads since I’ve been here, and each one is a little nastier than the one prior. If the lettuce isn’t brown and wilted, the carrots are. And slimy, so slimy . . . Salads are uncommon, and prepared pretty much solely for tourists, it seems. A guy who lived in my building told me that twice he ordered a salad and out came a plate of cut-up bits of ham with a few pieces of shredded lettuce on top.
· Bread. Okay, so I love bread, any kind of bread—plain, with butter, dipped in oil, as a sandwich, whatever. But even I am sick of bread here. It’s on every table and used as a base for most meals. It is also always unnecessarily served with:
· An abundance of pizza and pasta. Argentina has a massive Italian immigrant population, and they brought their fattening, nutrient-lacking food with them. That said, I love both of these foods, and they’re pretty good here, so it’s better than, say, a huge Bulgarian population coming in and bringing their food culture. (I think it is, anyway—I’ve never actually eating Bulgarian food.)
· Cookies. Because I have both a weight problem and issues with self-control, I do not purchase cookies in the U.S. (Instead, I eat the ones my roommate buys.) So, I’m not actually sure that Argentinean cookies are substantially better than American cookies, but I do know they’re more prevalent. Janne, my German friend here (she’s my South American Eva), told me she’s used to large family breakfasts at home on the weekend mornings, and because she’s staying with a family here rather than on her own, she thought she’d have that to look forward to. “But instead they just microwave some powder thing they call coffee with water in the microwave and eat a cookie. A cookie!” This was confirmed in my Spanish class a few weeks ago when we worked our way through the unit on food. My teacher called on Connor, an Irish guy, to talk about breakfast. He gave what I considered to be a pretty standard and impressive (in Spanish) answer: “In the mornings, for breakfast, I eat fruit salad, and I have some tea.” My teacher replied, “No, for breakfast, not a snack. What do you eat in the morning?” He explained that he had understood the first time, and he has fruit and tea for breakfast. The teacher looked at all of the other students and said, laughing and pointing, “It’s very strange, no? That’s so strange! Fruit? What about cookies? No cookies? No croissants? You must be hungry all the day without cookies in the morning. Yes? He must be starving all day long, don’t you think?!” Hoping my response might count as my turn for the exercise, I threw Connor under the bus and said, “Yes! So strange,” because I knew those words, but did not know the word for eggs.
It sounds like I’d be pretty happy in Buenos Aires, huh? Italian food, bread, pizza, and beef. That’s more or less my whole diet here in the U.S. 🙂
Then again, I’m with you on the ham. I wonder why we both ended up feeling the same way about it? Especially when we both like things like hot dogs and bacon! And speaking of which, I’m henceforth referring to hot dogs as superpanchos! I’m totally going to have a superpancho on Friday night when I go to the Nationals game.
I know! “Superpancho” is a fantastic word, really. And maybe Mom cooked too much ham? Also, I would like to go to a baseball game when I get home. 🙂
I don’t really remember her making ham all that much. I dunno. Anyway, a ballgame is definitely in order!
Supernacho is a hot dog? Really?
Now that you mentioned ham on everything, I think I’ll pass on Argentina. i am really not a ham fan. I really don’t want to eat ham on things. Tell me how to say “No ham, please” in Argentine Spanish.
And your cookie paragraph made me laugh and laugh.
Oh! And another thing! I just read a tip on Argentine shopping that said “Argentine women are very small. If you’re a size 8 or larger, you will not be able to purchase clothes in Argentina.”
How do these women stay so small if all they eat is ham, steak, bread, and cookies?
I have NO IDEA how they stay so small! I know. I’ve had shopping disappointment left and right, honestly, because of the sizes.
I will find things for you without ham. Swear.
I really do love Trader Joe’s.
Hey, I don’t like ham either!! I’m thinking maybe I can find some fruits and nuts to get me through the day until we can find me some pizza sans beef. Regardless, I have a feeling I’m going to gain approximately 8 pounds in Argentina, and another 10 the following 2 weeks in (deep-fried) Texas. Looks like I won’t be able to but clothes in Argentina.
Superpancho will replace “douche” (-: .. and HEY! Who says Bulgarian food is not tasty!?!?! I really have not idea but felt like those people needed defending! (-: To add to “what do people eat for breakfast”. When I grew up we always had cake for breakfast on Sundays. There is one sugar HIGH for you. But that came we having to get up at 6:30 since my father preferred getting up then and wanted to “enjoy” breakfast together…. ohh, the joys of childhood. So I am all for cookies, biscotti, scones, croissont and a large latte for breakfast .. and then please get me a mumu, tent, shower curtain or something along those lines to wear as I turn into jabba the hut (sp?)
oh… and one more thing… I really don’t want you to come back.. because that means your blog with stories from BA will come to an end )-:
Omg, the cookie thing was killing me! Could you imagine, cookies for breakfast?! All the time! I’m surprised about the salad thing. How is it that we Americans are so fat when we know about things like fruits and veggies and don’t eat cookies for breakfast?? I wonder how americans picked up the ole eggs/bacon/pancakes/sausage breakfast diet when it seems the rest of the world just carbo loads? Hmmm….food for thought.
I really could not find a line to copy and paste and put in here to say “this was the funniest thing I’ve ever read!” because I really think ALL of this was the funniest thing I’ve ever read.
If you don’t get a film adaptation deal out of this blog I’d be super surprised.