Sunday, March 13, 2011

Take the Time

(Written 2/19/2011 from Puerto Iguazu, Argentina)

You know it's hot and humid when you stick (ew) to the paper you're writing on (I'm going au natural today sans my laptop).  This morning I arrived in Puerto Iguazu after a long 17 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires.  I'm here to see the famed Iguazu Falls. 

Unfortunately, I won't be able to cross to Brazil because I don't have a valid visa.  Mom doesn't want me to go because it's dangerous - but she's lucky I'm not here Monday through Friday otherwise I'd be charging toward the Consulate.  I've heard it's a great sight because you get a more panoramic view.  Although true to Argentinean spirit and pride, the locals claim the view is better from "their side." :)

Before leaving Buenos Aires I went to a phenomenal cooking class where Teresita "schooled" us in Argentinean cuisine in her beautiful home.  There were about 8 foreigners and we were blessed by the company of Teresita's husband, neighbor, and granddaughter (she did not look old enough to have a 17 year old granddaughter!)

Teresita's beautiful home

Our visit started with a trip to the Carniceria (butcher shop) where we witnessed the hacking and sawing (literally) of the meats we would barbeque.  In true carnivore form - I was in heaven.  Except I wasn't too excited about the prospect of eating brain - and luckily we didn't.

Self explanatory...

Since we had already worked so hard (not at all) Teresita let us have a nice wine break.  She broke out the Torrontes, a nice refreshing and crisp white Argentinean wine.  It is sometimes referred to as "the liar wine" because of its very sweet smell, but lack of sweet flavor.  Perfect for a relaxing cooking day.

Once we rolled up our sleeves the first order of business was empanadas.  Now, I know I've said Chile has the best empanadas in the world, but Teresita gives them a run for their money.  In my mind it's all about the dough - and she nailed it with a simple recipe.

Measuring out flour with an old school scale.

Teresita teaches us the ways of a master roller
We all marvelled at her magic hands and the way she folded the empanadas.  Even with my years of potsticker pinching experience (thanks Dad and Aunties and Uncles for all the lessons!) I wasn't nearly as skillful as Teresita.  I blame it on the Torrontes wine.

My first empanada!

While Teresita's neighbor, Jorge, fired up the asado, we prepared the Chimichurri (divine), and Salsa Criolla.  These were all so simple but so delicious.  I'm convinced it's because of the ingredients.  Teresita mentioned her friend picked up Oregano for her in Mendoza and various other herbs were gifted from other locales.  I loved that!  Her friends bought her spices as gifts when they travelled.

Either way, I have to recreate these dishes at home to see if they carry the same diverse, intense flavor.  Paired with meat = amazing. 

Intestines, sweetbreads and blood sausage cookin, cookin, cookin

Jorge was impressed by my love for the grilled intestines, sweetbreads, and blood sausage.  I love the way Argentineans eat it - since it's got such a rich flavor they smear it on bread like pate.  Meat and carbs?  Yes, please.

During the asado I met 3 other couples - we ate, drank, and laughed together.  One couple from Wisconsin was still glowing from the Packers win - Colleen and Charlie were so much fun.  And Colleen owns a quaint, very popular restaurant called Bogus Creek Cafe.  If you're ever there tell them I sent you! 

Since Colleen's restaurant is outdoors they close down every winter and travel, and they've come to Argentina for food inspiration several times.  Colleen told me she keeps coming back because she loves that people here "take the time."  That sank in for me.  Her description was simple but accurate and for some reason seemed profound.  She said that whenever she asked someone for help, directions, or anything else - they would drop what they were doing and "take the time" to make sure she got what she needed.  That is the essence of Buenos Aires spirit - cool, calm, relaxed, and willing to help.

At home I'm always so rushed from one thing to the next that pausing is such an inconvenience.  My thought for at least one thing today where you "take the time."


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