The people of Argentina are proud of their country, as they should be. They have gauchos, tango, Tierra del Fuego, Mendoza, Iguazu Falls, the Andes, the Atlantic Ocean, Buenos Aires, polo and soccer. Unfortunately, they also have fabulous food and oceans of Malbec available everywhere.
While learning about the Argentine culture and enjoying the exciting urban experience of Buenos Aires, we have learned that there are five identified meal times every day and proscribed offerings for each one. It’s like being on a cruise ship with 13-million foodies. We have never passed a restaurant at any time of the day or night where there was not at least one customer snapping up pastries and slurping a cappuccino!
Directly across from us. On the fourth corner is an empty building with a large sign featuring a MacDonald’s Big Mac. We are not sure if it’s an ad or an announcement that they’ll soon be flipping burgers there. I hope we’ll be gone before they fire up the french fry maker.
The restaurants are open when we get up in the morning, they do a brisk trade all day, and close long after we have lumbered up the stairs to bed. The mouth-watering aromas from the bakery downstairs often waft right up the building and infiltrate our apartment. It is agony.
This block is not an anomaly. Within waddling distance, we’re talking two blocks here, there are eight restaurants, three bakeries, six fresh fruit and vegetable stands, and two factories featuring home made pasta dishes slathered with the customer’s choice of rich, authentic sauces topped by mountains of freshly grated Reggiano Parmigiana. They package up our choices in oven-proof containers so we can take them home to snuffle our way through our bounty in the privacy of our own dining room. I, of course, wash my portion down with vast amounts of tasty Malbec wine, which is made in Mendoza and is readily available at several excellent wine stores and tasting rooms very close to us. This place is diabolical.
Much of our time is spent choosing restaurants, reading menus, deciding what to eat, and waiting for our choices to arrive. Since my Spanish is sketchy and Tim’s doesn’t exist it’s always an adventure.
Lorene comes every Saturday at 9:00 AM to scour what we lovingly call our frat house. We have to disappear because the place is tiny, so we have taken to sauntering two blocks up the street to our favorite local restaurant and ordering the “London” breakfast special. It is as unhealthy and delicious as it looks. By the time we’ve plowed through this much food, Lorene has finished her chores so we can roll home and have a little nap.
We discovered years ago in our travels that having a nice lunch out and then limiting ourselves to a smallish dinner is the most effective way to keep us from foundering like a couple of horses. Here’s a sample of some of our luncheon choices:
This was a selection from the salad bar. The rest was delivered by men with big knives slicing off pieces of large roasted animals at our table.
Even experienced grazers like the Martins sometimes make dreadful mistakes, especially when we are confronted with a menu in Spanish featuring expressions and food items with which we are unfamiliar. Sometimes we take madcap chances, hoping that the food goddess will smile on us and bring us a happy surprise. It rarely works out.
I thought this salad had to do with lettuce. Nope, it’s an apple, celery and hearts of palm number with some black olives for color.
We have two strategies which, after five months on the road, have kept us from letting the temptations of Mexican and Argentinian cuisine completely ruin our health. First, we walk. We walk every day as much as we can between feedings. We rarely take cabs and make use of the subway system, which requires walking to the stations and then some pretty decent hikes and stair climbing within the stations themselves.
Second, we eat at home at least once, usually twice, a day. Cooking in the Barbie-sized kitchen isn’t easy, but it’s do-able, and it helps us control both our budget and our waistlines. Both are strained but we’re winning so far.
An antidote to indulgence.
Every day we march past the downstairs bakery and the pasta factory, buy fruits and veggies at the wonderful fresh produce stand around the corner, eat a lot of chicken, and try to curb our tendency to over do it when we dine out. We’ll keep you posted about our success with these strategies and next time we’ll have a little show and tell about grocery shopping in Argentina, which can sometimes be classified as a contact sport right up there with soccer and polo!