January 9, 2011

Argentina Tidbits

Sadly, we're almost done with Argentina. More details and photos to come. But, since we've stamped out of Argentina except for our last visit before our return flight from EZE, and we now have Uruguayan Pesos in our wallets, I need to take a moment to remember the small things about Argentina before I forget them.

Amazing coffee. Oh, how I will miss thee. In some ways, Argentina takes the coffee ritual even more seriously than Italy or France. I never saw a single person walk up and order a shot (or double or triple) of espresso just to shoot it, pay, and leave. Always, there was a pause. A seat, even if just on a bar stool. Sipping and Savoring. And of course, a longer pause that is entirely outside of the consumer's control for the server to return and collect payment. The way we saw it, unless you find yourself in a Restaurante Auto-Servicio (which is a cafeteria monster with lines and trays you slide along like school), Servers control access to the change and receipts, not the person running the cash register.

Agua con gas, you are easy to find at home. I already stock it in our fridge, but I'm thinking I will try to continue its part in my daily routine (thereby replacing many diet cokes).

Palmitos. Oh dear. I can't believe this vegetable has been missing from my life for so long. After its discovery, I tried to eat it at least once a day, always just with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Apparently, according to the server I asked, they farm them in Argentina, which is why they are ubiquitous (i.e. they grow sustainable multi-stemmed plants and selectively harvest instead of killing wild palms by harvesting the single stem). Yay! Guilt free deliciousness. Too bad the only state in the US where they are farmed is Hawaii. More investigation will occur.

Roxette. They are huge here. Unlike most Americans, I was a big fan back in the day, and I listened to their cassette tape incessantly. So, in Argentina, I often find myself singing along in taxis, on the overnight buses, etc. I blend.

80s revival. Clothes. Music. Everywhere. Is this true in the US as well?

Hoarding of change and small bills. Metamatt warned us, but it's still shocking. So let's say you are lucky enough to find an ATM with cash, but you don't get small denominations. Well, merchants will refuse to do business if they think the bills presented are too large for the transaction. Vendors sell stacks of change at the bus terminal in Buenos Aires and call it out as you walk by Hay Moneda! Hay Moneda!. On several occasions I have walked away from a purchase in surprise due to the rejection of my 100 peso or 50 peso bill. The economic forces at play are mind-boggling.

General inefficiency. Yesterday I shocked myself by thinking that the municpial bus system in Bariloche was less efficient than *BOTH* the Italian and the Mexican solutions to the same problem. I can honestly say I'm unaware of thinking that about anything else. Ever.

Airport trade-offs. After this trip, I will have taken more flights in close succession from Aeroparque than from any other airport in the world. This is not by choice, it's just that most flights within the country are on spokes of a wheel that centers on Aeroparque. As promised, the security line is usually super-speedy and reasonable. For example, I watched them let a teacher with a collection of rounded-tipped scissors through after a brief questioning, although I did get a 5 minute questioning on my facial powder on one occasion -- rather than upset me, it made me smile -- good point! Why aren't they looking for large amounts of contained powders? (Now I've done it...) No matter what I'd been told, however, the time saved in security was easily replaced by other inconveniences. Instead of jetways or good old fashioned walking on the tarmac, on multiple occasions, we have exited airport gates, to wait for a bus to slowly load and spasticly transport about half of the passengers (and their luggage) 50 meters so we can slowly disembark and walk the last 20 meters to the stairs (while the other half load the plane in front of us or the bus behind us). On one occasion, a driver revved the engine multiple times but failed to move until the exasperated driver in the bus behind him exited, tapped on his window and explained how to put it in first and release the clutch while all of us passengers looked on. Often the airport bus does not start, it does not have air conditioning, or the bus doors do not open properly. On one flight, after disembarking the bus, passengers were simultaneously told to board the front stairs and the rear stairs of our MD-88 -- no thought was given to which entrance should be used by passengers assigned to which seats, so, after E and I took the rear stairs to our seats in the rear of the plane, we got to enjoy the show for 15 minutes while folks fought their way past each other for access to their seats and luggage space.

10 minutes means the same thing as 15 minutes or 20 minutes. AKA, "sometime in the next hour."

Baked empanadas. (Read: not fried). E tried to eat these every day.

Provoleta -- or, let's take some local provolone cheese and brush it with olive oil, top it with herbs and grill it. Or better yet, let's add some tomatoes and onions and make provoleta a la napoletana. In honor of which genius should I build an altar?

And steak. Great steak. Oh, how I have loved thee. E is of the opinion that either brochette de lomo or bife de lomo is best. Me? I'm a simple girl. I just love me a good Entraña (jugoso, por favor).

Argentina, we're missing you already.


Matt Ginzton said...

Hey, a bunch of stuff I recognize!

Agua con gas -- we were considering getting one of http://www.sodastreamusa.com/drinksmakers.aspx, actually.

Palmitos -- huh, the tour guide from IguazĂș Jungle Explorer told us they kill the tree to get an absurdly small quantity of palmito and we shouldn't eat them.

Roxette -- features prominently in Rock Band 3 so I've been listening to them at home recently.

Airport buses and boarding the plane from both ends -- heh, yup!

Baked empanadas -- I mostly preferred the fried ones, but I did have a really good baked empanada caprese (what it sounds like).

bt said...


Looks like the World Wildlife Fund has been working in Argentina to promote sustainable farming and harvesting of palmitos in the forests as an alternative to forest clearing for soy:


Jealous of the empanada caprese! Didn't find one of those.
There's always our last day in BA...