Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Week in Review (Ken)

It rained today. It is only about the 4th time it has rained in the seven weeks we have been here. That was OK though; it gave me an excuse to do nothing for the afternoon.
My first week of my second-level Spanish class is over. Three more weeks to go. They finally split out large class of 18 into two classes. I was put in a class of 10 with other students who show up everyday. The other class of 8 has at least two students a day not show up. So we are a class of 10 and a class of 6. You may recall my earlier post where I wrote about the German girl saying that she didn´t like it that there were so many Americans in the class--there were 4 in the class of 18. Then she remembered I am an American and quickly said that she didn´t mean me--of course. It seems that she doesn´t like the way USAmericans pronounce Spanish and it is hard for her to understand them.

Anyway, after the classes were split, the Americans were divided two-and-two. The Germans, however, all four of them, were all placed in the same class. I just could not resist. The following day, the same group of us from the first level class were talking on break when the German women were saying how much better the class was now. At that point I said, "Yes, but I don´t like it that there are so many Germans." I smiled when I said it . . .We all had a good laugh--fortunately. I am happy that I did not cause an international incident.

Ana came over for a glass of wine after visiting her mother. She is the woman who has helped us so much and is renting us her apartment. We really like her. She is so interesting to talk to. She tells us about the country and encourages us to speak Spanish. We are very fortunate to have found her. She read my blog about visiting the Ecological Reserve last week. She told me I was lucky to be alive. "It has such a lovely name," she said, "The Ecological Reserve. But no one that I know has ever been there. Every time there is a murder, the body ends up there," she told me.

OK. I hear her. I did get a kind of a wierd, gay-cruising vibe from the place. Here on the streets of Buenos Aires, no one looks anyone in the eye. You avoid eye contact all together on the street--just like any big city. However, when I was at the Ecological Reserve, I would pass men on the path and they would smile and say hello. And a lot of them were just sitting around with their shirts off. Maybe it was nothing, but it made me wonder . . .


We branched out a bit with the food this week and got some carryout (para llevar) from the local parilla a few doors up from the cafe across the street. They only open for a few hours in the afternoon and then again at 8:00 in the evening. We ordered un porción de pollo y un porción de vació con papas fritas (some beef and chicken with fried potatoes). They cook the food over a big grille--the parilla. The cook, or cocinero, has most everything partially cooked and staying warm. When something is ordered he will move the pieves over to the hot coals. For my beef, he carved a huge--almost a kilo--piece of beef off a massive piece and placed it over the hot coals to heat up. The coals themselves are brought in from a back room by shovel when they need to be replenished. The meat is really almost more smoked than cooked. It has a distinct smokey flavor. I saw a bag of eucaliptus wood in the store next to the parilla supplies, but I don´t know if that is the wood they use.
We went back again tonight and Helen and I split the one order. It is incredible. Almost a kilo of beef with potatoes for $14 pesos--less than five dollars.

I am looking forward to the weekend off from classes. I am not sure what I am going to do. I am sure this city has something interesting to offer.


Mia said...

La Reserva Ecológica has always been a funny place. I was surprised to read that you had ventured there on your own. Brave man! Couldn't believe the size of that yacaré (caiman), either.

I wish I could have a bite of that vacio. I miss the wonderful flavor of non-charred meat, slowly cooked over ash-covered embers.

The preferred woods for the parrilla are quebracho, algarrobo and eucalipto, in that order.

Have you tasted "torta pascualina" (pas-quah-LEE-nah), made with Swiss chard and "tarta de zapallitos", made with Argentine round summer squash? If you like savory pies, tarts, you'll probably enjoy those. Most "rotiserías" sell them.

Also, fresh pasta is excellent. Don't buy them from the supermarket, go to the "casa de pastas", every neighborhood has a few and most are good. They sell ravioli in flat boxes and they also sell homemade pasta sauce, freshly grated cheese, all you need to make a quick dinner at home. Two flats of ravioli feed two very hungry people. You'll also find great cannelloni.

Luckily, you have one of the best casas de pastas just a few blocks away, "La Juvenil" (who-veh-NEEL) up the thirteen hundred block of Avenida Pueyrredón.

What to do on the weekend? Have you heard of the "Feria de Mataderos"? Click here for more ideas.

Have fun!


Ken and Helen said...

we went to La Querencia and I had someting like what you described with the squash baked with the meat and chees. It was very good.

Thanks for the suggestions on the Feria de Mataderos. Now that I have ridden the train before, I will give it a try. My quest for this week is to buy tickets to Córdoba on a coche cama.

I will ask what type of wood they use and I will see which I prefer.


Caroline G said...

I just read the "Go Inside Buenos Aires" link that's in Mia's comment. Wow. It all sounds great. I'd love to go to Eva Peron's grave. I'd love to see the street performers in the pedestrian mall, too. And hear the blues. And go to the opera. And try that smoked beef. You lucky people.

Miss you!