la experiencia de 3 semanas (part 1)

I had great ambition to blog on the KitchenBachelor for the 3 weeks I spent in Argentina and Chile.  Alas, a few things quickly sidetracked this notion.  For one, most of the computers in hostels are with Spanish interfaces, which means that something I take for granted like saving an image becomes a chore.  Two, at a hostel, there’s always one or two people waiting in line to use the computer and taking time to draft a blog and upload photos is just not practical.  Three, the wine consumption was definitely up while I was there for 3 weeks, which made for little inspiration to sit in front of a computer.  If I decide to blog on the road again, it’ll most definitely be with my own netbook.

In the absence of a real-time account of my 3 weeks in South America, I have decided to do a recap of the amazing people I met, weird quirky things I experienced, delicious food and drink delights and brief glimpse of the South American culture.

#1: Best Spanish (swear) words I learned: boludo (assh*le), suertodos hijo de puta (lucky son of a bitch)

  • picked up from tour-guides and from the mouths of portenos (locals) at the Boca Juniors futbol game

#2: Street food that we need to import: empanadas, completos, churrasco and choripan

  • Empanadas: similar to the ones my Filipino friends make at parties; but in Argentina and Chile, you can find pretty much any variant of ingredients that are filled into a beautiful doughy goodness
  • Completos: hot dogs topped off with mayo, the freshest of avocados and tomatoes
  • Churrasco: same as completo, but replace hot dog with thinly grilled steak
  • Choripan: chorizon sausage and toasted bread – unbelievable!

#3: The Argentinean Steak Obsession: Argentineans love their steak.  The huge country and open land means that for generations Argentina was able to raise organic cattle fed on grass (the healthy way).  Apparently, they’ve now started to use some antibiotics to treat infections, etc, but nonetheless, succulent beef.  Portenos however love to eat their steak well-done.  This is by default.  Only if you’re in a nice steakhouse will they ask you how you would like your steak done – which I reply with medio.

#4: Spice: Argentineans are not used to spicy food.  My palette was definitely craving spicy food after 4 days in Buenos Aires.  Fortunately, Chile is quite different and every meal came with pabre and pan – essentially spicy salsa that you eat with bread.

#5: Drinks: mate, fernet, pesco, cafe

  • Mate: this is a bitter tea steeped (pun intended) in tradition.  With gaucho roots, the cowboys used to drink mate as a way of staying awake and warm in the open fields.  You drink it in a gourd, made of pumpkin, wood or metal, and sip the tea from a metal spoon with a strainer at one end.  It’s quite an acquired taste and there’s quite the etiquette involved with drinking mate.  You never ask to drink someone’s mate, unless you’re offered.  You receive it with your right hand and finish the mate, as opposed to taking a few sips and returning.  I quite enjoyed the experience on two separate occasions and bought myself some.
  • Fernet: it’s quite hard to decipher what this spirit is made of but wikipedia suggests it’s a type of amaro, a bitter, aromatic spirit.  This is quite popular with the locals and I tried some with coke.
  • Pisco: pisco sours are huge in Chile – they taste like a lime margarita and are usually served as a pre-meal cocktail.  There’s quite the rivalry between Chileans and Peruvians on who makes the best Pisco sours.  Roberto, my guide, told me to tell my good friend Carlo who’s from Lima, that I had the best pisco sour in Chile!
  • Cafe: I OD’d on coffee in Argentina – sometimes up to 4 strong cafe con leches, solos or cortados a day.  The coffee is so good here, especially when you can loiter. See below.

#6: Cafes and loitering: As I was travelling on my own, when I didn’t have the company of other travellers, I would spend hours sitting in cafes reading and people watching.  No one ever tries to rush you or kick you out for savouring one cup of espresso or water for hours on end.  Brilliant!

That’s all for part 1 of my recap – check out part 2 here.

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