Monday, October 5, 2009

Offbeat Argentine Cuisine

I must admit that adjusting to the Argentine cuisine has been a little more difficult that I had hoped. I'll just go ahead and blame it on the pregnancy, but deep down, I may just be a pickier eater than I pretend. So, first an overview, then I'll show you some of our interesting little discoveries.

Breakfast (roughly 8-10:30 am) is generally a cafe con leche and a pastry. They serve 'medialunas,' which are like croissants, but a little more dense and with a sweet glaze on top. I am definitely a medialuna fan, so breakfast is generally a good meal for me, if I get myself out of bed and ready for the day early enough. Lunch (roughly 12:30-2:30 pm) seems to be usually a sandwich, empanadas, tortas (like quiche), pizza, or Milanese (thin cuts of beef or chicken that's breaded and fried). Their sandwiches are funny because they're often just ham and cheese, or ham and cheese and tomato, or a big slab of Milanase between two pieces of bread. Now, those two pieces of bread could be white bread, with the crusts removed, or pita-like bread, or giant baguettes. So, for instance, the other day I got a Milanese sandwich, which was a huge piece of breaded and fried beef put in between two baguette slices. There were like four inches of meat hanging off either side of the baguette slices. And, of course, there are no condiments or add-on things like lettuce. Meat and bread. Maybe meat, cheese, and bread. Dinner (8:30-10:30) seems to bring on more variety, including steaks.

Perhaps the frustrating part is the general lack of variety. Nearly every restaurant in our posh little neighborhood serves basically sandwiches, empanadas, pizza, and Milanese. Or you can go to a steak-house. Sometimes an American just wants a salad bar or a yummy soup, you know? Or a chicken salad, mmm.

Oh, speaking of salads, most of the 'hip' restaurants that want a foreign sort of edge offer salads, but they're often very offbeat salads. Take this Waldorf salad, for instance, at which I am looking quite skeptically in this picture. Yes, yes, the main ingredients in a Waldorf are apples, grapes, celery, walnuts, and mayo, but this was literally chopped up apple, slathered in mayo, and sprinkled with walnuts and hearts of palm. I don't know. I felt like I basically was just eating mayo-covered apples. It was weird.

And delving even deeper into the weird, we have mate. Chad was brave enough to order this traditional beverage. They bring you a mate cup, filled with dried leaves (same idea as tea), a metal straw, and a thermos of hot water. You pour the hot water over the mate leaves, let it steep, and then drink with the straw. Repeat. The straw has slits that essentially act as a filter. Mate is extremely popular all over South America, and they generally drink it when socializing in groups. They'll often even pass the mate cup around to share. Well, Chad offered to share with me. Let me tell you, mate is gross. I'm sorry to sound so closed-minded or whatever.
I bet, though, that if you steeped alfalfa and hay in hot water and drank the liquid from a straw, you'd basically be drinking mate. Yep, alfalfa and hay. Maybe some plain ole grass mixed in, too. Just take a good, close look at it. Ick. But Chad drank all of it, so maybe it's just me.

Perhaps I spent too much time describing the oddities of Argentine cuisine. We actually had a delicious meal just this weekend at an estancia an hour outside Buenos Aires. I'll post about that next time, so we can balance out the picture of Argentine cuisine.

Addendum: Omg, they make mate soda. Some of you lucky folks just might be getting a six pack of this for Christmas.


  1. Yeah, the apples with mayo are kind of odd. But the little goblet and slitted straw are kind of nifty.

  2. I just might bring home mate supplies, so you and the folks at home can try it out yourselves. Although I think most people might prefer to substitute tea leaves for mate leaves...

  3. A. was reading the email I just sent you over my shoulder and he was like "apples and mayo?" So I had to show him the blog.

    And now he says that if the soda is Materva, he'd like some...

  4. but of course he doesn't want you to go through too much trouble...

  5. Indeed, it is Materva! I'll see what I can find, but I hope he doesn't want to drink it. Maybe to do like chemical experiments on it... or give it to some unsuspecting person to watch their reaction, hehe...