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  • Benjamin 3:16 pm on June 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: argentina, carnivore, food, sierra de velasco, south american countries   

    Culinary observations in Argentina. 

    Argentina is often described as the most european of the South American countries. And why not? Much of the country is only removed a few times from their European ancestry. So it’s no surprise that the cuisine in Argentina is not particularly unusual to a visitor from the USA. They love grilled meat, pasta, and pizza. Even so, even the small differences are inevitably of note to a foreigner.

    First, a disclaimer

    I am staying in a small town called Anillaco at the foot of the Sierra de Velasco. My experience here may be, and probably is, different from the Argentine experience in Buenos Aires. Anillaco is primarily an agricultural town, despite this province being one of the driest in Argentina. The grape vines and olive trees benefit from a primitive but extensive irrigation system that collects water runoff from the mountains.  That said…

    Meat and not meat

    Yes, it’s true. Los argentinos eat meat. A lot of it. The fresh fruit and vegetable selection in Anillaco is definitely lacking. Most of that is probably a product of it being a tiny town far from where these things are grown, but it’s also because they simply do not prepare many dishes with them. Even Changomas, the Argentinian Wal-Mart (quite literally, Changomas is owned by Wal-Mart) in the provincial capital of La Rioja had a minuscule selection of produce. As far as fruits go, they had oranges, pomelo, and pears. And about 5 bags of grapes curiously tucked away with the vegetables. As a corollary, they don’t really have salad dressing. I found some Caesar dressing at Changomas and something that looked like french dressing but the serving suggestion was for pizza. They did have 20 ft of an aisle devoted to mayonnaise though (ugh).

    Asado, or cookouts/bbqs are common. Throw various parts of the cow onto a grill, maybe some chorizo, and bam, a delicious night is in store for you and your friends. Mmmm.

    Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nendivei/2476493946/

    Milanesa

    A popular Argentinian preparation is called milanesa. It was described to me as the Argentinian hamburger. Besides both being made of meat, they really aren’t anything alike. What he was getting at, though, is milanesa is everywhere. You can find it at most restaurants and it’s prepared at home all the time. Milanesa is a thin cut of meat that has been covered in egg, seasoning, and bread crumbs, then fried. It’s pretty much Weiner Schnitzel, but it’s usually beef instead of pork. The carniceria in Anillaco has a rotating selection of 2 or 3 meats (and sometimes tuna) available, but always milanesa. The first thing I ate in Argentina was a milanesa sandwich and it did not disappoint. I have some in the fridge and I’m fighting the urge to fry it up right now.

    Milanesa

    Sweets

    I don’t know if its ubiqutious, but it appears los argentinos also have a serious sweet tooth. Every kiosco (small neighborhood stores) has a pretty good candy selection.

    Dulce de leche is basically soft caramel, but you’ll likely find it as a substitute for Nutella rather than a standalone candy (side note, they have Nutella here but not peanut butter). Dulce de leche is drizzled on pastries, fruits, cakes, or really anything you want to make sweeter and delicious.

    Alfajor is a cookie sandwich type thing that often has dulce de leche inside of it. It’s pretty amazing. Even Oreo has an alfajor equivalent down here, which is pretty much two and a half oreos stacked on top of each other and covered with more chocolate. If you’re thinking that this sounds really unhealthy, you’re right. With all this red meat and alfajors, why aren’t the Argentinian people super fat?! There’s an entire website devoted to reviewing different alfajor varieties, in case you were interested (en español).

    Oreo Alfajor

    Spicy food (there is not)

    Aside the antipathy toward veggies (hate to be vegetarian here!), the biggest annoyance is the lack of spicy food. As an American, when I think of Central or South American food, I think spicy. I’m aware my perception is heavily skewed by Mexican cuisine, but still. Not in Argentina. Nuh uh. Peru, yes. Argentina, no. There might be a little kick to the chimichurri, if anything (it’s a sauce for grilled meat). I’m told the best places to get spicy food here are at Thai or Vietnamese restaurants. Well, there aren’t any in my town of 1500 people, so I guess I’ll do without. Next time I come, I’m smuggling in some cayenne pepper to add to my milanesa. Its probably sacrilege, but whatever.

    Stayed tuned for a later post on liquid libations and such…

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  • Benjamin 6:09 pm on May 23, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anillaco, argentina, geologia, geology, gringo, la rioja   

    Hola amigos, neither I nor this blog is dead. 

    You wouldn’t know it from this sadly neglected blog, but I’m still alive and things are still happening. Well, almost certainly things would still happen even if I was dead, though the world would take some imperceptibly different trajectory. But, since this blog is really just a dumping ground for the aimless thoughts in my brain, and being that my brain would likely meet its end in parallel with the rest of me, the content would undoubtedly become stale were I to cease to exist. So where I have I been?

    Following my time in Houston, I set off for my new appointment as graduate student grunt at the University of Southern California. I took a wandering route, visiting Big Bend National Park, Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Mojave before rolling into Los Angeles. Maybe someday that adventure and its triumphs will find its way to this blog. For now, I’ve busied myself with the typical graduate student life; spending long hours in my fluorescent electrical closet office followed by long hours meeting with friends, exploring my new city, or wasting time aimlessly browsing the internet. At the expense of sleep, of course. I would like to think I’ve reached a level where I can call myself a scientist with a straight face, but I’m really more of a school kid.

    Scientist!!!! F yeah!!! School kid : /
    Scientist!!!! F yeah!!! School kid : /

    Right now, I am actually more of a traveling guy. I’ve found my way to a small town in Argentina that is conveniently located near some cool geology that shares some structures with some rocks closer to home in California. While I’m down here studying the rocks (las rocas, or more commonly las piedras) I’m also doing my best to assimilate a little Argentinian culture. I’ll make a post about that soon. First let me tell you about where exactly I am and how I got here.

    Anillaco Map

    I am staying in a small town called Anillaco (pronounced something like annie-shock-oh), in La Rioja province. Anillaco is home to about 1400 people. The nearest big city is La Rioja, the capital of the province and home to one of Argentina’s universities. Even though Anillaco has an airstrip (it’s apparently neglected) and La Rioja has a commercial airport, I was not so lucky to fly into either of these places. Instead, I flew in Córdoba, the second largest city in Argentina. While La Rioja and Córdoba may look pretty close on that nice Google map above, they’re actually over 450 km apart. That translated into a 6 hour bus ride. And that’s on top of almost 24 hours of travel. Good thing I’m staying here for awhile.

    Anillaco is a pretty nice town. It’s located at the foot of the Sierra de Velasco mountain range, in a line with a handful of other small towns. La Rioja province was one of the first places in Argentina to make wine, and Anillaco is no exception. The space between the highway and the town is taken up completely by trellises and grape vines. I’m staying at a research center at the edge of town. The locals are pretty used to strange faces visiting the center, but they were not ready for a person like me, who’s español es mierda. Fortunately, my host speaks english very well and he was able to serve as a buffer during my first few days here. But now, once we split up after a long day in the field, I’m on my own to explore the town and interact with the locals. I’ve asked a couple young folks working in stores if they speak english. They look at me warily, make the international sign for “so-so” and maybe say entiendo, pero no hablo. This is going to be an enlightening stay in Argentina.

     
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