People had warned me that the food here is a little boring. Many Argentines have German or Italian heritage, so the food here reflects the cuisine of those countries. But I think the spices were lost on the journey across the ocean. The food doesn’t taste bad – it just doesn’t taste much at all. The most common flavoring agents are salt and vinegar, and if someone likes to cook, maybe oregano and a little garlic.
I hear that the meat, on the other hand, is world class. Too bad I don’t eat meat. (You can imagine how, if I can’t keep the names of different meats straight in English, I am completely lost in Spanish.) The option sin carne is typically pasta. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had gnocchi, ravioli, fettuccine, cannelloni, and some kind of giant ravioli called “quesonudle” or something Spanish/German-sounding like that. The pasta is often homemade, and sometimes it’s not bad. But I get bored eating pasta twice a day.
Thanks to Krista, I found some places to eat in la Villa that serve other vegetarian food, and then they fixed the oven in my apartment so I could cook for myself. Unfortunately the principle of supply and demand governs the spice aisle in the local supermarkets; there are only a few options, mostly mixes for marinating meat. So my home cooked meals have been fairly bland as well.
Some of my classmates have ventured further than I have to shop for groceries. The other day the Careys went to a Walmart about 45 minutes away. They told me it’s a little different from the Walmart at home. For example, they lock up your purse in a bag until you pay. But they said that mostly, it was still Walmart.
Last night, I had a dream that they invited me to go back to Walmart with them. But it was very, very different – more like a cross between Costco and an arcade. The store was dimly lit, but the ceiling had all these red and green and yellow neon lights zigzagging across it. The air was filled with beeping noises and clashing electronic music. Instead of the regular straight aisles stocked with cans and boxes, there were different stations haphazardly placed throughout the store. At each station, there was an attendant with big hair, gaudy makeup, and a flashy costume. The attendant would let you play a little game in order to try a sample or buy something from her station.
Most of the samples had meat in them, but eventually I played a game that let me into a lighter, more peaceful section of the store where a few people were sitting around a bar. On the counter were little egg-shaped coasters with samples of Indian food on them. I tried one, and then another, and then another – they were so flavorful! Eventually, with my coaster of curry in midair, it hit me that if they had samples like this, they must also sell the ingredients! I raised my eyes, and sure enough, there was a lovely aisle of spices stretching before me. Each glass bottle glimmered like a spotlight was shining on it, and I could read the pretty handwritten labels - cumin, ginger, cinnamon, basil, red pepper flakes, even citrus grill! This may sound like your average spice aisle in America, but it was so beautiful. Past the spices, there was a section of curry pastes, and beyond that were mixes for other kinds of Indian food. And everything only cost about 3 pesos (around $0.70).
It was too good to be true! I kept asking my companions (who now included Chris Clouzet, a girl I met in Argentina, and Richard Parker in a raincoat) if I was dreaming. They assured me that it was real; I could buy any of these items that I wanted.Sadly, I woke up before I made it to the check out line. When I walked into my kitchen for breakfast this morning, I was greeted by a lonely packet of finely ground black pepper on top of the microwave. No curry for me today. My taste buds will have to be patient for one more week.