Action-Packed

My blog hasn’t been very active lately, but I have! Since I wrote last, the winter (not a typo!) solstice has come and gone, and I’ve gone out for tasty regional Argentine food (from the northwest) and Mexican (spicy, tasty, but expensive); done laundry in my new apartment; spent SAE volunteer day painting a family activity center in the province; won the SAE pub quiz night (it was in English) with my teammates from Italy, England, and Ireland (rematch next week); went to a party sponsored by Club Europeo at the beautiful Palacio Paz at Círculo Militar (the room with this beautiful domed ceiling was the dark, smoky, disco ball–decorated dance floor and bar); started and finished knitting a pair of fingerless gloves for myself; stayed out late; worked about 70 hours; and went away for the weekend. The weekend probably makes for the most interesting (or at least most current) story.

My friends Brian and Virginia, who I went with to La Choza, had a party at their house out in the province this weekend and I was invited to come and stay overnight. The party was fun (though it didn’t work out to have some local folkloric musicians come play as they had hoped); we ate tasty homemade pizza and I learned a little bit about a traditional dance, the chacarera, and talked with their Argentine friends and the other SAE members/travelers who also came out from the city. We found out that one of the musicians we’d been listening to (and to which we’d been dancing the chacarera), Peteco Carabajal, was going to be playing at a nearby festival the next day, so a few of us ended up staying later on Sunday so we could check it out. Brian and Virginia made a fabulous American breakfast that morning, with eggs, bacon, toast, etc. It was just the beginning of a great day, especially food-wise.

I think we asked about five different people in the town of Campana for directions before we finally found the place where the festival was being held—Club Esso, overlooking a refinery along the Paraná River. The festival was called Chocolatino, aka “Nuestra Fiesta del Chocolate,” which basically meant in addition to the usual artisan booths, inflated moonwalks for kids, and food stands, there were two rooms full of chocolatemakers selling their tasty treats and offering samples. I restrained myself and only bought one little milk-chocolate frog filled with peanut butter.

There were tons of great-looking food options, and it was hard to choose. I decided on a choripan, which is a chorizo sandwich (my first, though I’ve been hearing about them forever—they’re hard to find in my neighborhood!), loaded with garlicky chimichurri, and shared a beer with fellow SAE member Aaron—turns out they make plastic cups big enough to hold a whole liter of beer! A little ridiculous for carrying around, but there you go. We also tried an awesome artisanal beer called La Reserva, which I really wish was available in the city. Once we heard there was a Mexican stand in the other tent we had to go check that out, and I did buy a huge taco, which was really good—with beef, corn, beans, cilantro, etc.—but didn’t taste at all like a taco!

Peteco Carabajal wasn’t going to play until 6:30, and we’d exhausted all the booths and OD’d on chocolate samples, so we went to check out more of the city. There were lots of people hanging out, fishing, and playing music on the riverbank sandwiched between the refinery, port, and train station, but the area was pretty run-down and we didn’t feel compelled to stick around. We went in search of a pulpería that we’d gotten brochures for at the festival, and again had to ask directions a couple times to find it. In the 1800s pulperías were like country general stores that sold everything you’d need for life on the pampas, and this one claimed to be “a meeting with history.” We finally found it, and saw a man who could only be the proprietor (big bushy black beard, jaunty red hat, gaucho pants and boots) getting into an old burgundy Ford Falcon (apparently there was an Argentine model in production until the early 1990s) with “Pulpería Cultural La Federal” painted on the back window. He said he was off to the festival, and would be back to open up around 8. We said we’d come back later, and headed back to see Peteco play.

Turns out the Carabajal family is a big name in the Argentine folkloric music world, and people were excited to see one of the (middle-aged) sons of the family play at Chocolatino. They were singing and clapping along to most of the songs, and he was a great performer. Some people in the crowd started dancing the chacarera and another dance with handkerchiefs (I’m not sure what it’s called, but I saw it at Feria de Mataderos as well), and it was fun watching them (I took some video of Peteco and the dancers, but can’t get it to load on my site for some reason).

After the show, we headed back to the pulpería, having to ask directions several more times and literally driving in a circle at least once—Campana is not an easy town to navigate—the pulpería guy’s wife saw us walk in and said, pleased, “You came back!” We were the first people there, and got to talk with them and learn more about the building and all its contents—everything original antiques (though not original to that building, I think), including old photos, full bottles of alcohol with interesting dusty labels, kerosene lanterns, bars to protect the staff from rowdy customers, etc. Pedro, I think his name was, served us a wonderful tabla or picada of cheese, olives, different meats (salami, blood sausage, mortadella, roast pork, jamon serrano), and bread, and more of the La Reserva cerveza artesanal. A side dish held succulent, moist, marinated deer meat—wow. Possibly my first, and really tasty, though we did think it tasted kind of like fish! They also brought us some empanadas—the first fried ones I’ve had out at a restaurant, and totally delicious. Virginia said their flavor was the “true empanada.” While we were gorging ourselves, Virginia and Brian talked with Pedro and his wife (and their daughter) about his coming to the SAE clubhouse to give a presentation on the pulpería life, etc., and I think he will be coming, or SAE might do a field trip out to visit the pulpería (it’s about an hour or so from the city). Properly sated, a perfect end to a great day, we bid farewell to our gracious hosts and went back to Virginia and Brian’s, convinced there was no point in taking the bus back to the city at 11 p.m.!

A few photos here.

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4 Responses to “Action-Packed”

  1. rebecca Says:

    busy busy busy! the Nuestra Fiesta del Chocolate sounds fabulous! and the whole adventure sounds delicious. can’t wait to peek at the photos.

  2. santoki Says:

    I can’t help but love that you are eating your way around Argentina! Be sure to leave plenty of culinary adventures for my visit, ci? BTW, baby got paid! xoxo

  3. santoki Says:

    …or is that si? This is why I will never survive in your neck of the woods.

  4. Amy Says:

    Don’t worry, there are plenty of things left to try. It’s funny, I think when I first got here I was a little bored with the food—pizza, pasta, meat, and sometimes it feels like all the menus have the same thing—but it definitely has its highlights. Yesterday an Australian told me he wasn’t very impressed with the food here, and, just back from the adventures highlighted above, I said “Really?! I love it!” and then realized I wouldn’t have said that a month ago.

    It’s sí, with an accent. Si (without an accent) means “if.” Don’t worry, you and your monkey will be just fine!

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