As we leave Argentina there are so many things we are thankful to have been able to experience and that we know we are going to miss.
dulce de leche
Most of all we’ll miss the Argentinian people who were always friendly, patient with my bad Spanish, helpful, and welcoming. We’ll miss Argentina, but I know we’ll be back.
Next stop is Chicago to visit friends, family and attend our nephew Matt and his fiance Melissa’s wedding. I’ve also challenged Jeff to a White Castle slider eating contest. I’m pretty sure I know who’s going to win.
With less than a week left to go in Argentina, I realize there is no way I can do it. I was very eager early on, but then as I ran out of the popular cuts and was left with lots of organs, I lost my appetite. When faced with the choice at a restaurant – the best, most tender rib-eye steak you’ve ever had, or kidneys, it was not a hard choice.
So, I continued to eat lots and lots of beef but stopped trying to eat all the parts. I did recently add one new part of the cow to my list, and a scary part of a pig.
First the pig, no it’s not a pig head.
I love sausage of all types. But, there is something disturbing to me about blood sausage, it’s not even the name or idea of blood sausage. It’s the color. Blood sausage is really dark, almost black. I think if it was bright red it wouldn’t be so disturbing.
So when our friends Nati and Frankie came over for an asado (Argentinian barbecue) with blood sausage, I knew now was the time to try it.
Jeff cooked it up and left it on the fire until it sort of split open.
And then I tried it. Here’s the thing, blood sausage is amazing! It doesn’t taste like blood, it is soft and slightly sweet. I’m not sure what it tastes like in other countries, but in Argentina, cooked over a wood fire, it’s incredible.
Mollejas are also known as sweetbreads or the thymus gland of a cow. When our friend Leandro came over for an asado he brought all kinds of meat including mojellas. One last thing to add to my cow list.
I have to admit, they didn’t look pretty raw.
He doused them with fresh squeezed lemon juice and salt. Once on the grill they started to look better.
And then, when we actually ate them, they were really good. The texture is a big weird, sort of spongy, but they taste great.
So, that’s it for the cow eating on this trip. I plan to eat several more pieces of cow between now and when we go back to the US, but they will be my favorite cuts bife de chorizo and bife de lomo. Not only will I not be eating an entire cow in one sitting, I won’t be eating an entire cow in one country. The rest of the parts will need to be eaten on other trips.
When our landlord talked to us Thursday night I heard, “blah blah blah BBQ blah blah blah Sunday.” Jeff, who actually speaks Spanish heard, “What are you doing Sunday, I’m having a BBQ, why don’t you come.” I can’t help but worry about everything. What if he misunderstood? What if she really said, “Hey, I’m having a BBQ on Sunday. Can you please bring your drying laundry inside and keep your obnoxious North American voices down.”
By the time Sunday rolled around I had almost convinced Jeff we weren’t invited. We lurked inside our apartment (which is in her backyard) while she set up tables, got the grill going, and brought out chairs. This is where traveling is hard for me. I’m adventurous enough to go to an Argentinian BBQ, but not confident enough to crash an Argentinian BBQ. Finally we migrated outside onto our porch and were quickly invited to sit down, introduced and cheek kissed by everyone. Either we had been invited all along, or they were extremely welcoming to party crashers.
We sat down and were showered with food. First it was chicken and salads. Next was ribs and chorizo sausage. Then came pork and more meat. As food was ready off the grill it was like a meat auction. Mario, the asador (griller) would take something off the grill, hold it up. “Chorizo? Chorizo?” Then if you wanted it you’d hold up your plate. I tried to pace myself in order to have enough room to try everything. It was all so good, it was hard not to just keep eating.
It’s funny how some things are the same and different. Watermelon for dessert seemed so North American to me. But then it was brought out “upside-down” to my USA eyes.
I was concerned that we would be served something really weird that I wouldn’t be able to eat. But, the most unusual thing I saw was a glass of malbac wine, ice, and diet coke. My favorite part of the day was when they toasted with “to family” It made me miss my own family. But, as I clinked glasses with our new Argentinian friends I was thankful that they included us in their family for the afternoon.
At the beginning of all our trips, we have visions of going to one town and settling down. The plan is always to “move” to one city or town for six months.
But, then wander lust sets in. How can we stay in just one town when there are so many other towns/cities/countries nearby.
We pull out maps and decide to travel around the entire continent. We can do it if we do one town a day for the next four months. Then we remember, we have 5 pieces of luggage, a bicycle and Jeff has a business to run. We can’t just backpack around Boliva. But, we can go to Chile. We can take a side trip to Boliva. We could move to Uruguay. We can take a side trip to Peru. We can move to Ecuador. We can take a side trip to Columbia. Or, we can go south and see more of Argentina. Or we can stay in Salta longer.
The possibilities are endless which can be paralyzing. I can only sit in front of a Lonely Planet guide, Expedia, Trip Advisor and 1,00o travel blogs for so long. At some point we have to just do it, pick a place and buy the tickets.
We’re decided to leave for Chile in 2 weeks. We’re really excited, but now I’m starting to look at Salta through new eyes. Things that I see every day are taking on that new meaning now that I know know my time with them is limited.
We’ve never ever regretted leaving one place in order to go to another one. The only thing that happens is our list of places to return to one day grows longer.
The camera, which I haven’t pulled out for awhile is now back in my hands. The “Top 10 things to see in Salta” is back on my computer screen. We’ve only done 5 of the ten. The road trips we’ve been thinking about are actually being planned, the museum’s we’ve never gone to are on tomorrow’s itinerary.
I’m assuming they still have beef in Chile, so I’m not going to cram the rest of eating the cow in. Besides, we’ll be back in Argentina at the end of the trip.
I am going to be spending a LOT of time with dulce de leche. They might have it in Chile, but I don’t to risk not eating it if they don’t.
One of the great things about our Salta apartment is that it comes with a parilla (Argentinian barbecue grill). And, one of the great things about Jeff is he’s willing to be an asador (barbecuer).
The Argentinian grill looks sort of like a built in shelf under a chimney. The giant rack comes with a crank, so you can adjust the height of the grill over the burning wood.
We’ve tried it several times. For the first one, I started slicing veggies and salting the meat around 8:00pm. It took slightly longer to light and cook the meat than intended. We sat down to dinner at 1:00am.
But, since that first attempt, Jeff has gotten quite adept with the grill. Several things are different about our asadors (the name for the actual barbecue as well) versus the traditional ones. 1. Number of people attending – traditional asadors have lots of people. Since we don’t know many people here, the largest one we had was attended by three people, Jeff, me and our friend Stephanie.
2. Order and kinds of meats – traditionally there is a specific order which starts with organs, then sausage, then meat. The order in our asadors is sausage, meat, chicken, veggies, usually more veggies than sausage, no organs at all.
3. The cook knows what he’s cooking. Our method of obtaining the meat is to go to our local butcher. We always prepare ahead of time with a list of nicely translated words for cuts of beef. But, we either loose the piece of paper, or get confused when the butcher starts talking fast.
I then say “parilla” several times and point to the case of meat. The very nice and patient butcher cuts me several different cuts of meats. We bring them home and look them up on google. This last time we came home with what turns out to be flank steak, rib cap and something that was delicious, but no idea what cut of beef it was. So, until I can find a definition for queperi or learn to pronounce it in a way that people can actually understand me, the queperi portion of the cow will go uncolored.