One of my roommates interns at BuenosTours and was given an assignment to write a review of the BA Underground Market. Organized by The Argentina Independent, the market has multiple vendors with all different kinds of food and drinks. For ten pesos we were able to enter the market and buy all sorts of delicious things. I spent one hundred pesos on market tickets, and ate a spicy quinoa burger, chicken sandwich with bacon, breadbasket with a corn and calabaza mixture, spiced cookie, fresh cannoli, and a whiskey-soaked watermelon. The market also had microbrewery beer and fresh pisco sours (so good!). It was a nice way to spend our Saturday and hopefully I will still be in Buenos Aires for the next BA Underground Market.
Spending the holiday season away from home has been a little strange. Although I am enjoying summer here, it is weird knowing that a white Christmas will certainly not come, and that some Christmas traditions will not be possible this year…like skiing on Christmas morning with my dad and sister, or getting cozy holiday pjs from my mom on Christmas Eve. To try and get in the holiday spirit, I’ve been working on combining a few of my Christmas traditions from home with some of my favorite things about Buenos Aires.
The first order of business was getting a tree. My mom decorates like crazy for Christmas (exactly like this), making both of our homes beautiful and festive. After browsing through a few stores near where I work, I decided it would be nice to get a little tree for my apartment. While waiting for the bus after teaching, I stopped into a dollar store that was filled with Christmas goodies. I got a (slightly sad looking) tree and some red bows all for about four USD. I was excited to set up my tree and add a little Christmas cheer to our Palermo apartment.
One good thing about Thanksgiving being over is that it is finally socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music non-stop, and watch lots of Christmas movies. I spent one lazy Sunday downloading all of my favorite holiday songs (like this, this and this) and a few movies. We watched Elf one (extremely) rainy afternoon. I also brought How The Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas to watch with Manu one day and learned what Christmas traditions the Manes family has during the holidays. In my family, we always watch A Christmas Story and Love Actually on Christmas Eve (after enjoying my absolute favorite meal), and It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas Day…this year I’m saving these for my long bus ride to Mendoza to keep myself sane.
I really enjoy baking, and after being called-out by the boys for not having baked anything yet, I thought that now was a good time to start. Christmas always makes me think of cookies (my mom makes a ton and I always raid the stash at my best friend Mia’s house), so I chose to make two favorites that my mom makes. I made magic bars but changed the recipe slightly from this. Instead of graham cracker crumbs, I mashed up a different kind of cookie from here called FrutiGrans, and added dulce de leche pieces to the top of the bars. I also made meltaway nut balls following a recipe similar to this. Both treats came out great and the boys really enjoyed them, which made me very happy. A few days later I came across another recipe that sounded super easy. I made three-ingredient Nutella brownies (I sprinkled coconut flakes on top of mine)…I was initially nervous because the batter was very thick (I realized later it was because I doubled everything in the recipe except the eggs…oops), but the brownies were really yummy.
Although I am sad to miss Christmas with my family, I am really looking forward to my holiday trip to Mendoza and Santiago de Chile!
Since we are in Buenos Aires as ‘tourists,’ we have to leave the country every ninety days to renew our visas. We decided to make a trip to Uruguay since it is right across the river and a good place to go for a day. After working until 3am the night before, we had to catch an 8am ferry to Colonia del Sacramento (needless to say we were all very tired). Our trip got off to a rocky start after nearly missing the ferry. We thankfully made it just in time and started our journey across the Rio de la Plata. However, midway across the crew discovered that there was engine trouble and turned right back around to Buenos Aires. After yet another hiccup in our simple day trip to Uruguay, we hopped on a new ferry (which ended up crashing into the dock in Colonia, breaking a window on the boat) and eventually made it to Colonia.
The weather was perfect for a day of exploring in Colonia del Sacramento, which is an old town on the river that has both Spanish and Portuguese influence. The town is beautiful with cute buildings and cobblestone roads. We took a quick walking tour of the historical portion of Colonia, and then stopped for lunch where we had chevitos, which are popular sandwiches in Uruguay with steak, ham, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. After a nice relaxing break we continued exploring the city and then stopped at the beach to sit in the sun. Next we went to the lighthouse and climbed to the top to see the beautiful view. We ended the day with a nice dinner on the water where we watched the sunset while enjoying a few cocktails (and another round of chevitos). It was a very long day and we were all exhausted afterward, but it was definitely worth it in the end!
One of my favorite holidays of the year is of course Thanksgiving. I love everything about it, and knew that since I’d be living in a country that doesn’t celebrate this wonderful day, I’d have to make a conscious effort to make it just as good as it is at home. We decided to split the cost of the turkey and each made one dish that we love from our own individual Thanksgiving feasts.
The first order of business was getting a turkey. Argentines love their red meat, and rarely ever eat turkey (the children I au pair for didn’t even know what a turkey was). After asking another expat, we were told that it is possible to get a turkey here, you just have to ask for it special and it may take a day or two to actually get to the store. With this in mind one of the boys and I ventured to one of the bigger supermarkets here to inquire about our bird. A woman in the store first misunderstood my request and directed me towards the avocados (the words for avocado and turkey in castellano are pretty similar), but then told me that they did not have what I was looking for. Discouraged, we went home thinking that we’d have to settle for a few chickens instead of turkey for our meal. This was obviously out of the question for my roommate, who immediately began researching other ways to obtain a turkey. He discovered El Tejano, a barbecue place here in BA owned by a man from Texas. The owner had a few extra turkeys up for grabs that would be cooked and delivered to us the morning of Thanksgiving. The twenty-six pound bird was worth every penny and even came with bbq sauce (which took the place of our gravy) that had a hint of cinnamon.
I decided to make the sweet potatoes for our meal. At home, I love the sweet potatoes that my mom makes, and thought that everyone else would enjoy them as well. I was nervous at first (I called my mom about three times for directions and moral support) to cook such a Thanksgiving staple, but I decided that backing out was not an option and went to work on my dish. Instead of the popular marshmallow-topped sweet potato pie, my mother pairs the vegetable (are potatoes vegetables?) with candied pecans. I was so proud of myself since the potatoes came out delicious…they had just the right amount of cinnamon and brown sugar (and of course butter), and the candied pecan topping added the perfect crunch to compliment the mashed potatoes.
After the success of the sweet potatoes, I felt very motivated to keep cooking. I took the role of sous chef and helped my roommate prepare the green bean casserole (which became quite the project and took about four hours). In the United States, green bean casserole is made significantly easier thanks to French’s and Campbell’s. Here in Buenos Aires, there are no pre-made fried onions or cream of mushroom soup, so we had to make the whole dish from scratch. My roommate took the job of frying the onions while I washed and cut the green beans. Although it was quite a project, the onions came out amazing (much better than French’s), and in my opinion really made the dish. The next difficult task was to make the cream of mushroom soup from scratch. There was some confusion for me regarding a dutch oven (classic mix-up), and after adding a majority of the ingredients I got nervous by the thick consistency of the mixture and passed the job along to my roommate. In the end, the casserole was fantastic, especially since so much work went into it.
After a very long day of preparation (I give my mother so much credit for the amount of work that goes into this meal), we finally made it to our friends’ apartment where we enjoyed our meal on their terrace. The menu included smoked turkey and bbq sauce from El Tejano, sweet potatoes with candied pecans, green bean casserole from scratch, pineapple stuffing, mashed potatoes with pancetta, corn, and mashed calabaza. Everything was delicious (my front-runners being the pineapple stuffing, pancetta mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes). For dessert we had apple slices with dulce de leche (yum) and a chocolate cake from our favorite bakery. The meal was certainly worth the wait, with great company and lots of laughter (mostly at my expense).
In my family, as soon as the meal is done and everyone has awoken from their post-Thanksgiving naps, we always watch the movie Arthur together. I don’t know how the tradition started, since Arthur is certainly not a Thanksgiving movie, but its something I always look forward to (along with pecan pie a la mode as a movie snack). This year I settled for watching it on my laptop the next morning before preparing another Thanksgiving staple, the Turkey Town. We celebrate Thanksgiving in Ludlow, Vermont, which is home to Java Baba’s café. Our favorite sandwich (which you can get year-round) is called the Turkey Town…turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo on fresh whole grain bread. The day after Thanksgiving we always re-create our own versions of this beloved sandwich (I usually like to add sweet potatoes to mine), so naturally we did the same here in BA. My creation this year had turkey, BBQ sauce, strawberry jam (in place of cranberry sauce), stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed calabaza, and pancetta mashed potatoes all on toasty pieces of whole grain bread…it was amazing and the perfect end to our South American Thanksgiving.