I want to extend my Madison OATMEAL offer to Buenos Aires. If someone is not convinced on the deliciousicity, I am an oat missionary and will make oats for people who want to come over and learn or who want me to bring a tupperwear of it to a cafe for some tea and oats.
Blancarly@gmail.com and find a time to . . let oats into your life.
Sometimes I think I should change the name of this blog to reflect my favorite food: Oatmeal. Recently perusing the New York Times I found an article for Healthy foods for under $1.
Number ONE on the list is, you guessed it, oats: "High in fiber and good for cholesterol. A dollar buys you a week’s worth of breakfast or keeps you well-supplied in oatmeal cookies."
In Buenos Aires, Oatmeal is not difficult to find; the challenge for me was obtaining the old fashion style rolled oats (avena gruesa). Going to the dietetics stores in your neighborhood and asking for this product will help you figure out which stores consistently carry it.
I was fortunate enough to find Willy, a native Bolivian who has lived in Argentina for many years (he's a Tango teacher) and is the owner of a natural food store a block from my house on the corner of Juncal and Ecuador. For 5 pesos, I get a large bag of rolled oats that generally last me a week (but that is calculating that sometimes I consume it twice a day, and rarely does a day go by where it is not enjoyed).
Also, at his and other neighborhood stores, take advantage of getting other products you find on the NYT $1 list and my own personal cheapy favorites: peanuts, raisins, bran, yogurt and Tofu.
In Argentina people often say to me: "¡Vos solamente comés pasto! [You only eat the lawn!]
This is probably in part due to the fact that I have a shopkeeper named Willy who I go to once a week to buy my oats.
And now I have found a place to regularly buy my granola too: Granola Mix
They have premixes and breakfast options, but the definite appeal of the site is that I can design exactly the granola (bar or loose) I want.
I made one healthy mix --naming it CarliMix, to keep with the theme of egotistically inserting my name into all of my favorite foods--with a Muesli base and adding raisins, figs, cashews and pistachios. (19 pesos)
And one desserty mix--ChocoCarli--with a Choco-granola base, golden raisins, walnuts, marshmallows and chocolate chips. (22 pesos)
For 2-4 pesos more, you can get the granola delivered right to your door if you live in Barrio Norte, Belgrano, Microcentro, Nuñez, Palermo, Recoleta or Puerto Madero.
It is rare in the U.S. to walk into a place and have there actually be NOTHING on the menu that a vegetarian can eat, even if sometimes it means combining side dishes to make a meal there is at least SOMETHING.
Today I walked into a small "pancho" restaurant--near my school across from the famous concert hall Luna Park--which is a place that sells hotdogs and some burgers, too, and there was literally nothing on the menu meant for non-carnivorous me. So, in my forward north-american, porteño-cringing way I decided to ask "hay algo vegetariano [do you have anything vegetarian]". The Buenos Aires native I was with reddened and put up his hand as if asking for forgiveness for my defiance against his country, as he waited for his two hotdogs he had just ordered.
The answer was first a laugh and then a no. I noticed on the menu that there was a small egg sandwich (if you are a vegetarian that doesn't eat eggs or cheese, this entry is not for you), that had jam, cheese and egg. I asked if they could simply not place the slice of ham on my sandwich in order to make it vegetarian. There was an awkward moment where all of the non-vegetarians looked around puzzled at each other wondering if I could be serious. As I often say, it is not that it is particularly hard to find vegetarian options if you know where to look and what to ask for, but it is certainly difficult to make someone understand that I don't eat things that were part of a living animal.
Amused, they prepared my egg and cheese sandwich adding lettuce and tomato. I garnished it with ketchup and crushed chips. They asked me for 4 pesos (a little more than one U.S. dollar), and I haggled them down to 3 pesos (less than one U.S. dollar) since I was not getting the piece of ham. My original plan was to go buy a salad for 30 pesos at a natural food deli a block away, but for under a buck, I couldn't resist.
The moral of this story is that asking for the vegetarian option in a country that does not understand vegetarianism may not be as successful as simply investigating the menu and showing the restaurant how they could make something with meat ok for us herbivores (at least of the lacto-ovo variety, in this case).
An article in the NYT by Mark Bittman starts with this lead: "ADORED in the United States, ignored or mocked almost everywhere else, peanut butter is among the most flavorful and reliable single-ingredient processed foods."
And it's largely true. When I say that peanut butter is my favorite food (along with oatmeal, pumpkin, dark chocolate and grapes), I frequently get the following reactions living in Argentina:
1. Doesn't that make you fat?
-Carly the Vegetarian: Argentina is famous for dulce de leche, empanadas dripping with cheese, and facturas. Any of these products eaten in excess will undoubtedly make you fat; same with peanut butter.
2. We don't have peanut butter here in Argentina.
-CtV: It is not hard to get peanut butter here; most natural food stores and supermarkets in Chinatown have a homestyle version. Also, if you want an expensive import from North America, many large grocery stores will have a couple of jars just calling out to us capricious Americans. So, it's not that it isn't here.
3. That is so American.
-CtV: So is The Simpsons, but Argentines can't go ten minutes without making reference to them. So is McDonalds, but there is one on every corner in Buenos Aires, so that is not an argument for not embracing this North American delicacy.
4. One time, long ago in a moment I barely remember, I tried peanut butter and I didn't like it and I will never give it another chance.
-CtV: No. I don't believe you. Bring me some Cerealitas and I will spread some on it and you will like it.
I frequently argue for the versatility and utility of peanut butter, but this NYT article is an excellent reaffirmation that just adding a spoonful of it to almost anything (within reason) will undoubtedly make the dish better.
Bittman asserts, curries, oatmeal, noodles, hummus all benefit from this seldom-appreciated-internationally product.
Also, as my friend Will and I discovered last year at an International Potluck, peanut butter finger sandwiches are a unique way to represent our peanut butter-obsessed country.
There are some positive and negative aspects of globalization, but this non-proliferation of peanut butter treaty that the world seems to have against the U.S. is unfounded and not good for my personal international relations.
I probably won't give a press conference crying about it, but I must admit that I myself am also not being faithful: I have recently begun a love affair with the Argentine soy milk AdeS. Much to my own chagrin, I find it much more satisfying than its North American counterpart, Silk Soymilk fortified with fiber.
AdeS stands for Alimento de Soja (Soy Alimentation in English). The majority of the products sold by AdeS are actually soy juices; if you ask at a grocery store in Buenos Aires for soy milk they will simply say that in Argentina it does not exist. However, if you ask for AdeS, you will be sent to the soda aisle where there is a small section with boxes of soy drinks.
I have yet to hear a single Argentine person tell me that they like AdeS soy milk; they know that it exists, but find it disgusting (although I welcome being told otherwise). A professor of mine who is also a vegetarian recoiled in disgust when I said I liked soy milk.
But at $5 pesos per liter, I think I have found a new source of protein to help me not slowly deteriorate while in the CarneLandia (Beef Land). It makes a mean bowl of bran with banana and raisins, but delicious to drink plain too. It is also fortified with Vitamin A, C, D, E, and B6 and boasts iron, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin B12 and calcium.
The one draw back is that it comes warm in a box, so throw it in the fridge right away, because it needs to be served "bien frío."
So for the purposes of this blog, my amorous situation with AdeS can modify today's headlines from Argentine newspaper Diario Popular: Scandal with Yanqui Vegetarian and Argentine Lover.
Last night one of my dearest old friends reappeared in my life: Flavor. It is a general consensus with the expats that I have met in Buenos Aires that traditional Argentine cuisine does not exactly excite the palette. The Argentine beef aside, finding anything with a strong taste is a definite challenge.
Perusing the reviews of the Indian restaurant and pub in Palermo called Bangalore & Co. I was shocked by some of the luke-warm sentiment surrounding the restaurant. In fact, after sharing this colorful and satisfying meal with a friend of Indian decent from Malaysia-- who taught me how to shovel various flavorful puré dishes into my mouth using pita bread and my thumb (but not teaching me how to not look like kind of a doofus while attempting it)--I was as enchanted by the atmosphere as with the food.
Maybe I am speaking out of flavor deprivation, but upon ordering the vegetarian sampler platter for two, my uncontrollable lust for turmeric dishes and any member of the squash family was at last satiated upon tasting the pumpkin curry. Included in the platter was a spinach/cheese mixture and a some potato balls in a tasty sauce. Pita bread and rice accompanies the dishes to assist in the subsequent shoveling into the mouth.
This is not a strictly vegetarian restaurant (in fact, the waitress brought us bread and chicken to start with and looked confused when I asked if it was meat, explaining my vegetarian 'conundrum'), but the options are ample enough and good enough that if you have forgotten what flavor is, this is an ideal option.
**Ojo: Make a reservation by calling 4779-2621, because we went on a Wednesday night and it was pretty crowded. They don't serve dinner until 9p.m. (which in porteño actually means about 9:15 or 9:30, depending on their mood). It is located on Humboldt 1416 (esq. Niceto Vega).