Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Peanut Butter Vs. Dulce de Leche

Every culture has a vat or jar of a nutrient rich spread to put on their crackers or their bread.  The U.S. has peanut butter.  Europe has Nutella.  Argentina has Dulce de Leche (or caramel).  And Australia has its inedible vegemite.  These items are so exclusive to their countries of origin that they are scarcely available anywhere else.  I am consistently warned before going to a foreign country that if I can't live without peanut butter, I should take it with me and although I hardly ever take the advice because I want to eat like a person from the country I am living in, it is not unfounded.

I want to make it clear that although I am going to argue that peanut butter is far superior than dulce de leche, that the items are in no way metaphors for the countries themselves or any attempt at a masked nationalist argument.  I am simply pitting the two foods against each other, and coming to the conclusion the P.B., nutritionally at least-- because I cannot argue personal tastes-- is a better way to butter up your toast for breakfast.

Examining the ingredients in each of the products, D.d.L. includes milk, sugar, glucose and flavoring such as vanilla, where as P.B. has peanuts, salt and sugar (depending on the brand).  Calorically, D.d.L. per 2 tbsp has 124 calories whereas the same amount of P.B. has 200.

But calories certainly are not all that matters.  If one eats a piece of bread with D.d.L. on it, their blood sugar is going to skyrocket and then by 10a.m., they are going to crash and be incredibly hungry, whereas P.B., which is more dense with fat and protein, is going to leave the person feeling fuller for longer.  The protein and the fat are worth the extra calories, because they are going to build muscle mass (as long as the person is active), whereas D.d.L. only affords an excess of carbs which in convert to fat the second they are not used.

P.B., however, does have an incredibly large amount of fat.  It would be delusional to think that the fat won't turn into fat on your body, or even the excess protein won't if you don't workout.  17g in 2 tablespoons is 26% of a daily intake, but by buying the right brands (any homestyle or trans fat free) the fat is a necessary component for your brain to function.  I am not going to say that P.B. makes you SMARTER per se, but it couldn't hurt, right?  

In terms of their versatility with desserts, D.d.L. is ubiquitous in Argentina.  Anything can be found with it, but P.B. keeps up in the U.S. from cookies, puppy chow or Reese's peanut butter cups.  

In returning from Buenos Aires, I have been looking for reasons why I am happy to be home.  Peanut butter has definitely welcomed me. . .but we'll just see how happy I am to see it once I've gained 10 pounds.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Does not eating meat make me adorable?

My final meal in Argentina was eaten at one of my favorite restaurants, Perutti, located on the corner of Avenida Santa Fe and Riobamba.  One thing that almost all Argentine restaurants have is a "cubierto" or a table charge, usually about 5 pesos that often includes the bread they will put on the table for you and the placemat and silverware.  However, at Perutti, the cubierto includes a very eclectic basket of breads and assorted sticks and little slices of a onion pizza without sauce, which is better than what you get at other places, but you make up for it with the prices at Perutti which are pretty high.  

So, as I've mentioned, my favorite dish in Buenos Aires was mashed pumpkin, so when Jose Luis told me he was lazy and that I should therefore choose where we went to eat lunch, I said I wanted to get one last fix.  

When it comes with the massive amounts of bread, Perutti is the perfect place to go because I can easily get filled up on what is actually just considered a side dish.  However, I find that when I order it the mix of my accent, my conviction that it is the only thing I want and he fact that it is considered kind of strange makes the waiter look at me with a sort of affection.  (Nada más, señorita?  Seguro?)  Also, I appreciated Jose Luis' chuckle as I excitedly ordered a plate of orange mush.  One would not think that the presentation on this pile of halloween could be beautiful, but its color is deep and its shaped into ripples.  I like to wait a minute before I interrupt its flow.  Just like with the chinese food, everyone wins.  I am seen as a kind of crazy American girl who orders something not quite considered a meal, yet considered adorable, AND I get to eat what I want.

Friday, August 1, 2008

En serio?. . .

If I would have discovered on my first day what I discovered today, I would have been a much happier, fuller and richer intern.  

A falafel sandwich here only costs $1.64.  

In the neighborhood where my boss lives, I walk weekly by the same Arab deli, peering shyly through the glass and then not going in.  Today, I had resolved to go in and eat a falafel.  When he asked me for 5 pesos, I thought my Spanish was going.  (cinco. . en serio?)  

Feeling pretty full and rich after the sandwich, I decided to treat myself to Baklava (Baclawa in Spanish).  82 cents later, I'm both satisfied and angry at myself for not going in before.