Monday, July 24, 2006

Customer What??

The network of Fibertel (our broadband provider) was down all morning. I asked my husband to ring the customer service hotline as I remembered they told us they would deduct the day's charge from our monthly bill. To my surprise, Guillermo wasn't keen to call; he told me none of the promised deductions had ever materialise despite the network being down a considerable number of days since our installation last year. Sometimes, I wonder why businesses are so short sighted about customer service or in this case, so careless in what they promise.

Since I had no access to internet, I thought I'd best use the time for grocery shopping. I first went to get some almonds. I plan to grind the nuts into almond meal for a flourless orange and almond cake this afternoon – I've successfully bribed Guillermo into drinking the Chinese detox tea with the promise of a piece of sublimely ambrosial cake which he has never tried before.

On my way home, I stopped by a local greengrocer which stocks the freshest vegetables in the area. The owner is a real character; the first time I bought from him, he jokingly (at least I hoped) asked for "un dolár" (US$1 is roughly 3 pesos) for a small bunch of basil. To his demand, I laughed while handing him a peso. We both laughed and the deal was done. Today, he was busy playing boss so I was served by a lady.

I asked for a bunch of bananas, some fennels and two corn cobs. The total came to 7 pesos. I handed the lady the money and as I was looking away from my purchases, I caught a glimpse of her taking one banana off the bunch! I couldn't quite believe what I saw but really didn't want to embarrass her so I left the shop with the rest of my purchases without the one banana which I had also paid for.

I have grown quite philosophical about dealing with small businesses in this city. That one banana cost me about twenty cents and would have cost the shop five? What could she possibly gain from the act except to risk me seeing it and accost her there and then or simply never return?

Since fellow blogger, Robert, of the BA walking tours fame pointed me to capítulo J of the tax code in his comment to Trust or Trout, Guillermo and I read the chapter carefully yesterday (see my latest comment attached to the original post). At the end, Guillermo who is also a monotributo (a self-employed, one-man band) said he still struggles to understand why so many of his fellow small business owners try to dodge the little tax they are obliged to pay.

He then revealed to me, for the first time, our previous monthly grocery bills from El Rincon Orgánico could have easily covered that outfit's entire monthly tax obligation. So it was purely an act of greed on their part which they hastily corrected as soon as their antic was made known in my post (and all I was concerned, at that point, were my apples, and later, not to get them into trouble with the authorities; how naïve was I?).

Like many fellow settlers, I've learnt not to be bothered by these little things which, unfortunately, occur here and there, almost daily. It just shows how adaptable human beings are; if for nothing else, at least to preserve our sanity...because sanity comes in handy when you are asked by people why you would bother making pita bread when you can find them so easily in supermarkets. At that point, you may haughtily tell them homemade pita bread is simply far superior in taste and texture.

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 cups plain flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for bowl

Pour water into the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle yeast over water, and stir to dissolve. Use the paddle attachment, or by hand to mix in 1 1/2 cups flour. Cover bowl; let sit in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, until dough has doubled in bulk.

Sprinkle salt over flour and yeast mixture, and add olive oil and remaining 1 1/2 cups flour. Mix on medium-low speed, or by hand until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes.

Transfer dough to a floured work surface, and knead about ten turns, forming a ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours.

Heat oven to 230°C. Turn dough out onto a board, and cut in half. Cut each half into four pieces, and form each piece into a ball. Cover them loosely with a piece of plastic wrap to keep the dough from drying out. On a floured work surface, roll two balls into circles 7 inches in diameter and slightly less than 1/4 inch thick.

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet until puffed and light brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat, baking two pita breads at a time, unless you've an industrial sized oven.

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