Friday, July 21, 2006

The Luckier Country?

I really didn't feel like shifting my focus from cooking and my search for ingredients which foodies from other countries take for granted. However, if I have to be absolutely honest, I have become a prolific home cook/ baker since moving to Buenos Aires because it is my way to unwind from the stress of living here.

Argentina is an amazingly beautiful and absolutely wonderful country to visit when one is armed with hard currency. It is also not a bad place for the transient "settlers" who would go home in a few years, enriched by their Latin experience. However, things start to get trickier if one has to make this city his/her permanent abode or God forbid, start a business.

Guillermo and I arrived in Buenos Aires this time last year. Since then, we have organised our wedding, bought and renovated our home office, he has published a book and started his consultancy business. There are days when we look at what we have done in this short space of time and feel proud; but most of the time we are frustrated.

I am certain that the modern history of this country has shaped the collective consciousness of her people. The very old are civilised and well mannered; the ones who grew up during the dictatorship years are similar to those Mainland Chinese foreign investors encountered when Communist China first lifted its iron curtain in the 1970s - neither have any respect for anyone or anything. This particular generation has gone on and brought up the generations which followed with their values so the country is now full of people with little respect for others and themselves.

I would leave such manifestations as the nonchalant littering, viveza criolla (funny enough, the Italians have the same concept named furbizia – cunning is the closest in English) and crazy driving for another day. Our frustration stems from frequent encounters with business people who make appointments which they couldn't be bothered to keep or to ring to cancel. It is not only a lack respect for our time but what puzzles me is the lack self respect for themselves as professionals.

I have often made comparisons between the "Lucky Country" Australia and this supposedly "luckier country"; both are sizeable, rich in natural resources and agricultural produce. I argue Argentina is luckier because she has La Pampa in the middle and Patagonia in the south while Australia has a desert where you would want to banish your mother-in-law. So why does Argentina rank 34th in the UN human development report while Australia is 3rd? The writing is, sadly and clearly, on the wall.

I am hardly patriotic as I view myself more as a rootless global villager but today, I started thinking meat pie, lamington and Anzac biscuits...then I realised Australia has finally embraced her multi-cultural identity and is now the best place for Italian and Asian food outside of Italy or south of Asia! So instead of Anzac biscuits from Women's Weekly circa 1960, Today, a tried and tested recipe from Stefano Manfredi, an Aussie and an Italian via this Aussie and Chinese:

Stefano Manfredi’s Almond & Lemon Biscottini

300g almond meal
250g of icing sugar
zest of a large lemon
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tbsp of honey
2 lightly beaten egg whites

Preheat oven to 160C

Combine almond meal, icing sugar, lemon zest, vanilla extract, honey and egg whites in a food processor to form a soft dough. Place mixture in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Roll the dough to about 4mm thick and cut into half circles with a cookie cutter. Use fingers to form each piece into small, elongated "s" shapes. Place onto trays lined with silicone paper dusted liberally with icing sugar, then dust the tops as well.

Bake in a preheated 160C oven for 15 minutes until they rise a little and turn a golden colour. Makes about 50.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home