Thursday, October 26, 2006

Retail Therapy

In the crazy world that I lived in, shoes were my Prozac. I depended on Jimmy, Manolo and Sergio; shamelessly I also had a fling with young Marc while flirting with Monsieur Louboutin. Since moving to Buenos Aires, I have stacked away all the testimonials of my passion for these men. These days, I only have skin to skin contact with them on very special occasions. I have transferred my energy to making friends with Nigella, Donna and Bill.

However, these long distance relationships had not been easy since I now live in a far corner of the world. In order to keep them going visiting friends had to bring me tins of Lyle's Golden Syrup and Black Treacle, packets of gelatine leaves, bags of pine nuts, etc. Meanwhile, I shop with much opportunism for rose water, dried rose buds, orange blossom water, fresh pomegranates (granadas) and various Asian greens.

With such hardships to be endured for these relationships, you can imagine my ecstasy when I found today, all in one brief hour, bunches of fresh Thai basil (has more fire than the sweet Italian varietals), crates of green mangoes (usually coarsely grated for salads), custard apples (annona), fresh blueberries and loquats (nísperos). I also managed to grab bags of edible lavender flowers, hazelnuts and pistachios.

Most of these treasures, I found in Casa China, 2173 Arribeños (They have finally put up a sign in Spanish!) while the custard apples and loquats were spotted at Asia Oriental, 1677 Mendoza. This supermarket has the best variety of Chinese herbs and seeds for medicinal nourishments; beside lotus seeds, wolfberries and honeysuckles, one can find agar-agar (natural vegetarian gelatine) there. They also stock those Japanese pancake sandwiches filled with aduki bean paste, Dorayaki, in their fresh bread and pastry section.

Overloaded with bags of shopping, I returned home triumphant and on a natural high. I am planning to bake the besugo(鯛魚) with lemon and Provençal herbs for dinner tonight. I would probably pair the hazelnuts with chocolate in some Northern Italian dolce. Oh, those vibrant green pistachios? I've already got plans for them...

When I first read about Clotilde's Gâteau Surprise Chocolat Pistache, I vowed that I would find an occasion to make it. This Sunday, we are having our dear friends Madeline and Julio over for tea and I really can't find a better or more appreciative audience for my cooking.

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