Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Perfect Day in BA

From a quick Technorati search before closing la cocina for 2006 I realised I was tagged for a MEME of "My Perfect Day in BA" from a fellow blogger, Alan of Buenos Aires Travel Guide. Despite my aversion to the local expat scene in general, I seriously contemplated what would constitute a perfect day in Buenos Aires for me.

As I said before, I am not particularly interested in
"expat life in BA" as a subject. I have lovely friends who happen to be expats but equally I've progressive minded porteño friends. I'm more interested in people's thoughts than where they are from. Of course, I also have an Argentine family.

So naturally, my perfect day would probably be of little interest to expats and tourists. I thought about exploring the flowers market in Chacarita...but when I met my new porteño student yesterday, Mr P, I decided I would mention him instead.

Three hours of cooking and chatting with Mr P, I believe I have had my perfect day in Buenos Aires. Don't be alarmed, let me explain why...

This picture of glowing health and calm came to my cooking course to learn about Asian cuisines because he claims there is no decent or authentic Asian restaurant in this city at all. His daring proclamation would probably upset many proud porteños and cause me to receive another incoherent hate mail.

Mr P works at the high and risky end of global finance; he is extremely well-travelled and has eaten at some of the best tables and street hawkers' worldwide. Of those Asian restaurants in Palermo SoHo/Hollywood/Viejo or whatever fancy name they are calling the same few blocks these days, his only comment was delivered with a smirk that they are trendily decked-out.

We chatted about various Asean cultures and the astounding economic progress China has made in the short time since they opened their market in the 70s. However, we bonded over our food related adventures in New York, Shanghai and other bustling financial centres and capital cities. He was particular curious when I told him I once ate sushi made from horsemeat in Tokyo.

Anyone who is familiar with a proper sushi restaurants in Tokyo (and I don't mean those with a conveyor belt) would tell you the same, there is no menu and the best seats are by the counter. One chats with the sushi master and he would present his edible works of art, plate by plate, until one says stop.

I was taken to such a sushi restaurant frequented by financiers; my host was a regular client there. After some of the freshest maguro (fatty tuna) and uni (sea urchin) I had ever tasted, the sushi master ceremoniously presented a lone piece of sushi in front of me.

It was red and I thought it was another piece of tuna except it looked too lean to be the prized fatty tuna (see photo). My host explained that the sushi master would be honoured if I had what he considered a rare treat which he only bestowed upon his best clients and their guests. It was horse. Honour is most important in a traditional culture like the Japanese; I had no choice but to put it in my mouth.

No, it wasn't bad at all but I don't feel life isn't complete until I taste it again. Besides, my host had to pay for this generosity bestowed upon him, of course.

Going back to Mr P, he tells me he and his wife prefer not to have sweets, not even sugar in their yerba mate. They have three boys and they are bringing them up with healthy eating habits. Since his wife's first pregnancy, they have been cooking with very little salt.

I was really pleasantly surprised by his attitude towards changing for the better. It somehow filled me with positive thoughts and hope. I laughingly told Mr P that I felt much better after hearing his parenting style because I had seriously considered leaving the country, when Guillermo and I have kids, to get away from the kids' culture here. He quipped with a wink that there is no need to be concerned over that, there are already too many other reasons why one should quit this country at once.

I just love meeting worldly porteños who are secured in themselves to carry off a wonderfully mischievous sense of humour.

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