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Monday, April 25, 2011

Polo, Asado, Chillaxin', and Meandering: AKA the Best Semana Santa Ever

This weekend, which many of you know as Easter, is a little bit different in Latin countries. Instead of only celebrating Easter Day, the days preceding it are also celebrated. Regarding Argentina, Thursday and Friday (Jueves Santo and Viernes Santo, respectively) are national holidays. The religious types are busy getting ready for churches and parades, and the non-religious types plan their mini-vacations. I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend the long weekend in Zárate in the province of Buenos Aires with Martín (a friend from Truman who is studying abroad in Córdoba, but is Argentine by blood) and his family. It was a very relaxing weekend, and I had a wonderful time.

Wednesday night, I took a colectivo to Retiro bus station. Due to fog, I ended up a bit late, so Martín and his mother had to wait for me for two hours. Oh, I felt awful. Regardless, we soon got on a train and headed to Martín's aunt's house to have a little bit of lunch: a hodgepodge of leftover vegetable pie, pizza, and gnocchi. I met Martín's aunt María Ana and his cousin Noel. Then, Martín's mother mentioned that there was a polo match that day between England and Argentina, so needless to see we headed out to see it.

I have no idea what the rules of polo are, but I was amazed at the control the riders have of their horses and their ability to hit a tiny ball on horseback. As I was hoping, Argentina won (by a pretty large margin, but I don't remember the exact score). That one's for the Falklands, I guess.

I made an equine friend.

Shortly after the game, we got in Martín's aunt's car and drove to Zárate to visit his uncle and his family. From this point on, time was not measured by a clock, but by meals. I got to meet his uncle Marcelo, who is a delightful kind of crass and crazy, his wife Fernanda, and their daughter Catalina. That night we had an awesome asado (assonance alert!), and I got a few pointers from Marcelo on how to do it properly (even though he insisted he had no idea what he was talking about).

This is the life-blood of Argentina.
The next day I read a book, walked around outside, and hung out with his family. It was very calm, quiet, and relaxing. Fernanda made us a ton of empanadas that were incredible (tuna and onion/cheese since it was Friday), and I learned that you can give them a nice crust if you spread a little bit of scrambled egg yolk on top of them. Who knew? That night, we made pizza a la parrilla. It was scrumptious. 

All right, now that will carry us more or less to Saturday. Saturday we knew that some other family members were coming (with young, verbal children...the bane of my existence), so I was doing my best to prepare for it. Since Marcelo declared that Saturday was going to be a day of rest for him, Martín and I took it upon ourselves to try our hands at being parrilleros. That's right, baby...yours truly made an asado. As Martín and I started getting ready, we found out that the other family members would be coming earlier than expected, and were expecting to eat. So, as we're getting ready, the other family members scramble to go get more meat. All in all, our asado was a tremendous success. If I may say so, it was pretty darn good. Of course, Martín used the coal as an opportunity to make himself a dirty little monkey.

Almost done...

Success! ¡Éxito!

The kids were driving me bonkers, and fortunately I wasn't the only one. We left that evening to head back to Buenos Aires Capital to stay in Martín's grandmother's old apartment. We slept on an old, inflatable mattress that was a hot mess to inflate, but it was pretty comfortable once we got it blown up.

While we were doing this, Martín's mom made us a choripan (chorizo sandwich) from the leftover asado we had cooked that afternoon. After all of this was done, it was exactly 12:01, so we were allowed to partake in a great Argentine Easter tradition: Huevos de Pascua. Rather than hide Easter Eggs made of plastic all around the house, Argentines opt for giant chocolate eggs that contain prizes inside. The eggs are gender-biased, so you have to ask for a girl or boy egg. I requested a boy egg, but there was a mixup, and I was given a lady egg. Oh well...

Here's his mom's egg, which was my favorite:

I was curious as to what they might put in an egg like this, and I wasn't disappointed. At first I thought I had gotten a neon-green swan keychain, and I thought 'hey, that's not so bad.' Then I opened the plastic wrap. No, it wasn't a swan. It was a high-helled shoe, complete with fuzz and jewels. We laughed for a while about this:

We went to bed, and then the next morning Martín's mom surprised us with Rosca de Pascua, another Argentine tradition, and some other facturas from a bakery she likes.

Rosca de Pascua, with cherries and figs
Shortly after, we walked around the neighborhood surrounding the apartment: Belgrano. Belgrano has a lot of interesting architecture, and there's a feria on Sundays, so we decided to go check it out. Here are a few photos:

It was getting to be lunch time, so we stopped by a great milanesa restaurant near the apartment: El Club de la Milanesa. It reminded me of a Tomfooleries a little bit, but the food was great. 
Yeah, that's a fried banana.
We walked around the fair for a while, heard a man recite some Spanish verses, and finished off the day with some ice cream at Freddo's. Then, Martín and I left his mom to head to Retiro to catch our buses.

And, ladies and gentlemen, so ends my Semana Santa 2011 adventure. What a great trip!

1 comment:

  1. So glad you were with friends over the holiday weekend. I went to Bob and Misty's for Easter dinner/ always good food but bad for my diet.

    Did you ever receive the box I sent?

    Stay in ya!