Thursday, October 29, 2009

Y En Eso, Llegó El Verano

Two days ago I was still wearing fleece, and now my back is stuck to the wall because of the humidity, and my hair is just lovely. The side benefit of having all the doors open is that I can hear my neighbors screaming even louder than usual. I think there is a general difference in speaking volume in cultural terms-- not only between American and Latinos but between Argentines and the rest of Latin America. Our next-door neighbors in particular really seem to like to share their fights with the rest of the building, you know, make sure that we all know that los hijos son tuyos y me tienes que ayudar! (the children are yours and you need to help me!) As Felipe says, if a couple were fighting like that in Colombia (or I would assume in the states), they would be weeks away from a separation. Here no one seems to think much of it, but they make sure to tell Felipe that it´s not their fault that he has to practice, and why doesn´t he find somewhere else to rehearse.

In general, people seem to have shorter fuses here-- and they easily change from being very warm and friendly to extremely pissy, which can make situations very difficult to read. When we first moved into this apartment, the owner promised us that a refrigerator and dresser were going to arrive later in the week, and that she would open a door bolted shut between to of the rooms (something particularly helpful in wintertime, so you don´t have to go outside to get from room to room.) Weeks and weeks went by without a sign, and I finally decided to say something to her (you might thing it would make sense for the South Americans around here to take care of any confrontations, be it with landlords or cockroaches, but it´s definitely la gringa who does both). Well, to say she took it badly would be an understatement, though she did open the door for us, and promptly stormed out. I thought she was never going to talk to me again, and resigned myself to an uncomfortable relationship. But since that day, she has been nothing but sweet, and yesterday she told us she would be our garante if we needed one. In Argentina you can´t just go out and rent a normal apartment, you need a garantia, which is basically when someone puts their house up as collateral if you fail to comply with the rent contract. This makes it almost impossible for foreigners to rent under normal, that is to say inexpensive, conditions, and makes her offer an incredibly generous one.

I´ve heard Argentines give the bipolar weather here as explanation for this phenomenon more than once. I have no idea, but finally after all the heat and humidity the rain finally came, big warm drops, and we got into the cab and the cabdriver was singing Italian opera, and when we got to the milonga it was in one of those huge old houses with high ceilings and beautiful molding and red light and mirrors, and I was so delighted to be exactly where I was. Who´s bipolar now, I ask you?

And as far as not knowing your own brain goes, all I know is that I need to re-remind myself of the same things all the time.

Like that I really need to bring my camera with me more often, because how else am I going to remember that the girl in front of me waiting for the bus was wearing black stretch pants with white skeleton hands screen printed on to look like they were grabbing her butt?

And why do I cook things that I absolutely love and then forget about them for two years? Part of the purpose of this blog is so that doesn´t happen as much.

Therefore, to remind myself of how utterly pleased I was this week to be eating it, I´m putting my recipe for oriza, a wheat berry-sweet potato oven-baked dish that I got out of a library book years ago- I think it´s supposed to be Morrocan-Jewish- and it´s one of those things that I always want to make again immediately after it runs out the first time. Now I just need to recreate those skeleton pants...


adapted from Kitty Morse

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 big onions, finely diced

1 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika

¾ c wheat berries, rinsed

2 cups water

1 tsp. salt

1 small sweet potato or batata, peeled and cut into ½ in. cubes

4 shallots, peeled (or use more garlic cloves)

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

Preheat the oven to 325. Heat the oil in a cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet on med-high heat. Add onions and paprika and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and have started to carmelize just a bit. Add wheat berries and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Add water, sweet potato, shallots and garlic. Seal pan with foil and lid. Bake until berries are tender but chewy and, 2-3 hours. The garlic cloves will be squishy and the pulp comes out easily, so squish them with a fork or your fingers and throw out the husks, leaving the sweet garlic mush in pockets among the wheat berries.

Oriza es un plato judio-marrueco de trigo entero y papa dulce (o batata) que se cocina lentamente al horno.


adaptado de Kitty Morse

2 cucharadas de aceite de oliva

2 cebollas grandes, picadas chiquitas

una cucharita de pimentón

¾ de taza de granos de trigo entero, lavados

2 tazas de agua

una cucharita de sal

una batata chiquita, peleada y picada en cubitos de 1 cm.

4 ecshalotes, peleados (o usa mas dientes de ajo)

4 dientes de ajo, no peleados

Precalienta el horno a 160 º. Calienta el aceite en una sartén de hierro fundido u otra que se pueda meter al horno (que no tenga manga de plástico) al fuego medio-alto. Echa las cebollas y el pimentón y cocínalos, revolviendo cada tanto, hasta que se ablanden las cebollas y empiecen a caramelizar un poquito. Añade el trigo y sigue cocinándolo, revolviendo, por 2 o 3 minutes. Echa las 2 tazas de agua, la batata, los eschalotes, y el ajo. Cierra el pan con papel de aluminio y con la tapa encima. Hornea hasta que los granos estén tiernos pero al dente, 2-3 horas. Los dientes de ají estarán blandos y la pulpa saldrá fácilmente, así que apretales con un tenedor o los dedos y bota las cascaras, dejando pedazos de pulpa entre los granos.

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