Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Everyone´s a Machista

The other day a classmate who I don't know very well asked me if I'm dating anyone here. "Yes," I said. -Is he Argentine? "No, he's Colombian." -Is he machista?  "What?" -We always have a bunch of Colombians residents in the hospital, and they are all super machista. Ooh, burn. "No," I said, half-laughing, "he's not, I wouldn't be with him if he was."  -Yeah, I wouldn't have thought you would be with someone like that, she replied.

I frankly think it's a rather strange question to ask someone. What if I had said yes? How would she have replied then? Cool, how's that going for you?

People always talk about intercultural relationships as being difficult, but I actually think it can be easier sorting out the preconceptions that we all have when the other person is from a different culture, as the differences are easier to identify. When someone is from the same culture, we tend to assume they must think about things the same way, and if they don't there is something wrong with them, or that they just "don't get it".

And when I step back and think about it, I know lots of American men who are machista, but it's hidden among jokes and shrugs and off-hand comments about not being interested in housework (as if women love nothing more than cleaning the bathroom), girls being sluts, and bitchy female politicians (Can you imagine anyone it being used for men? Cheney was being really bitchy today.)

Last night we went out and ate Peruvian food, which I am madly in love with; however, at this particular restaurant which we'd never been to before, the waiter barely acknowledged my presence, while being extremely friendly with Felipe. I assumed it was because he liked the fact that Felipe was Colombian (he had asked immediately where we were from as soon as we opened our mouths) but as soon as we left the restaurant, Felipe turned to me and said, Peruvians are super machista.

So there you go. We got machistas en todos lados (everywhere). I have a supposedly machista boyfriend who does more housework than I do (which is not to say that's ok either, I need to get on that) and makes breakfast before I even begin to exist in the morning. None of which is to say that he doesn't have his moments of machismo either, but I also have my moments of knee-jerk feminism (does it really matter who lugs the suitcase up the stairs?) that it's good to be made conscious of as well.

So anyway, a couple of nights ago my Colombian machista of a boyfriend and I made amazing beet and white bean croquettes, one of those things that could have turned out weirdly gross but instead was great. I got the idea from an Ottolenghi recipe (the well-known vegetarian cafe in London, owned by an Israeli and a Palestinean), which I would have had faith in, but then I changed almost everything given what we had in the fridge. Serendipity is what it was, and one I'd like to be able to repeat, so I best write everything down now.

By the way, I love and adore beets. I know a lot of people don't, and I certainly can't blame them if all they've ever eaten are the canned ones from the salad bar at Old Country Buffet. Every week or two during the fall and winter I buy a bunch and roast them in the oven, and they come out infinitely better than the tinny-tasting salad bar ones. I used to work in an Italian restaurant that served a salad with roasted golden beets, and we used to eat them like candy, the Ecuadorian guy who worked the salad station passing us quarters through the plating window. I use whatever beets are available, most often the regular pink ones, though the golden ones are fantastic when you can find them, as are the striped ones. Roasting concentrates their sweetness and their earthiness, and it's the easiest thing in the world to do. Just take a bunch of beets, cut of the stalks an inch above the beet, and wash the beets well. Stick them in an oven dish with a glug of olive oil, roll them around to coat, and then cover the dish. Roast them in an oven preheated to 375º for a good hour, and they should be good to go (stick a fork in the biggest one of the bunch and check if it's tender to see if they're done.) You can burn your hands slipping the skins off, like I do, or you can be smart and wait for them to cool down before peeling and slicing them. Either way, once they're baked, you can keep them in a closed container in the fridge for a good week, and throw them into salads. I especially like them with arugula and hard boiled eggs, although both blue cheese and goat cheese are delicious with them too. Either way, they're infinitely better than winter tomatoes. Sometimes you have to give things a change to surprise you.

Beet-White Bean Croquettes

2 med. cooked beets, grated
1 c. cooked white beans, roughly mashed
grated zest of ½ lemon
1 Tbsp. finely chopped basil (can use mint, parsely, cilantro, etc., and I´m sure you could use quite a bit more if you wanted)
1 Tbsp. peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1 egg
¼ c. flour
pinch ground cumin
pinch salt
freshly ground pepper
sesame seeds
oil (I use a mix of sunflower and olive oil as olive oil burns at a low temperature)
½ c. plain yogurt

Mix all the ingredients except for the sesame seeds, oil, and yogurt together (if the batter seems very liquidy, throw in a bit more flour and a tiny bit more salt.) Film a cast-iron or other heavy skillet with oil and set it over medium heat. When the pan is hot (if you stick a bit of bread in it and it sizzles immediately, it's ready) and about 2 Tbsp. of batter to the pan. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. When the edges start to dry out, flip the croquette. Leave it a couple of minutes on the other side until it's cooked through. Taste your first croquette to see if it needs more salt or cumin (or flour if the texture is still not quite there.) Continue with the rest of the batter-- you should be able to do 2 or 3 at a time in the skillet.
Whisk the yogurt until it's smooth and then add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Serve the croquettes warm, with the yogurt as a sauce on the side.

Beet Arugula Salad

2 roasted beets, peeled, halved and sliced (Not to be a jerk, but do not make this with canned beets. It will taste like canned beets, and, well, why bother.)
2 hard-boiled eggs, halved and sliced
1 packet arugula (a couple of big handfuls), washed and well-dried

For the dressing:
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard (Maille if you have it)
salt, cracked black pepper to taste

Whisk the oil, vinegar and mustard together with a pinch of salt until emulsified (or shake in a jar with the cap on.) Throw the beets, egg, arugula, and dressing together in a bowl and mix carefully (the beets will start to stain everything, which I don´t mind, but you might). Taste for salt and grind a bit of black pepper over everything. Serves 2 as a good side salad with soup and bread for lunch.

Para asar remolachas, quita las ramas, dejando 2 cm. arriba de la remolacha, lavalas bien y echalas a un recipiente con un chorro de aceite de oliva. Tapa el recipiente y hornealas a 190ºC durante una hora.

Croquetas de Remolacha y Blanquillos

2 remolachas medianas asadas, peladas y ralladas
1 taza de blanquillos, medio-machacados
la cascara rallada de medio limón
1 cucharada de albahaca, picada chiquita (podes usar menta, perejil, cilantro, etc., y puedes echar mas hierba si quieres)
1 cucharada de mantequilla de maní (o mantequilla de almendras, cajú o sesamo si lo tenes)
1 huevo
¼ taza de harina (000)
una pizca de comino molido
una pizca de sal
pimienta negra recien molida
sesamo (ajonjoli)
aceite (uso una mezcla de aceite de girasol y aceite de oliva, pues el de oliva quema a temperaturas mas bajas)
½ taza de yogur natural

Echa todos los ingredientes menos el sesamo, el aceite, y el yogur a un bol y mezclalos bien. Si esta muy liquida, echa un poco mas de harina y de sal. Calienta un chorro de aceite en un sarten sobre fuego medio, y cuando el aceite este caliente (si echas un pedacito de pan allí y empieza hacer ruidos, esta), echa por alli 2 cucharadas de la mezcla al aceite. Salpica la superficie de la masa con sesamo. Dejala cocinar hasta que los lados se sequen un poco, y volteala. Sacala cuando ya este cocida por dentro. Prueba tu primera croqueta para ver si hace falta echarle mas sal o comino. Sigue con el resto de la masa-- si usas un sarten de 22 cm. podes ir haciendo 2 o 3 juntos al mismo tiempo.
Mezcla el yogur con una pizquita de sal y de pimienta. Sirve las croquetas con el yogur como salsa al lado.

Ensalada de Remolacha y Rucula

2 remolachas medianas asadas, peladas, partidas por la mitad y cortadas en tajadas (No quiero ser muy pesada ni nada, pero no hagas esta ensalada con remolacha de lata. Va a saber a lata, y no tiene sentido hacerlo.)
2 huevo duros, partidas por la mitad y cortadas en tajadas
un paquete de rucula (quita las raices y las ramas debajo de las hojas), lavada y bien secada

Para el aderezo:
3 Cucharadas de aceite de oliva
1 Cucharada de vinagre de vino rojo
1 cucharita de mostaza dijon (Maille si lo tenes)
sal, pimienta a gusto

Mezcla el aceite, el vinagre, y la mostaza con una pizca de sal hasta que emulsione (o agitalos en un tarrito con la tapa cerrada.) Echa la remolacha, el huevo, la rucula y la salsa a un bol y mezcla con cuidado (las remolachas empiezan a manchar todo, que no me molesta a mi, pero de pronto a ti si). Prueba como esta de sal y muele un toque de pimienta negra encima. Suficiente para 2 como ensalada de buen tamaño con sopa y pan para el almuerzo.


  1. I'm (English) living in Buenos Aires with my Colombian girlfriend and men being "machista" is definitely something she's very familiar with, and trying to avoid! She also seems to believe it exists only in latinos, would find it hard to accept that Europeans and North Americans could be the same.

    The fact that your classmate asked you such a direct question here made me laugh - the Argentines are a very direct (and personal) bunch, and I've found that South Americans are in general. In Colombia, there is no problem asking a total stranger who he is going to vote for. In England, this is total no-no. I only found out who my Mum votes for last year. Up until then she'd always refused to say.

  2. You´re definitely right about the personal questions. My favorite is when they come into your house and immediately ask you how much your rent is. I´ve gotten used to it but I still never quite understand where they draw the line at what is ok to ask and what isn´t.