Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thanksgiving, a visitor, and beyond

My friend Katharine arrived November 23rd - a Sunday afternoon - from Philadelphia via JFK without any complications other than a creepy man on the plane. She certainly chose a good time of year to visit: the spring is filled with colorful flowers, as you can see below.

Her first day we headed to the famous San Telmo antique fair and went out for a fantastic open-air parrilla (grilled meat) dinner with Sol and Kirsten from Buenos Aires and Sarah and Susanna who I met in Puerto Madryn and were in Buenos Aires for a few days. We ate every part of the cow possible, from entrails to brains to blood. I liked it all, but Katharine wasn't down with the brain.

The next day, Monday, Katharine wasn’t feeling so hot so we didn’t do much. On Tuesday we met Sarah and Susanna again for a walking tour of the swanky area of town called Recoleta, and then Wednesday morning we met them again for ANOTHER walking tour of the historical areas of town. It was so hot on Wednesday that many areas of town lost power – us included. From Wednesday night to Thursday afternoon we were without power, and then lost power yet again on Friday. Fun times.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. I’d been preparing for it for several months, and all the pieces came together perfectly. We went to Sol’s house in the afternoon where I made a pie crust from scratch (based on my aunt Kathy’s famous recipe), without measuring, and it turned out deliciously because I used extra butter just in case. Katharine made the pumpkin filling, also from scratch, also without measuring and using odd ingredients (sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated), but that also turned out really well. I made homemade stuffing with chopped almonds and apples, and green bean casserole with fresh vegetables and fried onions that Katharine smuggled into the country.

I had wanted a 9 kilo turkey - about 20 pounds - to serve what I thought would be 14 people, but a mix-up at the butcher's left us with 5 kilos for 12 people, which was actually more than enough since it was 95 degrees out, and easier to cook to boot. I started the turkey at about 6:30 pm – I made the bacon-covered version again, always a hit! - and had to guess about the temperature since the ovens here don’t have degrees, they have settings from 1 to 9. Luckily it was ready at about 10:30. I also made a fantastic gravy with the drippings and am still salivating over it. So often gravies turn out badly and we didn’t have any jarred back-ups, so that was a relief.

As I said it was really, really hot that day and we set up a gorgeous table outside. The guest list included me and Katharine, Sol, her mom Lydia and her mom’s friend; her sister Cielo and her boyfriend Alan; Kirsten and her two friends who had arrived from the U.S. that day (who brought canned black olives and cranberries, two must-haves), plus two of her friends from Buenos Aires. Kirsten made two delicious pecan pies and a refreshing Waldorf salad. We also made two kinds of mashed potatoes, one with just garlic and the other with garlic and bleu cheese. Definitely a traditional meal and it all turned out really well. Here's a shot of the table just after we brought the turkey out:
We went around the table and all said things we were thankful for. I’m used to this part either not happening or not being taken very seriously, but people got really into it and some of us even cried. (Despite being a crier, I was not among them, but I was definitely emotional. I think I was too hot to cry.) The food was a hit and the rain held off until we were ready for dessert. We quickly moved everything inside when the lightning started and had pie and ice cream and home-made whipped cream inside before everyone took off at around 2 a.m. I left the leftovers behind because those are always my favorite part and I wanted Sol and her family to have the full Thanksgiving experience, though the next day I was definitely craving some cold turkey and pie.

Friday we wandered around Palermo and Saturday was back to Recoleta for the famous cemetery, weekly fair, and the fine arts museum. It started absolutely DUMPING rain and we got stuck hiding in the parking entrance to the Ecuadorian embassy while lightning flashed around us and thunder literally shook the nearby buildings. I love spring storms, but I love them more when I’m watching them from my own house. In Seattle it rains but we rarely get thunder and lightning, while here rain is ALWAYS preceeded by a lightning show, which is great.

Sunday Katharine went back to the antiques fair. Monday we toured one of the coolest buildings I've yet to see, Palacio Barolo, which was built by two Italian brothers back in the day with a Dante's Inferno theme. The building was originaly built to house Dante's ashes but Italy refused to let them out of the country once the palace was complete. Some of its specs: it's 100 meters high to represent the 100 cantos (songs) of the inferno, with 22 stories to represent the 22 strophes I believe, divided into hell (floors 1-4), purgatory (floors 5-14), and paradise (floors 15-22). There are a bunch of other interesting factors that were designed into the building including something having to do with the number pi that I sort of didn't understand but surely had to do with the many mathematical allusions within the Divine Comedy itself. You can read a shaky translation that explains the building's references to Dante here. Here's the building from the outside:
The palace itself reminded me of the Smith tower in Seattle on the inside - they were built around the same time - and at one point it was also the tallest building in South America (the Smith tower was once the tallest building west of the Mississippi). Once we got to the top it reminded me of Philadelphia's city hall since it had an incredible view of the city and looks straight down the Plaza de Congreso much like the Phila view is of the avenue leading to the art museum with Love park and Logan fountain in the middle. Also, I can see Palacio Barolo from my apartment and could see my ugly apartment building quite well from the palace, both things which were also true of my apartment in Phila. All in all one of my favorite experiences so far in the city. Here's the view:
Tuesday was Katharine's last full day and we spent part of it at this awesome park called Costanera Sur that used to be a landfill and was then appropriated for development, but like so much in Argentina development was slow to start and once they were ready it was a green space and people protested construction so now it's a huge park with tons of bird and plant species with a cool view of both the city and the world's widet estuary, Río de le Plata. That evening I put Katharine in a cab with specific instructions to the cabbie about where to go and what the price would be, and the next day she was safe and sound back in Philadelphia.

Since then I've been checking other things off my "to do" list, including a trip to the tiny Chinatown (literally one street), a visit to a nearby town on the Delta called Tigre with Sol and Flor, and multiple celebrations of Sol's birthday including an evening of bowling (a first for me in many, many years) and an all-day party at her house. I have Christmas shopping to do and lots of restaurants left to try, plenty to pack in in my remaining 10 days here.

There are new photos on Picasa with detailed captions as always, though I can't take credit for most of the pictures taken while Katharine was here - she was doing such a thorough job I left my camera at home the whole week. Enjoy, and don't go too far - plenty more to come before I leave the southern hemisphere!

p.s. It finally started raining after two hot, humid days, and there's a double rainbow outside my window as I type. Just thought that was a fun thing to share.

p.p.s. In a horrifying twist to my holiday weekend of over-indulgence (aka non-stop eating [and Monday was the Day of the Virgin for those of you wondering]), after I got up to give an elderly man my seat on the bus last night, he turned to me with a concerned look on his face and said, "But if you're pregnant you should keep the seat!" I didn't realize that things like this actually happened, nor that I appeared so round and motherly, but when I got home my very sweet and very wise neighbor was quick to refute this old man by saying, "don't worry, he was probably mostly blind." And, if he wasn't, please don't be shocked when I come home.


Anonymous said...

I am stuck at school and am horribly hungry and you are NOT HELPING!

Sarah P said...

mmm that thanksgiving dinner sounded sooooooo good. I have never had turkey cooked with strips of bacon over it, you make me wanna try that next year. But the one thing I cant get over is that you ate BRAINS!!! dont turn into a zombie Archie!

Sara said...

Did you know that they are building the largest building in Santiago right now?

Okay, about you subway debacle. I had a similar situation which is why I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever wear an empress waisted shirt on a windy day. Nope not happening. The guy was staring at me like he was trying to decide if I just had a slight tummy in a bad fitting shirt or if I was a few months pregnant. Not fun.

Renée said...

You know what else you're not helping? My decision on whether to stay or to go. I know I'll probably end up staying here but still, every time I read your blog or talk to you on gchat, moving across the border sounds better and better.

Except for the no electricity, no available jobs, annoying expat stuff. But still, I hope you come back!!!

Sunshine said...

Hiiii, there! I guess someone checked out the blog before me.... :-( Any how... We're having soooo much fun! Thanks for not saying a word about your departure :-)

I'm like a gipsy... A whole week of birthday celebration :-) I've figured it out what to do for your final night... what about going to the Casino Flotante?!!? I think that's the best plan for u :-P

I loved this part: "I think I was too hot to cry." jajajaja, too hot to cry... WHAT?!?!


Momma Archer said...

Wow, what a Thanksgiving celebration. We really should celebrate it more often!

I wasn't surprised that Katharine wasn't feeling well after the hearty meal of cow entrails and brains...I don't feel well just thinking about it.

We are counting down the days until you are home. 10 months is a long time! Just one problem: you'll need to get used to eating dinner at 6 instead of 10:30!

Enjoy your last few days in beautiful Buenos Aires. See you soon!