BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: A LETTER HOME

 

April 27th, 2017

 

I put my knife and fork down and leant back in my chair, thoroughly satisfied. The stained wooden shelves of the restaurant were stacked to breaking point with old jars, olive oil containers, wine bottles and beers and the walls were adorned with old advertisements from the 50s and 40s. The stuffed homemade turkey ravioli had filled me to the point of bursting. I had ordered them on a recommendation from my Argentine colleague sitting opposite me and he smiled with joy that I had given them my approval.

 

It was late and the restaurant had become busy. We had arrived at a little after 10pm, a common time for Argentinians to begin eating. I had been living in San Telmo for ten months and was due to leave soon. The restaurant, la poesia, like the whole district of San Telmo was steeped in history. The whole area had once been home to the Argentine aristocracy, before an outbreak of yellow fever in the 1850s had caused them to flee the area, leaving their grand colonial-style buildings behind them.
The restaurant itself had been a hotbed of ideas and discussion following the end of the military dictatorship in the eighties. Poets and Argentine literary heavyweights filled the four walls with political discussion.

 

The candlelight which lit our faces gave the restaurant the feel of being in a time capsule, eating homemade dishes among bohemian diners of the past. The surrounding colonial mansions I could see out the window had long been converted into flats and were poorly maintained, but still held their original charm and grandeur.

 

The waitress approached slowly, nobody is in a rush, I have eaten too much to rush anyway. Riquisimo! I exclaimed and, she too smiled with joy. We retired outside to smoke before we set about tackling one of the rich Argentine deserts on offer. The summer was drawing to a close, but the April air was still warm enough to enjoy the evening until long after the sun had departed.

 

To round off the enchanting San Telmo evening, we returned to our seats where my colleague and guide ordered us two vigilantes, the porteño version of a post-meal cheese course and several minutes later, the waitress approached, slowly and deliberately, with our two plates. The creamy cheese sat in the middle of the plate, adorned with dulce de batata, a sweet potato paste. The jam flavour was welcoming but the gelatin taste was unusual to my palate.

 

It was one of my last evenings in Buenos Aires and my longstanding colleague and I, who had helped me navigate the city over the last ten months, exchanged goodbyes. I could think of no warmer setting, with the enchanting yellow glow illuminating my colleague’s smiling face.

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