Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shifting Tastes

Since moving abroad, I have gradually evolved and changed in ways that I cannot yet identify. My own personal attachments have dropped off after time. Certain comforts that I always lived with suddenly weren't an option, but after my long stretch here I no longer notice most of the things I found myself missing when I first arrived. One of the most distinct and clear shifts that I have experienced is the change in my tastebuds. Those who have visited Argentina know that they have a few food items that they do fantastically: beef, empanadas, ice cream, pasta, milanesa, and a few others. However, other than their 'specialties,' Argentine cuisine tends to lack in flavor. Nothing is spicy, but even more than that, the spectrum of tastes is very narrow. They have a few restaurants that offer alternative cuisine, but their versions of "Mexican" or "Indian" are so watered down that it only really acts as a tease.

I was a hot-sauce fanatic in the states. I prided my ability to throw down with the best of them, drowning most everything I ate in hot sauce to the point where everything just tasted like hot sauce. Yes, I was even one of those who carried around a mini bottle of tabasco in her purse. My parents came to visit me in Buenos Aires for the first time in late May of 2008, a mere five months into my adventure. I, of course, intructed them to bring me one of my favorite hot sauces: sriracha chili sauce ("rooster sauce" mmmmm). I blissfully poured said sauce all over my food as I would have back home: PAIN. I started sweating and tearing up, my face turned bright red, and I couldn't really taste much for the next day and a half. The tastebuds just can't take it anymore.

On the flip side, I have actually begun tasting all of my food. I now use what I previously considered a "wimpy portion" of spice on my food and can still enjoy the flavor of the actual food. I've started really liking things that have much subtler flavors than before, such as flan or other creamy/custardy treats. I tend to cook for myself frequently. One common complaint in Argentina is that they don't serve many vegetables, but if you're cooking for yourself that's easy to remedy. Your neighborhood fruit and veggie vendor is always a good person to get to know. He'll let you know what fruit is in season and which vegetables are freshest.

The most telling food preference--my hangover cure--has now changed to the uber-Argie milanesa a la napolitana. I believe this one is perhaps the most important switch. That food that you turn to to comfort you, make everything better, and absorb the evilness churning in your stomach is perhaps truly the closest to your heart. A milanesa is a thin slice of breaded meat that is either fried or baked. The "a la Napolitana" means that it's covered in a thin slice of ham, cheese, and marinara sauce. A big hug for the tummy. As a side note, it's also amazing how many dishes ham and boiled eggs sneak in to here. Even when not listed on the menu, both sneak their way in.

The states has a huge variety of food that Argentina just doesn't carry. We are a flavor explosion. An endless smörgåsbord of sauces. I still have the occasional nostalgic twang for good Indian takeout or peanut butter, but overall my food cravings have switched to the food here. I am in my final weeks here in Argentina and talking to all my family and friends about coming back. My mom has asked me a few times what I want my first meal back to be. Strangely enough, I can't even begin to decide. I no longer have my top ten list of food I miss from the states. I know there are things that I still miss--a good sandwich, asian cuisine--but I'm at a loss to choose anything. I'm looking forward to the surprise when I get back.


  1. Oh Marge - I'm glad to hear your hangover food has changed from a random plate of peas to something a little more normal :-) Don't worry, I am sure the Tobasco factory in July will bring you right back to your hot sauce sensibilities!

  2. Since I've been back food has been a total adventure... both good and bad! It's a huge part of life and adjusting to a new place, though. I mean, you eat 3 times + a day! Now that I'm on the other side I'm loving nachos but craving mate and milanesas :(