A disgruntled librarian packs it up and leaves fabulous New York City behind,
going on random adventures through South America,
while simultaneously promoting literacy
and spreading the love of the written word.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

i love a parade ...

oh dear blog readers, it's been such a long time since we've seen a good old fashioned south american parade.  it used to be that we were welcomed to town by a parade wherever we went.  well, luckily the other night while we were walking around san telmo looking for a cheap parilla, we stumbled upon this parade of sorts.

so it all started off rather normal with music and dancing and shiny costumes.   good stuff.  then we noticed that there were a large number of precocious children running around spraying each other with what looked like white silly string.  fine.  i'm all for merriment.

soon the bolshevik and i were lost in the crowd and wound up getting split up.  it was around this time that i noticed men selling spray cans of nieve or snow.  what was this stuff?  was it like the fake snow people spray on christmas trees?  well, that's kind of charming then that a culture where no one has even seen snow wants to have a snowy parade.  how cute.

but it all got malicious rather quickly ... apparently the nieve is really just a special type of shaving cream good for spraying at people.  as soon as i entered the crowd i was getting hit everywhere.  at first by punk ass kids, and then later by adults as well!  wtf?!  i was just an innocent bystander!

the bolshevik covered in nieve
moments before spraying me
by the time i found the bolshevik again we were both soaking wet, covered in nieve.  as i approached him, thankful that we could finally leave this crazy parade, the bolshevik shot me!  enraged by what was going on, the bolshevik had bought his own can of nieve for self-defense.

so then we both re-entered the crowd, hoping to get our revenge.  but man, those kids were good.  ultimately, we left the parade having inflicted way less damage than we would've liked.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

breakfast of champions

the bolshevik started this morning's
baked-goods-for-breakfast
before i could get a good picture
of all the cookies 
it is my belief that if you have fresh baked goods in your house, there is no reason not to eat them for breakfast.  and it is with great pride that i tell you dear blog readers that this morning i had homemade chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.  (i also recommend brownies and cupcakes as excellent baked-goods-for-breakfast)

now before you get all preachy on me, let me ask you ... is this really any worse than a bowl of sugary cereal?  especially if the cereal in question is cookie crisp?  (i was never allowed to have cookie crisp as a child.  obviously my baked-goods-for-breakfast initiative is some sort of rebellion)

moving on!

since many of you were concerned about my inability to bake here in buenos aires, let me walk you through how this was accomplished.

first i was finally able to find baking soda (bicarbonato de sodio) and baking powder (polvo para hornear)  you really have to do some searching to find these things since they are kept in these strange little packets, and aren't put in an obvious place.  then i found "brown sugar" or azúcar de fantasia negro.  it was difficult to tell if this was true brown sugar or if it was just regular sugar that had been colored brown.  but lo and behold this sugar of fantasy actually was legitimate brown sugar!

next i needed chocolate chips.  a key ingredient in chocolate chip cookies.  however, i went to two different stores and couldn't find any.  later i was informed that you have to go to a special party store to get chocolate chips.  so i improvised and bought a large chocolate bar and then smashed it into little pieces.

then we had the numberless oven problem ... so i put the dial near the "little flame" setting, assuming that it's better to underbake than overbake.

much like at an argentine parilla, my chocolate chip cookies were slow-baked to perfection ... much like re-inventing the wheel, i have re-invented the art of baking.

Friday, February 4, 2011

i am not a professional baker

if you read my old blog, you may remember that i have a fondness for baking.  and yet, here in buenos aires i have made very few baked goods.  why, you ask?  because i cannot figure out how.

first, i had a hell of a time finding ingredients such as baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, etc.  it makes me wonder if everyone just makes their baked goods from a mix.  but eventually i was able to locate some (not all!) of these essential items.

but then we have the problem with the ovens ... you see, when i bake things, usually i like to set the oven at a specific temperature.  usually 350 degrees.  sometimes 375 degrees.  but this is an impossibility here.  please see the oven at left.

you may notice that there are NO NUMBERS anywhere to be found.  now, for the stove i guess numbers aren't really necessary.  but i ask you, how are you supposed to figure out what temperature to cook things when all you are given to work with is a picture of a big flame and a little flame?  at first i thought maybe we just had a shitty oven, but then i learned that everyone has ovens like these in their homes.

so i asked an argentine how you are supposed to bake under these conditions, and he was quite shocked that i had a problem with this system.  "why do you need to know the temperature?" he asked, "certainly you can tell if the oven is hot, no?"

yes, i can in fact tell when an oven is hot.  i have that power.  but i explained that i wanted to know the exact temperature.

"why," he asked, "are you a professional baker or something?"

well, this stunned me a little.  am i asking for too much? am i being a baking prima donna?  so i decided to quit my whining, and i set off to bake some cookies.

now, let me tell you that cookies are hard to find here in argentina.  sure, they sell oreos and chips ahoy in the supermarket, and i have become quite fond of the dulce de leche sandwich cookie goodness which is an alfajor,  but try to find a good old fashioned homemade chocolate chip cookie and you're shit out of luck.

so it was with great sadness when my cookie baking experiment turned out like this.  first off, i have no idea why the cookies did not expand and rise like normal cookies.  instead they remained as little balls of cookie dough.  (i blame the baking powder).  second, the oven temperature was obviously too high making it impossible for the cookies to be baked on top without being severely burned on the bottom.  and finally, although the non-burned parts tasted okay, they more closely resembled biscotti than a chocolate chip cookie.  (again, i blame the baking powder).

this baking disaster took place in our old apartment, and during the baking the window of the oven actually FELL OUT of the oven door.  i'm sure that didn't help matters.  anyway, i have yet to attempt to bake again in our new apartment.  probably because i am not a professional, and am therefore unqualified.