A Taste of Buenos Aires

I’ve only been here a week, but I feel like I’ve been pretty well exposed to the food culture in Buenos Aires. It’s not what I expected. The guidebooks told me of a few common foods, but I’ve been surprised by how… dominant they are. If you walk down the street, you’d think all they eat here is empanadas and pizza. So much pizza. Every other restaurant is a pizza place. And every place that sells food sells empanadas– palm-sized savory stuffed pastries that are baked or fried. Common types are jamon y queso (ham and cheese), carne (beef), and pollo (chicken). They’re not spicy, because Argentinians can’t handle anything mas picante. I actually ate a couple homemade ones with my housemates the other night, and they were heavenly. Ours were caprese (tomato and mozzarella), which I haven’t seen anywhere else.

empanadas (photo by Claudio Jofré Larenas)
Nearly as ubiquitous as the pizza is pasta. All the Italian immigrants brought their terribly delicious carbs with them.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are easy to find, as there are stores entirely devoted to produce. But it’s often absent from or minimimal on restaurant menus. The most common vegetable you see is potato (mashed or fried). Literally none of a restaurant’s dishes are veg-centric. Which makes this preferred-vegetarian feeling a little dissatisfied. But also makes me more adventurous.

Fruit stand in Palermo, the barrio (neighborhood) where I live
Photo by bps718 on Flikr.com
Today for lunch I ate a weird sweet-potato-and-spinach tart. It was relatively tasteless, so I dumped a bunch of salt on top. Not my best meal. Yesterday for lunch I bought some sushi, which was gross, and a caprese salad which was decent. A little heavy on the cheese and light on the basil, but I cared most about the tomatoes anyway. Friday for lunch I went with my co-workers to a tiny place around the corner appropriately named “Le Petite” and ate some sort of baked eggplant with some other sort of beans on the side. Also not super flavorful, but the flan that came with it was delish.

Salads are hard to find, and the only ones I’ve seen have lettuce that looks waxy and is tough to cut and chew. Not sure what that’s all about.

I have a theory about the less-than-ideal vegetarian world here: because there’s so much hype about the meat, no one pays as much attention to the alternative foods. I really wanted to try an empanada, so I ate a chicken one last week. It was one of the best things I’ve eaten here. But I just don’t like eating meat.

Solution: I’ll probably start cooking more in the evening and eating my own leftovers for lunch. Which is a way more economical option, anyway, and one that I’d look forward to because I really do need to learn how to cook for myself. I can’t live on fruit and nuts forever. (Which is what I sometimes eat for dinner at home, in lieu of facing the stove on my own.)