Recollections in Recoleta.

We went for an early lunch in a Recoleta restaurant, a few blocks from the famous cemetery where Evita and Admiral Brown are buried. I wasn’t there long before the place played on my senses, transporting me to a different country, another time. I know I should be living in the now, enjoying the moment but I couldn’t. I was in two places at once.

Rodi Bar was bustling, noisy with conversation and laughter. Full of local porteños getting together, at the weekend, for a long lazy lunch. Large groups of friends and families sat at long tables, enjoying each other’s company. With bottles of Vasco Viejo on white table cloths, large salads of lettuce, tomato and tuna. Baskets of bread, shellfish and steaks. Fish first then meat.

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The food, the noise, the atmosphere brought me back twenty-four years to the Basque Country  where  friends and I enjoyed many summers teaching English. There, we deepened our life-long friendships while making many Basque friends. Euskadi influenced us in so many ways and bestowed on us an enduring epicurean education. In restaurants in Zornotza, Bilbao and Gernika the Basques taught us about food, encouraging us to try new tastes and develop our palates.  It was there that we learned to love olives and anchovies and langoustines fried in garlic. The Basques invited us for pintxoak and txakolina, bought us typical traditional dishes like txipiroiak bere tintan- baby squid in their own ink. They ordered our steaks. Blue or bloody we described them, `en su punto` they taught us.

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Darragh’s voice jolted me back to reality, he was ordering from the waiter with his Argentinian Spanish. It’s lovely to hear him with his porteño slang and its sing-song rhythm, using vos and ustedes like a local. The waiter smiled at his fluency, Flor his teacher would be proud. I imagined Darragh’s future, hoping that in twenty-four years’ time, he too would have happy memories and perhaps a set of skills from his travels in Latin America.

My day-dreaming distracted me. Realising that the waiter was looking at me, I hastily ordered the house speciality, opting for Argentinian costillas or ribs. When the waiter arrived later with a huge tray just for me I was gobsmacked. The rib cage, covering the entire tray, looked like a San Fermin carcass. Everyone nearby laughed at my obvious shock. It was delicious though and I didn’t regret my choice, except wished my friends were here to share it. They would have loved the prime Argentinian beef, tender and tasty. I finished it.

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Days later, I still walk about feeling like some old mythical creature. Half man,half cow. Yesterday, was Spring Day in Argentina and my new season resolution is to turn vegetarian for a while. At least until next weekend, when Flor has invited us to her house for an asado.

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