Tonight, I had my first meal here that I just didn't like. Which is pretty good considering I've been here for almost 6 weeks (that's crazy to think about). It was eggplant milanese, which is basically breaded eggplant. I've never had eggplant before and turns out I'm not really a fan of it.
I was kinda poking around it on my plate and when my host mom asked if I liked it she instantly knew I was lying. Luckily, she was really understanding about me not liking it and made me some eggs and toast instead. It's so nice that we're comfortable enough that it's not rude for me to say what I like and don't like, because otherwise I would probably be pretty hungry right now!
I've gotten quite a few questions from people about what I eat here. Personally, I think you all have been watching too much Travel Channel because I have yet to encounter any llama brains or livers. In fact, I haven't seen anything here that I wouldn't be able to buy at home really, with the exception of mate but that's a whole other story. So in light of that I thought I would share what some common meals here are. They're basically the same ingredients as ours, just mixed in different ways.
- Milanese: This is a staple in my house and the ultimate safe move in restaurants. You just can't go wrong with milanese. I probably eat this 3 times a week. It's essentially just beef or chicken very thinly sliced and breaded. We eat it with lemon juice or sometimes eggs on top.
- Empanadas: This is probably the most widely eaten food here in Argentina. You can find empanadas pretty much anywhere and they're insanely cheap. Like I'm talking $5AR or $6AR which is less than a $1USD. So clearly us college students eat these constantly. They are typically filled with carne (ground beef), queso (cheese), or jamon y queso (ham and cheese). You can buy them from vendors on the street, a bakery, or virtually an restaurant.
- Pasta con Crema: We eat a lot of pasta here, the only twist is the sauce. Instead of our typically thick and chunky (sorry Katie) ragu it's a soupy tomato sauce. Usually, you will also pour liquid cream on it also to make a kind of alfredo sauce. It's pretty similar to what we eat in the US, but not quite the same.
- Panqueques con Dulce de Leche: This is eaten as a desert and it very thin pancakes, basically crepes covered in dulce de leche (Argentina's version of very sweet peanut butter, caramel) and then rolled and sprinkled with sugar. It's pretty fantastic though it is so sugary it will almost literally make your teeth hurt. Almost all desert involves dulce de leche here and I'm not complaining!
- Calabaza: This is just the Spanish word for pumpkin, but they eat it constantly here. Usually baked and mashed. It tastes a lot like sweet potatoes. At first I thought it was kind strange to eat pumpkin but I've grown to really like it.
Those are just a few of the most common things I've eaten here and definitely not all. In general if you want to know what Argentine food is like, it's never spicy, usually involves massive amounts of cheese and sugar, and is never as greasy as American food. It's also almost always made from scratch or fresh because of the easy accessibility of fresh ingredients and the high price of pre-packaged meals and food items.
While it definitely seems to me that, in general, there are much fewer obsess people here, it doesn't seem like they are at all concerned about health or weight. Diet soda isn't a thing here. In fact diet or fat-free or reduced fat anything is a pretty rare sight.
I think the difference is that people eat here. They eat large meals at regularly scheduled times and don't have junk food. Because they always know what time the next meal is it seems to be much better planned for it to be home cooked. Which I think makes a huge difference. It's just interesting to see a culture that isn't obsessed with calorie counting and dieting and exercise.