Being hungry in Argentina is never an option. As soon as I start to feel the slightest bit of hunger in my stomach, it’s time for another meal. I am eating four meals a day here, at the absolute least.
First, there’s breakfast. Usually, breakfast is a pretty small ordeal, with tea and toast. There’s a spreadable cheese that Argentineans blend with any other sort of spread on toast that tastes more like cream than cheese, but not really like cream cheese, so usually breakfast is this cheese and either dulce de leche or jam on toast. Everyone here lives off of Dulce de Leche, a sweet golden caramel made of basically just sugar and milk. If it’s not on bread, they just eat it by the spoonful for dessert, which I have no objection to at all. Eating Dulce de Leche, to me, feels like pouring good energy down my throat and letting it spread through my body. And when you combine it with two thin biscuits and a coating of chocolate, the happiness just compounds.
Around midmorning here, I make some mate and share it with whoever is around. Mate is a strong type of tea that tastes sort of like green tea and sort of like dirt if you aren’t accustomed to the taste, or if it’s made poorly. To make a proper mate, one needs a mate (a hollowed out gourd about the size of a softball, usually round but sometimes oblong), a bombilla (a straw with a filter at the bottom, usually made of silver), a thermos, and the yerba (the loose yerba mate tea). You fill the mate almost to the brim with the yerba, then wiggle the bombilla all the way to the bottom of the gourd, not to be touched for the rest of the mate process. The water for the mate must be hot, but not boiling, so it is tolerable to drink through the metal straw without burning your lips too much. You, as the mate server, test and make sure nobody will burn themselves by pouring some of the water from the thermos into the mate and sipping through the straw, then adjusting the temperature as needed. Then, you fill the gourd with water to fully saturate the mate, and pass it to the person next to you. Each person drinks the tea until you can hear the suctioning of air instead of the slurping of water through the bombilla, then passes it to the server, who refills it and continues passing it to the next person in the circle.
Lunch can range from a full meat and rice dish at Claudia’s house or a huge plate of stir fry at a vegetarian restaurant downtown to just a bowl of polenta. I bought myself some instant polenta (the best quick food possible!), parmesan cheese, and salad ingredients here to prepare in the hostel kitchen for lunch or dinner. It all cost me the equivalent of $6 USD, and has so far served for at least four of my meals!
If nobody pulls out some bread and dulce de leche around mid-afternoon, the next meal is the 6:00 tea, inevitably with something sweet to accompany it. Here in Bariloche, I like to take my tea at one of the many chocolate places downtown. For chocomama or anyone else who is interested, the chocolate here is delicious, often combining milk and white chocolate in creamy and perfect proportions. Ahh…
Finally, there’s dinner, and by this point I’m usually so stuffed from the day that I just make myself a salad. The other day, however, I had a huge chocolate cake for 6:00 tea, a salad about three hours later, and then again, three hours later, I went out for a midnight pizza with some friends from the hostel. Dinner can also be a full asado, since the Argentineans love their meat.
So yes, the Argentineans do feed themselves well, and I am loving going along with it. Meat, Mate, and Dulce de Leche are the three staples, as far as I can tell, so I’ve been eating a lot of Mate and Dulce de Leche. Healthy, right? And good for the teeth, too.