Buenos Aires – We’re coming down to the wire on buying our new apartment, so things have been a little hectic. Meetings and phone calls with the real estate agent, the escribano (notary/title preparer), working out transfering funds halfway across the world (you’d think in the day and age of the internet and easy global travel, your money could do the same, but no…), arranging for shipping of personal things, and buying furniture. Yesterday was spent looking for a “bedroom set.” Here, one can approach that in every way from the equivalent of barely cobbled together furniture in poorer barrios to designer goods in the poshest of neighborhoods. The easiest thing is to hit a strip of Avenida Belgrano that is, for lack of a better term, the furniture district.
A ten block stretch of this major avenue is lined on both sides with purveyors of objects to fill your home made from every conceivable material. There is a leaning towards the style of antique reproduction, but it’s not pervasive, and there is much to choose from between that and plastiform modern. The apartment itself is in an older building, and has touches that suggest a bit of age, but overall has been redone in a very modern, gleaming white, with lots of tinted glass. First priority was the bedroom, as amongst the various things we are having shipped or delivered here, there were no items for the dormitorio. Also, unless you want pre-fab pressboard furniture, or very cheap quality, furniture here is all built to order (3-4 weeks for fabrication and delivery from date of order).
My radar was up, and I was ready to hear ridiculous prices. After all, even if based on showroom designs, this furniture is all essentially being custom built. And indeed, we heard some quotes of prices that for Buenos Aires were probably outrageous. Though, as I noted, furnishing a complete bedroom for 6,000 pesos with designer furniture probably would have cost $6,000 or more in New York for the exact same items. Some stores wanted cash only. Some took checks or credit cards. It was, while not on the scale of our Bolivian adventures (you can search back on Bolivia) or others, still quite the little adventure for the day. In the end we settled on a nice modern design that echoed the use of tinted glass in various components and was much more reasonable in price. Once we’re “in,” this Tuesday, I’ll start posting pictures as we decorate, design, and fill the space.
Took some time out to whip up a little soup of fresh peas and herbs (not to mention play with my photo editor…). It was yet another one of those moments where looking in the refrigerator yielded the ingredients needed to come up with something delicous, and probably nutritious, for a casual lunch. A note, by the way, given the lack of proper cooking utensils here, I haven’t been doing things like making pots of stock and freezing them in pints for use later on. I’ve discovered the stocks and broths of Knorr – it’s not that I’ve never used a bouillon cube before, I’ve just never been particularly impressed with the results. I’ve occasionally mixed up one of their soup mixes into things like a pint of sour cream to make a dip, but that’s about it. Here, Knorr dominates the soup aisles. Canned soups are virtually non-existent. And it comes in multiple flavors, many of which are (probably) not available in all markets. So apologies for my use of two in tandem that may or may not be available where you are. Do your best.
Fresh Green Pea Soup
2 cups of fresh peas
leaves from a head of celery, coarsely torn
1 bunch of fresh basil, coarsely torn
1 bundle of fresh chives, cut in 1″ lengths
1 teaspoon of dried green peppercorns, crushed
1 cube of caldo de legumbres y hortalizas*
1 cube of caldo de choclo**
1 quart of water
salt to taste
Bring the peas to a boil in the water, reduce heat and simmer until tender. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the herbs are limp, but still bright green. Remove from heat, adjust the seasoning. Serve with fresh bread.
* My initial thought was just to say, “vegetable broth,” but I think it’s a different stock than that – translating the included ingredients yields: dehydrated carrot, squash, spinach, corn, beans, chickpeas, and parsley, in a base of “beef stock and beef fat.”
** Much the same for choclo, which is sweetcorn, but, this is corn broth made with: chicken stock, chicken fat, dehydrated chicken, sweetcorn, leeks, carrot, celery seed, parsley, and chili peppers.
By the way, these broths are great on their own, and the combinations of ingredients might just provide me with some ideas for future soups!