Oh my god. Soup. You’d think it was The End of Times. Argentines have a bizarre relationship with soup. For the most part, it’s a non-entity. In fact, most Argentine cookbooks don’t include soups in them, and I’ve more than once asserted that it’s the only cuisine on the planet without soup. Stews, one-pot meals, sure, but soup? That’s for when you’re sick, or on a diet. The country’s most beloved cartoon character, Mafalda, has spent the last 60 or so years espousing that “soup is the root of all evil”, or something much to that effect, and three generations of Argentines have come to believe it. I’ve actually had guests at Casa S simply push a bowl of soup away (and we almost always have a soup as one of the courses) without trying it, because they Don’t Eat Soup. And, of course, we were treated to half a dozen of those lovely sidebars I mentioned in the last post, as several contestants poured out their vitriol against looking at, cooking, or eating, soup.
Oh Matias. Oh Alejo. You remember Matias from past posts – the loudmouth who doesn’t want to cook anything but a plain steak? He doesn’t want to cook soup. He’s never actually had soup – Real Men Don’t Eat Soup and all that. And, he doesn’t want to cook it. He produces so much waste of his various vegetable components for the (dismal) soup he finally presents that the judges make him keep it all to use in the next challenge. And Alejo – he has his soup bowls on the floor, shoving them around with his feet as he cooks. Germán makes him pick them up, asking if he’d do that at home and serve them to guests. Stupid question, he’s a 20-something year old engineering student, of course he would. Alejo apologizes and offers, in rapid succession, to a) wipe them off with his hand towel; b) wipe them off with alcohol; c: rinse them before using them. Germán just glares at him without saying a word. He finally gets it right – option d) put them in a sink and go get new bowls.
The winner of the soup challenge – Jacinto – with his German style vegetable, parmesan, and dumpling soup that’s a tribute to his grandmother Elvira. The judges, including Elba who has joined them for the day, can feel the love. He weeps.
The elimination challenge – game meat. A dozen who didn’t make the grade with their soups – which pretty much sums up the Argentine relationship with soup – I mean, 12 out of 16 couldn’t make a passable soup? Jacinto, who is safe along with three others, gets to assign each of 10 different game meats to the dozen contestants. For some odd reason there aren’t 12 different meats, so be it – there are two pheasants and two partridges. There are a couple of different cuts of boar, venison, hare, and buffalo. Jacinto avows, in a completely non-intuitive, non-strategic way, that he’s going to assign the meats based on who he thinks will do the best job with each. Let’s face it, in the US, Canada, and Australia versions, they’d be out to give them the one they’d do the worst at.
The loser, the one to be eliminated, the youngest contestant, at 21 years old, Simone. Throughout the challenge, during which he decided to make wild hare ravioli, the judges told him not to. Christophe once and Donato twice, came over to him and carefully explained that there was no way he could cook the wild hare ragout in the time allotment, nor get his pasta and filling correct. He stubbornly refused to take their advice, and the dish flopped miserably. He wept. They told him to keep cooking and come back and try again in a few years when he’s got more cooking experience.
And now, they’re 15.