Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Yesterday I was getting ready to head out to a small exhibit featuring art done by kids living in the slums.

I realized the exhibit was on the same side of town as the English-language bookstore . . . and that the bookstore wasn't so far from the cheese shop and the Italian bakery.

I hit the bookstore first and made 35 pesos (US$11) selling them four used paperbacks. Cheese money!

I got to the art exhibit and it was closed. A lot of businesses here lock their doors. But there's usually someone to open up if you knock. Not there, not this time. At other points of my life, I would have found this more upsetting. But I know better now. So I moved on to the bakery.

This Italian bakery is old school. It's been around for very nearly 100 years. And you can tell. (I did not take photos inside the bakery, but there are some photos here.)

I have sworn off buying bread in Buenos Aires, not out of carbophobia but because most if it just sucks. In a place with so much European heritage, it's ridiculous that this should be so, but it is. Every bakery for miles around makes essentially the same bread and it is all insipid and fluffy.

So I'm almost down to only eating bread that I make. But the bread at the Italian bakery is one of the very few places that makes bread worth buying, so I picked up a loaf.

They've got some great-looking pastries too. The one I bought, pictured above, is the pasticciotto. It's a cookie crust filled with pastry cream and chocolate. The man behind the counter dusted it with powdered sugar before he stuck it in a bag for me.

The cheese store is only a few blocks away. It was locked when I got there. But I tapped on the glass and the same old woman who is always there let me in.

I asked for some ricotta first and then asked about the burrata. I had heard of it, but what was it exactly? She told me it was a ball of fresh mozzarella stuffed with a mixture of mozzarella, cream and basil, whereupon I informed her that one of those would be coming home with me as well.

While she totaled up my purchase by hand on a small slip of paper, we chatted a bit about the business.

"¿Sos de acá del barrio?" she asked me.

No, I told her. I live in Almagro.

I told her that good cheese was worth the trip, and she naturally agreed. I said that I sometimes waited until I had something else to do on that side of town to come, but not always. Sometimes I just enjoyed the walk to the cheese store.

"Y sí," she said. "Hay que tomarlo como un paseo." You have to treat it like a stroll.

It's true. On my way there, I had chanced upon some things I didn't know existed. (Who knew there was a puppet museum or a Lunfardo Academy of Buenos Aires?) Plus, I never spend any time in San Telmo or Congreso and they're both great neighborhoods to explore.

True, I hadn't even seen the art exhibit I set out to see. I had managed to pick up some great food, but even if I hadn't it wouldn't have mattered. Paseos are not like blog entries. Even a rambling paseo that doesn't go anywhere isn't a let-down.

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