Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Friday, 1 August 2014

Meat, meat, Malbec and oh yes - more meat

We have arrived in a country that asks for the make and model of your cell phone as part of the immigration declaration. I was afraid I would be refused entry because my iPhone is not the latest model.  The hunter-gatherer wonders if there is a set of random questions they draw from, such as "Do you have a dog? What breed?", or perhaps "How many sweaters do you own? What colours are they?"  

We are in Mendoza, a short but spectacular 50 minute flight over the Andes from Santiago.  

Flying from Chile to Argentina over the Andes
I decide against reading "Alive: the stories of the Andes Survivors" before the trip. Remember the Uruguayan rugby team members who  survived for two months after their charter plane crash in the mountains? They had to eat their dead friends.  Our flight is uneventful - so uneventful the cabin crew do not even pass through the cabin - I guess they are just there to hand out cutlery in the event of an emergency.

Speaking of cutlery, you need a good set of sharp knives in Argentina, the home of beef - and Malbec. We are consuming more than our fair share of both. Indeed, I have eaten more steak in the past two weeks than in the past two months. The hunter-gatherer has even been heard to say "I don´t feel like eating meat today".

We love Mendoza: The tree lined streets are an easy to navigate grid bounded by four avenues.  The traffic isn't too manic, however any standards for what might constitute road worthiness seem voluntary. There are some real wrecks (usually decrepit Ford pickups) but mostly late model European and Japanese cars abound.

Feeling bold, we spend a day in General San Martin Park. It is now notorious in New Zealand as the place a young New Zealander was shot dead earlier this year. Two guys on a motorbike tried a bag snatch and it went badly wrong. If this hadn't happened to a New Zealander we would probably never have heard about it it, but on a sunny winter's day in a park full of families, couples and groups of friends strolling, picnicking, cycling, jogging, I am hyper vigilant. Yet it is just like any other large city park anywhere in the world.

But really, the country is a mess. Inflation is rampant and there is a currency black market, known as the 'blue' market for reasons too obscure to mention.  We  cruise the street looking to make a transaction: the only difference between this and a drug deal is the dealers are armed with calculators not hand guns. The bank rate is 8.08 to the $US, but on the street it's 11.7. Inflation is rampant, and so you see half finished houses where people have run out of money. There is 21% goods and services tax, but businesses work around it when they can as they don´t trust the Government to pay them back any refund due.

Yet there is always meat! The country is a veritable celebration of the carcass in all its glorious forms. They can´t help themselves - we spend a couple of days visiting vineyards and wine tasting in the two main valleys south of Mendoza - Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. On both days we enjoy a multi course degustation lunch paired with wines.  All the courses are small, as befits degustation, however when it comes to the steak it is a great piece of fillet served as a full sized main course. New Zealand should be establishing beef farms here, not dairy farms.

Barbecue restaurants are everywhere, and every night they are full. I do not always recognise the cuts and it is the first time I have seen a kitchen with a band saw permanently in place. 

Standard fare - the Argentine barbecue restaurant

Not entirely sure what some of these guts and cuts are
Meatlovers everywhere, this is the place for you!

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