Although this post is a little late, we wanted to recap our Christmas in Buenos Aires featuring our special guests, my (Mike’s) parents. Their visit made what was probably going to be one of the loneliest holidays into an enjoyable and memorable Christmas.
Here’s how it happened:
Back in December, Anna and I hurried to Buenos Aires after tearing through Bolivia in only 15 days. No two ways about it; when we left Cusco after our fabulous Machu Picchu hike we were on a mission to get to Buenos Aires by December 22 or bust! As those of you who have followed this blog know, we made it comfortably. Still, the pressure was on.
Actually, this photo has nothing to do with the preparations, but we like it and we have no photos of the preparations. Which is a large reason why this post is so long in the making. We had such a fabulous and photo-lite time during the holidays that we didn’t know whether our Christmas would turn into a blog post. After thinking about how unique an experience it was though, we decided to share the story. And with a post about the hikes we have just done in Patagonia to come (tease!!). Anyhoo…
We knew we had to make spinach squares.
In the Baniak family as I know it, spinach squares are to Christmas what air is to breathing. While traveling, we have become quite adept at making a tasty tomato and cucumber salad and guacamole, both of which made the green/red menu (thanks, Christmas colors). What we needed was meat, and something in the whale’s tongue neighborhood. Knowing enough Spanish to order coffee and little else, finding whale’s tongue would be tough. But we had an apartment in the Jewish neighborhood in Buenos Aires. No way would we find a kosher butcher who would be unable to fill that order. Thanks to the rolling blackouts in Buenos Aires due to the extreme heat we actually found several kosher butchers who would have been up to the task but for the small problem that their meat hadn’t been refrigerated, probably for a couple of days. No thanks. Moving on we found an incredibly friendly butcher right out of the PauIina Meat Market vein, who sold us a great cut of meat for a reasonable price. With the meat from the butcher, the veggies from the producer, the booze from the kiosk, and the staples from the supermarket (flour, salt, butter, chips, etc.) we were nearly finished. All we needed was frozen spinach which we somewhat miraculously found at the mini market around the corner. With all of our food set, we settled in for a long winter’s nap. Ok. Yes, it was 95 degrees. We still relaxed by watching Frasier reruns. Doesn’t that count?
The first full day my folks were in town was Christmas Eve. Despite our best efforts, everything was either closed or booked for dinner that night. Ever the resourceful beavers, we decided to audible to a home game, and grabbed some empanadas and pasta for the night. As it turned out, great company, quality reheatables, fun games, and good booze made for a great Christmas Eve.
Just like Scrooge, on Christmas morning I yelled out of my open window to a young boy in the street below, “What day is today?” He responded, “Qué?” Which is about all you need to know about Christmas in Buenos Aires. The streets shut down. Anna could only find one kiosk in 10 blocks selling beer and/or cheese (luckily she found one with both). I was locked in my kitchen with its tiny stove and smaller sink. And we loved it. For our first time ever hosting family for Christmas – much less doing so in a new apartment in a foreign country – it went well. Although I was the lead chef, this meal was truly a team effort, with everyone especially pitching in on the roast.
While dinner was cooking, we played cards and a game called Heads Up (check it out, it is fantastic) while snacking on the very good (surprisingly) spinach squares and guacamole. And eventually, we sat down for a tasty family Christmas dinner.
We were incredibly lucky to have guests for Christmas, but we also learned how to navigate another country for food and drink during the holiday period. And how to navigate our own hilariously small kitchen. We had a wonderful experience with my folks, and the entire experience was a unique Christmas we will never forget. When we left for this trip, we knew that we would have to deal with holidays alone in strange places. But we were wrong. On Christmas Day we ate with my parents, Skyped with Anna’s parents and Aunt Patty as well as Princess Jenn, and exchanged emails with several other relatives and friends. It was a great holiday even half a world away, and we have our supportive families and friends thank. Merry belated Christmas to all and to all a good night!