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Food is memory. My memories of places are informed by the taste of the sweet things I ate there.
Chocolate in Argentina
First there was Bariloche. We crossed the border from Chile here; it was our very first stop in Argentina. There was a street called the Street of Chocolate Dreams; a chocolate department store; a chocolate cafe with giant Russian dolls in the window; a forest-themed chocolate restaurant/factory…there was a lot of chocolate. By the final cafe we all said we were sick and tired of it all; we never wanted chocolate again.
Then there was Buneos Aires where the women were almost all whippet-thin, but cortados were always served with a glass of water and either a bite of chocolate or a small medialuna on the side. I later read in Bad Times in Buneos Aires that, amongst well-heeled Porteñas, the chocolate serving was a test: you were supposed to make a show of being able to resist it.
When I think back to Buenos Aires I can see a picture of myself in El Ateneo Gran Spendid. Sitting at a small table on what used to be the stage in the theater-turned-bookstore sipping a cortado and not even trying to resist the delicately wrapped square of dark chocolate on the saucer.
In another life, had this life taken a different route, I am pretty sure I would have ended up living in Buenos Aires. I was living in Chile when I used to find excuses to board a bus across the border, all the way to BA. I fell in love with the city the first time I was there; I loved it although it wasn’t at its best when we met (during the Argentine Financial Crisis). This was obviously pre-digital camera, but I just found a few prints in my old room back home and I got back to dreaming. Memories appeared as snapshots: sipping Cafe Cortado on what used to be a stage in El Ateneo, an old theatre; more coffee and medialunas while watching bundles of dogs led by a professional walker clad in spandex in Recoleta; peering down from the cheap seats to watch opera at Teatro Colón; taking advantage of Financial Crisis prices at Abasto; lounging on the grass, exhausted after a day at El Museo de Bellas Artes; pizza in San Telmo. And wandering. So much wandering. Flowing down Corrientes like the avenue itself.
Anoche soñé con Buenos Aires.