Buenos Aires Basic Etiquette

                  (Photo by buscosocios.net)

Greeting: Most people greet with a kiss on the right cheek in informal situations. This is valid for women greeting women, women greeting men, and men greeting men. In more formal situations a handshake and a smile is customary.

Tipping: Generally in Argentina 10% tipping is expected in restaurants, cafes and beauty saloons/ hairdressers. Taxis don’t expect tipping unless they offer a special service.

Timetables: Locals are not generally very punctual although this varies from person to person. Lunchtime is usually around 1.30pm, and dinner around 10pm and restaurants open late.  Usually between 5pm and 6pm it is customary to  stop for afternoon tea. Parties don’t start until 2 am minimum and when invited to a house, guests are usually expected to be between half an hour to an hour late.

Public transport: In general all queues must be respected. Argies get very irked by people cutting in or pushing through. It is customary to let old people or women with babies get on  to the bus first and also to offer them one’s seat if there are no more available ones. Men usually let women get on first although younger generations do not necessarily abide by this gentleman’s rule.

Clothing: Porteños are reputed to be trendy and casual. Expensive jewelry is avoided on the streets for safety reasons. Also, if you don’t want to be spotted as a tourist, leave your fanny-packs, baseball caps, straw hats, sports sandals and khaki cargo pants in the wardrobe, as these are instant giveaways. Be street-smart and discreet, stay attentive with cameras, iPhones and laptops as well.

Conversation: People in Argentina usually gesticulate a lot and talk close to one another. It is common to strike up random conversations with taxi drivers, kioskeros and neighborhood grocery store vendors, amongst others.  There are many locals who know English although level of comprehension varies.  Argentines are usually upfront people with their opinions and don’t care much for being politically correct, however some sensitive subjects include the Malvinas/Falklands, the military dictatorship and politics in general, specially the current situation which is known to bring about heated arguments.

Mate, a typical bitter beverage that is shared amongst a group, also has its rules and you can find them here.

If you’re into dancing tango you might also want to read these suggestions before heading to a milonga.

A Special Tradition for the 29th of the Month

(Photo by paolo.r)

A special tradition involving gnocchi and money is carried out on the 29th of every month. It consists of gathering to eat gnocchi and placing money under ones plate for it to multiply over the following 29 days.

There are two versions of the origin of this odd ritual, neither which have been confirmed.

The first is a legend that dates back to the VIII century. It tells of Pantaleon, a young doctor from Nicosia who traveled to Italy after converting to Christianity. Once there he performed miraculous cures and was canonized. Then, on the 29th of one month, he asked some peasants for bread and they replied by inviting him to join them for a simple dinner. Saint Pantaleon was grateful and moved by their kindness so he blessed them and promised a year of extraordinary harvests. Indeed, that year the yield of their crops was copious and thus on the 29th of every month this patron Saint of Venice was remembered by a simple meal consisting of gnocchi.

Another story, tells of a famished town on a year when wheat had not yielded well. It is said that on the 29th someone came up with the potato gnocchi, saving the town from starvation.

Finally, the tradition is said to have been introduced to Argentina in the 70´s by a group of gastronomic journalists who gathered every month to eat a meal prepared by one of them. On the 29th of the month one of them decided to make a simple plate of gnocchi to commemorate the legend of Pantaleon. It was a big hit and soon after, the “Club del Ñoqui” was created, gathering people from different cultural and social backgrounds for one gnocchi meal a month. Since there were a lot of journalists involved, the tradition quickly spread, and was adopted as an excuse to gather with friends, eat a great plate of gnocchi and hopefully multiply the monetary crop of the month.

Want to try some gnocchi eating and magical money making yourself? Book a table at one of the following recommended Italian restaurants.

Doppio Zero: Open Tue- Sat 8.30pm- closing and Sun 12.30pm-4pm. Soldado de La Independencia 1238, Las Cañitas. 4899-0162

Ill Ballo del Mattone: Gorriti 5737, Palermo. 4776-4247 reservas@ilballo.tv

Sottovoce: Open everyday from 12-4pm and 8pm-closing. Av. Libertador 1098, Recoleta. 4807-6691.

Chimichurri

(Photo by NicoledeB)

 

Chimichurri is a traditional sauce made from herbs, garlic and vinegar that is used on meat at asados.  It is said that the name of the sauce comes from the British. Allegedly, the English men associated the spice-based sauce with curry, so when they wanted it they said “give me curry” which was locally understood as chimichurri.

There are many ways to make the sauce and we have included just one of the many recipes. Whichever way it’s done  we recommend you make it a few days ahead to enhance the flavor.

 

Ingredients:

● 250 ml water (1 cup)

● 60 ml vinegar (¼ cup)

● 60 ml vegetable oil (¼ cup)

● 1 Tbsp coarse salt

● 1 Tbsp dried oregano

● 1 Tbsp thyme

● 1 Tbsp ground chili pepper

● 1 Bay leaf

●  Fresh parsley

● 5 garlic cloves, chopped

Preparation:

Heat the water, vinegar and salt until they boil.

Mix all the other ingredients except for the oil and incorporate them to the water mixture.

Allow to cool at room temperature.

Add the oil.

Store covered in a glass jar.

 

How to Make a Typical Argentine Asado

Making a good asado is an art that any proud Argentine man must master (although there are women that make great asado too!).  For this task, two elements are key, one, is the technique used for lighting the fire and the elements that will go in it (coal, wood chips…), and secondly is the knowledge of the different meat cuts and the different cooking points. Obviously, a tradition that is practiced and transmitted from generation to generation involves many different techniques which can’t all be mastered overnight, but you´ve got to start somewhere, so here it goes!

1- Clean the surface on which you will cook the meat.

2-Make 5-6 paper balls by crumpling newspaper.

3-Make a small wooden ‘building’  or jenga like structure around the paper balls using a discarded vegetable box or pieces of light wood. Make sure to leave enough space between the pieces of wood so that some air can pass through and enough open room on top so that you can later light the paper balls.

4-Put a circular pile of coal around the wood. (In the video, the coals were placed directly under the grill and under twigs so the fire spread and caught on.)

5-Light the paper balls making sure to watch if the twigs are lighting up.

6- Wait for the coal to catch and once the fire is out move some of the hot embers below the grill.

7- Start placing the meat, chorizos and other ‘achuras’ you may have decided to try (for a translation of meat cuts go here.)

8-Supervise the bottom of the meats and turn them around when they are toasty until the other side is toasty too. Add burning coal where you feel necessary, but keep in mind, asado is slow cooking method. Also keep in mind that some cuts and achuras cook faster than others. (Chorizos for example usually come out of the grill first).

9-Enjoy!