Argentina - Land of mate
There are few things you notice straight away in Argentina. The first one is the sound of Spanish. It’s very different not only to the European version but also to the dialects of neighbouring countries. And I love that sound. The melody is a little bit different. Especially the men make it sound sexy. As if they were encouraging you to engage in a conversation, or maybe even challenging. They pronounce the “ll” differently. It’s not like the “y” or even “j”, it sounds like Polish “ź” and maybe that’s why it feels so good to hear it - the familiarity in it seduces.
Second thing is the availability of hot water everywhere regardless the weather. If I was aware of that earlier I would have travelled with my tea bags and a thermos. And this is part of the reason why it’s everywhere. People need it for mate. There are different t ways of preparing it, one thing they have in common is obviously hot water. Every one travels with their own mate cups, the bombilla and a thermos. Every few hours there is a break and you have a drink.
Another thing, and I’m sure it’s not Argentina specific, but this is the only place I experienced it to that extent, is the willingness, especially among younger generation, to share food, fun and alcohol. They didn’t know me and yet couldn’t wait to prepare something traditional to eat so I could try it or they would take me to a restaurant. The ingenuity goes as far as having a special name for a plastic bottle cut in half for the purpose of holding alcohol when cups are sparse. It’s called “viajero”. Basically you just take a 1,5 or 2 litre bottle that is half way empty and cut it. Then you divide the soda equally into the two halves and pour alcohol into it. That way two people are happily supplied with a drink for at least couple of hours.
Sweets will not go unmentioned. I think I wrote shortly about alfajores. They are amazingly tasty. There is a shop in Wimbledon, that sells the original stuff, it's pricy, but so worth it. Any chocolate lover should have a go and taste this heavenly confectionery.
Same goes for meat. Argentina has by far the best stakes on earth. In one restaurant in Salta it was so tender you could cut it with a spoon. One environmental request though. I'm very much against exporting meat from that far away. With packaged things that have longer expiry date I'm ok, but the cost of transporting fresh meat is just too great to impose. If you truly want to know the culture, which includes food, then travel. Argentina is especially worth it.