Movie Titles in Foreign Countries

Last year when I went searching for Monty Python and the Holy Grail at the aptly-named Video Club Camelot here in Necochea, I offered up my best attempt at the title in Spanish and was met with blank stares all around. Not content to give up the quest so easily, I tried two other movie rental stores. I went home empty-handed. 

The problem? It turns out that the movie was released as Los caballeros de la mesa cuadrada ["The Knights of the Square Table"] in Argentina. Well, whodathunkit?!

Though movies are frequently given new titles when a direct translation from English would be nonsensical or culturally inappropriate for foreign audiences, inventive translations complicate the usually simple task of renting a movie. To make matters worse, a film's title often differs for Spain and Latin America. 

Take the 1980s classic comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off for example. The film's title was translated three different ways for Spanish-speaking audiences:

Todo en un día ["All in One Day"] – Spain
Un experto en diversión ["An Expert in Fun"] – Argentina/Chile/Colombia/Peru
La escapada de Ferris Bueller ["Ferris Bueller's Escapade"] – Mexico

Of course, it works both ways. The 1997 film Abre los ojos ["Open Your Eyes"] by Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar underwent a Hollywood remake in 2001 and was rechristened with the title Vanilla Sky

Click here to check out some truly bizarre translations of movie titles.

Tip: Need to know the foreign title of your favorite film? Search for the movie at the oh-so-handy site Internet Movie Database [IMDb] and then scroll down to the "Details" section. Click on the "See more" link next to "Also Known As" and all will be revealed.

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Vintage Travelogue Film: Romantic Argentina

Continuing with the vintage Argentina theme that I started a while back, I thought it was high time I showed one of them thar fancy moving pictures!

Would you like a glimpse of what life was like in Buenos Aires in the 1930s? Grab a mate, dim the lights, congratulate me on my 100th post (yes, this one!), and get ready for a visit to "the Argentine."

I now present Romantic Argentina. Please click here if you can't view the embedded video.

[Hat tip to Cherie at Tango Cherie]

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Mind Your Manners: Etiquette in Argentina

The site Travel Etiquette attempts to unravel the mysteries of proper etiquette and social customs around the globe by providing advice broken down by country. Here's a snippet on how to mind your Ps and Qs in Argentina:

"…punctuality is not rigorously adhered to in Argentina. It is not considered rude to be 30 to 45 minutes late for a dinner invitation…."

Based on my experience, I'd have to agree with this statement. Argentines tend to hold a more relaxed view of time and are rarely punctual when it comes to social events. If you're a stickler for timeliness, try to loosen up a bit or else you will go insane here.

On a related note, friends and family don't generally call in advance to arrange a visit. Be prepared for visitors who drop by when you least expect them, as well as last minute invitations to asados and other get-togethers. Plans are made very spontaneously here, so just go with the flow. [Tina from Tina Tangos talked a bit about this recently on her blog.]

Here's another cultural difference that the Travel Etiquette article highlights:

"…don't be alarmed or surprised to hear what you might consider to be name-calling or swearing amongst friends. In this instance, political correctness certainly does not rule supreme, and Argentines might readily use phrases such as 'fat'…when talking to friends."

I can't tell you how many people here have descriptive nicknames like "El Gordo" (Fatty), "La Rubia" (Blondie) or "El Negro" (in this context, usually used to refer to someone dark-complected or olive-skinned but not necessarily black). I'm fairly certain that most women (and probably a few men) in the U.S. would be horrified if their friends christened them with a nickname like "Fatty," but it really and truly is not considered offensive here. 

The Argentines call a spade a spade, and no one gets worked up about it. That's not to say that these words are never construed as an insult—it's all a matter of context and tone of voice—but among friends they're regularly used as terms of endearment.

Read the full text on etiquette in Argentina, and add your two centavos' worth in the comments.

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Sand Happens

In an attempt to shake a severe case of cabin fever after several days of unpleasant winter weather and self-imposed isolation due to the swine flu epidemic, Tomás, Hilda,Velia and I decided to go for a Sunday afternoon drive.

I piled into the car with Daniel's parents and grandmother, and we headed north over the river, leaving the city behind us in a matter of a few minutes. Tomás navigated the back country roads with a clear destination in mind: the quiet little village of Costa Bonita. We wound our way past farmland, humble little homes built from nothing, then down a dusty road flanked by towering agave plants. 

Dunes in the Distance | Costa Bonita, Argentina by katiealley on Flickr

We paused momentarily at a chapel and shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes (la Virgen de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes), watching as the faithful lit candles and sent up prayers. A few minutes later, we found ourselves looking out over the expansive, pebble-filled beach of Costa Bonita. We sat and contemplated the waves that buffeted a broken concrete fishing pier while shorebirds danced at the water's edge and sea foam swirled among the sand and stones.

Espuma del Mar | Seafoam by katiealley on Flickr

At this point, I assumed that we would make our way south down the coast to Necochea, as I knew of no coastal road suitable for non-4x4 vehicles that continued northward. Apparently neither did Tomás until we spotted a sign that beckoned "Arenas Verdes 6km." Feeling adventurous, we all agreed to explore this unfamiliar route to Arenas Verdes (also known as Playa Verde), another tiny but picturesque beach spot.

I later learned that although the road between Costa Bonita and Arenas Verdes was built four years ago, it remains largely unknown to locals. Arenas Verdes may be easily accessed by the inland highway Ruta 88, but arriving by means of this unpaved coastal road offers a more scenic option that hugs the ocean. This stretch of coastline is quite rugged with virtually no signs of humanity along the way. 

As we drove along I marveled at the desert-like scenery to my left – enormous sand dunes that rose up in the distance like something out of the film Lawrence of Arabiawhile on my right the ocean waves crashed against the rocky shore. At one point I asked Tomás to stop so I could take a picture, and I leapt out of the car and scrambled up a small hill for a better vantage point. The wind whipped my hair as I surveyed my surroundings. All I could hear was the sound of the sea and the cries of a few seagulls.

Dunes Along the Road Between Costa Bonita and Arenas Verdes, Argentina[Click on the photo to view large.]

We continued on our journey, making our way easily and comfortably, until suddenly the road divided. In a split-second decision, Tomás chose to continue straight ahead instead of following the curve to the left. The road, previously in good condition with virtually no sand, changed to nothing more than a narrow set of tracks blazed through the scrub grass and sand. 

With no way to turn around, Tomás forged ahead, gunning the engine in spots where the "road" seemed particularly sketchy. We crested the top of a small hill and cringed when we saw that the next section of road was absolutely drowning in sand. Tomás shifted gears and accelerated on the approach to try to get us through, but as soon as we hit the sand trap we were stuck

Tomás and I stepped out of the car, determined to remedy the situation. I set to excavating the front and back tires – efforts which Velia later described as something akin to "an armadillo burrowing for food" – while Tomás searched for stones and other material to place under the wheels for traction. Hilda hopped into the driver's seat and gave the car some gas as Tomás and I pushed. The car gained a bit of traction and lurched forward a foot or two, only to sink once again into the sand even deeper than before.

Standing there, hands on hips, with a defeated expression on his face, Tomás perked up when he heard the sound of a pickup truck off in the distance. Two very kind and helpful individuals stopped and lent us a helping hand – thank you, whoever you were – hitching us up to their 4x4 and extricating us from the sand. [Side note: The men mentioned that they hadn't been down this road in over a year.]

Trailing closely behind our rescuers just in case we should get stuck again, we finally arrived at Arenas Verdes about ten minutes later. Following the road not taken, we made our way back to Necochea safe and sound, though a pound or two heavier for all the sand in our shoes. 

I'm pleased to report that after this outing all four cases of cabin fever were successfully cured without further intervention.

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How Sweet It Is: Argentine Desserts and Treats

Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, sit back and read about the arsenal of sweets, treats and desserts that the Argentines have at the ready to satisfy your craving for azúcar (sugar).

Dulce de Leche
I've already waxed poetic about the wonders of this thick, gooey, caramel spread beloved by the Argentines. They should be applauded for having managed to work dulce de leche into just about every goodie imaginable—it's truly impressive. Read more about dulce de leche and how to make it at home.

The undisputed champion of the cookie world in Argentina, the alfajor is a sandwich cookie filled with dulce de leche or, Alfajor de Maicena by Andrea Rock, on Flickr  used with permission of photographer]sometimes, jam. The cookies are often dusted in powdered sugar or covered in chocolate or meringue. The cookie shown in the photo is an alfajor de maicena, which is a type made from cornstarch and then filled with dulce de leche and rolled in coconut. Another popular style is the alfajor marplatense. These alfajores are very similar to a MoonPie but with dulce de leche in the center instead of marshmallow. Alfajores can be found anywhere from the corner store to a fancy bakery, in addition to specialty shops like Havanna.

Dulce de Membrillo
Dulce de membrillo is a dense paste made from the quince fruit. Though the quince resembles a pear, the fruit's white flesh turns a deep ruby red after it's been cooked for a long period of time. An abundance of natural pectin causes the quince paste to set up very firm, creating a sliceable block that's commonly served with cheese or spread on bread at breakfast or as a snack. Dulce de membrillo's sweet-tart flavor also figures prominently in goodies such as pasta frola, pepitas, and pastelitos.

Facturas are Argentine pastries, the most popular of which are medialunas. Medialunas are basically small croissants that come in two versions: sweet or savory. Other types of pastries include bolas de fraile, tortitas negras, and libritos. Fillings and toppings for facturas feature the usual suspects: dulce de leche, dulce de membrillo, and pastry cream.

Facturas by Andrea Rock, on Flickr [used with permission of photographer]

Argentines take their ice cream very seriously, as evidenced by the numerous heladerías (ice cream shops) that dot any decent-sized town here. Argentine helado, made in the style of Italian gelato, is an intensely-flavored product that's denser and creamier than American-style ice cream. The best heladerías have a multitude of flavors to choose from, at least half of which are some variation on either chocolate or dulce de leche.

Bonus: If you don't feel like leaving the house, merely pick up the phone. Just about every ice cream shop offers delivery!

Helados | Ice Cream by katiemetz, on Flickr

With a taste and texture similar to the Middle Eastern candy halva, Mantecol's primary ingredients are cocoa powder, peanut paste, and sugar. While Mantecol is consumed year-round, it's particularly popular at Christmas. It also makes frequent appearances as an ice cream flavor.

Churros are deep-fried dough sprinkled with sugar. This tasty snack originated in Spain, but the Argentines have co-opted them and made them their own by serving them or filling them with—what else?—dulce de leche. They're also available plain for those who could do without the additional sugar rush. Churros are normally sold at bakeries or street stands, but in tourist areas (e.g. the beaches of Necochea), the churrero will set out on foot among the crowds with a basket of fresh churros to sell.

Churros by Transparent Reality, on Flickr

Mass-produced Argentine chocolate is decent but nothing to get overly excited about; however, I assure you that the delectable artisanal chocolates found in Bariloche will give you a legitimate excuse to go off your diet. This corner of Patagonia, known as the "Switzerland of South America," has a well-deserved reputation as the place for chocolate in Argentina. My all-time favorite chocolate shop is Mamuschka with its superb truffles and bonbons filled with various liqueurs, fruits, creams, and nuts.

Postre Balcarce
Postre Balcarce is one of those everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type of desserts. It's got meringue. It's got candied chestnuts. It's got dulce de leche (are you beginning to see a pattern here?). Plus there's whipped cream, walnuts, coconut… There are more ingredients, but I think you get the idea. If you just can't imagine this sugar bomb, here is a photo. Read all about this decadent dessert in this post by Layne at Taxi Gourmet.

Queso y Dulce
Queso y dulce is the minimalist's answer to Postre Balcarce.Martín Fierro by The Black Azar, on Flickr [used with permission of the photographer] It's a simple dessert featuring a slice of cheese and a slice of either dulce de membrillo or dulce de batata (sweet potato paste).

In Argentina, queso y dulce also goes by the name postre vigilante, while in Uruguay it's often called a Martín Fierro, after the hero of the Argentine gaucho epic of the same name.

So let's hear it in the comments section. Which Argentine goodies are you a fan of?

[Photo credits: Andrea Rock, Transparent Reality, and The Black Azar]

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Smile. It Makes People Wonder.

One of my Flickr contacts, cana_m, posted this fantastic photo just the other day.  While I was enchanted by the image itself – that is one photogenic little frog – I couldn't help but giggle when I read the quote she used to accompany it.

smile by cana_m on Flickr

There's definitely truth in those words!  Where was this photo back when I wrote this post?

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Argentina's Independence Day

Coat of Arms of Argentina Today, July 9th, is Independence Day in Argentina.  Rather than recount the history of Argentina's struggle for independence from Spain – that's what Wikipedia's for – I will instead send you to read this humorous piece entitled "Love Freedom? Wear a Red Hat" about the symbolism found in Argentina's coat of arms.

¡Feliz Día de la Independencia!

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Recipe File: Stuffed Provolone | Provoleta Rellena

Provoleta, a thick slice of grilled provolone cheese, frequently graces the appetizer section of menus at parrillas (Argentine steakhouses). The grill imparts the cheese with a smoky flavor and some nice grill marks, but it definitely takes a bit of finesse to get it right. In other words, if things don't go well, get ready to clean melted cheese off the bottom of your grill instead of off your plate. 

If you're not sure your grilling skills are up to task or you simply don't have a grill at your disposal, provoleta rellena (stuffed provolone) is a tantalizing alternative to grilled provolone. This oven-baked version combines a trio of flavorful ingredients that complement the cheese but don't overpower it. Besides, everyone should enjoy some gooey, melted cheese now and then, lack of grilling prowess notwithstanding.

Stuffed Provolone | Provoleta Rellena

This recipe for stuffed provolone is inspired by the blog Asado Argentina. If you're curious about Argentine-style barbecue, I strongly urge you to check out this site. The photos alone are drool-inducing.

Stuffed Provolone with Sautéed Onions, Prosciutto and Roasted Red Peppers | Provoleta Rellena
Adapted from a recipe by Asado Argentina
Serves 2 to 3 people

Note: Exact amounts aren't mission critical here. Go with what your gut tells you – literally.


2 slices of aged provolone cheese, each about 3/4" thick
1 small red pepper, roasted* and cut into strips
1 small onion, julienned
2-3 slices of prosciutto, torn into pieces 
ají molido (substitute red pepper flakes)
vegetable oil

*If you're unfamiliar with the process of making roasted peppers, take a look here.


Take the cheese out of the refrigerator about an hour before assembling the dish. It will melt faster if it's not stone cold when it goes into the oven.

Heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add the onions along with a dash of salt and pepper. Sauté the onions for about 15-20 minutes, until they reach a golden brown color. 

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly oil an ovenproof dish – a small earthenware or ceramic dish will work best – and place one slice of provolone at the bottom. Continue by layering the sautéed onions, prosciutto and roasted red peppers. Cap off your creation with the other slice of cheese, and dust the top with a bit of oregano and ají molido (or red pepper flakes).

Place the dish in the oven and cook until the cheese is bubbling around the edges and appears to have almost completely melted, approximately 15 minutes. Place the dish under the broiler for another 30 seconds or so to brown the top.

Enjoy your provoleta rellena with some crusty bread, or just go for the gusto and eat it straight off the plate.

Are you looking for more Argentine recipes?  Click here to browse the entire Recipe File.

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Happy Birthday to Seashells and Sunflowers

Happy Birthday! by domitilla ferrari, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]

Today marks the one year blogiversary of Seashells and Sunflowers! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the blog and/or email me. To celebrate one year of posts I did some considerable tweaking in terms of the blog's appearance, but I think the work paid off. I apologize to anyone trying to access Seashells and Sunflowers earlier this week, as it was no doubt confusing to see some aspect of the layout changing every 15 minutes!

If you've been reading Seashells and Sunflowers in your feed reader or by email subscription and it's been a while since you actually visited the site, I invite you to stop on by and kick the tires a bit – maybe poke around the archives or explore some of the blogs in my blogroll. Zip on down to the bottom of the page and show me some love by adding yourself as a follower – it just takes a moment. If you're a perpetual lurker and have never posted a comment, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section. Lastly, should you happen to feel a touch nostalgic, read the blog's inaugural post from July 3, 2008, aptly entitled "Seashells and Sunflowers."

When I started the blog, I never imagined all the great friends I would meet along the way, both virtually and in real life. I'm grateful for this medium that has allowed me to connect with people that I otherwise may have never known, as well as keep in touch with those of you back home. I hope that in some way my writing helps bridge the distance.

I put together this 30-second video as a little birthday present for the blog. Enjoy!

[Please click here if you can't view the embedded video.]

[Photo credit: domitilla ferrari]

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