2011: Our Life in Pictures

Presenting a 2011 recap in pictures rather than words...enjoy!

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

Happy New Year! ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

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¡Felices Fiestas!

Gingerbread House by katiemetz, on Flickr

In the early days of my blog, I wrote a post lamenting the fact that I couldn't celebrate Christmas with both my American family and my Argentine one. Three years later, I still haven't succeeded in bringing everyone together at one table, but for the first time, I am blessed to be able to share in an American Christmas celebration with my Argentine hubby at my side.

We're having a ball here with my family, and it's been fun documenting all of Daniel's firsts here in Yanquilandia (first time eating Chinese food, going on a hayride, picking out a real Christmas tree, etc.). I also had the opportunity to meet up with my blogging buddy Norma from Platanos, Mangoes and Me! in New York City, for a wonderful adventure that I promise to write about soon. If you're interested, take a look at my photos (so far) from our trip to Philadelphia and my quick jaunt to NYC.

I'd like to wish all of my readers a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. May you all have a joyous holiday filled with peace, love and light.

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Tuesday the 13th | martes 13

13 by chrisinplymouth, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]In the Spanish-speaking world, it's Tuesday—not Friday—the 13th that carries the threat of bad luck. The number 13 has long been linked with misfortune in both the Anglo-Saxon and Hispanic cultures, but how did Tuesday, rather than Friday, come to signify a day of mala suerte?

The combination of unlucky number 13 and Tuesday may have arisen during the Middle Ages, as the city of Constantinople fell to the Muslim Turks on a Tuesday. Christians of the period considered this event to be most inauspicious, and it seems that Tuesday's reputation remained forever stained as a result. Another possible explanation lies in the origins of the Spanish word for Tuesday. Martes stems from the name of the Roman god of war, Mars, and as Tuesday is ruled by this deity, the day became associated with destruction, violence and bloodshed. Lastly, legend holds that the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel took place on Tuesday the 13th.

If you're the superstitious type, take heed of the following Spanish proverb that advises against marrying or traveling on Tuesday the 13th.

En martes 13, no te cases ni te embarques.

Has anything unlucky ever happened to you on Tuesday (or Friday) the 13th?

[Photo credit: chrisinplymouth]

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Holiday Traditions in Argentina

Postal Felices Fiestas by seiho, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]The holiday season in Argentina kicks off on December 8 with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (El Día de la Virgen) and runs straight through to Three Kings' Day (El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos) on January 6. Late-night dinners filled with family, presents under the tree and inside children's shoes, sweltering heat, and even fireworks on Christmas form part of the celebrations. Learn about the Argentine traditions and foods linked to this festive time of year in my article for Hispanic Kitchen.

What are your favorite traditions at this time of year?

[Photo credit: seiho]

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Listen to Me on BA Cast

BA Cast: The Buenos Aires Podcast

Dan Karlin, a long-term American expat, and Fernando Farías, an Argentine local, combine forces to produce an entertaining weekly podcast known as The Buenos Aires Podcast, or BA Cast for short. This dynamic duo "attempts to sort out…foreigners' perceptions of Argentina and Argentines, Argentines' perception of themselves, and everything in between." Dan and Fer share a great rapport, and you're virtually guaranteed to learn something new about Argentine culture with each episode. At the very least, you'll get a good laugh.

A few months back, I chatted with Dan and Fer via Skype about my experiences as an expat in Necochea, and now you can tune in to BA Cast, Season 2 Episode 14 for my take on life in Argentina outside the capital. You can listen to the podcast straight from the BA Cast website or download it onto your computer, iPod, etc. Enjoy!

Show Dan and Fer some love. Follow BA Cast on Facebook or Twitter.

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Home for the Holidays

Wild Turkey Male Displaying by dracobotanicus, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]Reflecting on this past year, I must say that 2011 has treated me quite well. I got married to my wonderful husband Daniel; I successfully waded through Argentine bureaucracy to receive my permanent residency and DNI; and now, I have the joy of celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's with Daniel and my family here in my hometown of Philadelphia.

After 24 hours of travel, we arrived at Philadelphia International Airport last Thursday morning and were promptly whisked away by my dad and his wife. From that moment on, our time has been filled with family, friends, and food, and it feels great to be back in Yanquilandia, even if only for a brief time.

This trip is particularly special because it's Daniel's first visit to the United States. It means so much to me that he finally has the opportunity to get acquainted with the place I grew up, my family, and my culture. I always felt that there was a piece of me that he would never fully know or understand until he could experience my country firsthand, so it brings me enormous pleasure to have him here with me.

I'm incredibly grateful for all that I've been blessed with this past year. Now excuse me—I've got some turkey, stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie to eat. Happy Thanksgiving!

[Photo credit: dracobotanicus]

Past reflections on Thanksgiving

2010 Grateful
2009 Let's Talk Turkey (or Lack Thereof)
2008 Thankful

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Argentina Holiday Gift Guide

Holiday Gifts from Argentina

Add a bit of Argentine flair to your holiday purchases this year. I've scoped out various suggestions for Argentina-related gifts, with everything from books to bombillas. Which items would you like Papá Noel or the Reyes to bring you?

Books // Libros

» Speechless: A Dictionary of Argentine Gestures by Guido Indij
Gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the vast vocabulary of non-verbal gestures that the Argentines have at their disposal through this entertaining book. [Read my brief review of the book.]

» ¡Che Boludo! A Gringo's Guide to the Argentines by James Bracken
Sling Argentine slang with the best of them. Learn all you need to know with this amusing guide to the local jargon.

» El libro de oro de la argentinidad [in Spanish] by Federico Scagliotti
Chock-full of random facts about Argentine history, culture, food, sports and more, this book makes for great bathroom reading [sorry, but it's true!].

» Happy Tango: Sallycat's Guide to Dancing in Buenos Aires by Sally Blake
Happy Tango is an essential guide for anyone looking to find positive tango experiences in the milongas of Buenos Aires. [Read my review of the book.]

» Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way by Francis Mallmann and Peter Kaminsky
Written by Francis Mallmann, one of Argentina's best known chefs, this cookbook invites you to learn the secrets of Argentine asado.

» Vino Argentino: An Insider's Guide to the Wines and Wine Country of Argentina by Laura Catena
In this book filled with lush photography, Laura Catena provides an intimate look at Argentina's wine regions and the history and personalities behind the country's wine industry.

» SaltShaker Spanish-English Food & Wine Dictionary by Dan Perlman
Tallarines, milanesas, locro...what does it all mean? The SaltShaker Food & Wine Dictionary will help you navigate Argentine menus with ease.

Learn Spanish // Aprender castellano

Looking for a sassy, unconventional and entertaining way to learn Spanish? Try General Linguistics' Spanish-language learning program Bueno, entonces.... The program is geared toward expats and travelers in South America, with pronunciation by native speakers and a focus on the slang and grammatical nuances particular to Argentina.

Food // Comidas

Amigofoods.com stocks an impressive selection of authentic, imported Argentine foods including chimichurri, queso provoleta parrillero, various brands of alfajores and yerba mate, Mantecol, and Gancia [the product for export is known as Livenza].

Amazon offers up your favorite Argentine foods, including dulce de leche, yerba mate, mate cocido, Havanna alfajores, dulce de membrillo, and dulce de batata. You can also find mate gourds and bombillas on Amazon.

Music // Música

» Revancha Del Tango by Gotan Project
A sexy and hypnotic blend of tango and electronica, check out this album for a taste of something decidedly different. [Similar bands: Bajofondo Tango Club, San Telmo Lounge]

» The Best of Carlos Gardel Argentina's best known tango crooner, Carlos Gardel's good looks and smooth baritone voice rocketed him to popularity at the beginning of the 20th century. More than 75 years after his death, Gardel remains an icon of the tango both here in Argentina and abroad. [Similar artists: Roberto Goyaneche, Julio Sosa]

» Los Fabulosos Cadillacs
A fun mix of rock, ska, punk, reggae and Latin rhythms, tunes by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs will get you moving your groove thing. [Similar bands: Patricio Rey y Sus Redonditos de Ricota, Charly García, Soda Stereo]

» Mercedes Sosa: 30 Años
The music of Mercedes Sosa, one of Argentina's and, indeed, Latin America's most celebrated folk singers, overflows with emotion that translates into any language. Sosa's moving rendition of Gracias a la vida and the haunting melody Alfonsina y el mar are two of my favorite tracks from this album. [Similar artists: Chaqueño Palavecino, Soledad]

» Rough Guide to the Music of ArgentinaThis album spans a number of styles, from tango to chamamé to chacarera, and serves as a great introduction to uniquely Argentine folk music and tango.

Take a look at this list for additional suggestions of great Argentine music.

Movies // Películas

» The Motorcycle Diaries [Diarios de motocicleta]
Follow the life-changing journey of the young Ernesto "Che" Guevara as he explores South America on the back of his motorcycle. [I also enjoyed the soundtrack to this movie.]

» The Secret in Their Eyes [El secreto de sus ojos]
The Academy-award winning film The Secret in Their Eyes tells the story of "a retired legal counselor [who] writes a novel hoping to find closure for one of his past unresolved homicide cases and for his unreciprocated love with his superior—both of which still haunt him decades later." [synopsis by IMDb]

» Nine Queens [Nueve reinas]
"This sly 2000 caper weaves a tangled story of deceit and con games, with intriguing plot twists. It was nominated for 28 awards in Latin America, the United States and Europe and won 21 of them." [synopsis by Latin Flyer]

» The Official Story [La historia oficial]"This heartbreaking drama—winner of best foreign film in 1985—is about a woman in Buenos Aires who slowly comes to realize that the child that she and her husband adopted was a victim of the…so-called Dirty War of the 1970s." [synopsis by Latin Flyer]

» Intimate Stories [Historias mínimas]"This wonderful little gem of a road movie follows three characters as they travel…the vast, flat plains of Patagonia in southern Argentina to the port town of San Julián. Made almost entirely with nonprofessional actors, the film is a picaresque sequence of moments in the lives of simple people being their quirky selves…. If you like little movies about everyday life in its lighter, comic moments, you'll enjoy this one." [review on Amazon]

Wine // Vino

Anuva Wines offers a hand-picked selection of artisanal wines from Argentina, including the famed malbec and torrontés. These small-batch wines are direct-shipped to the customer in the United States from Argentina. Purchase individual bottles or a wine-club membership for your favorite oenophile.

Traditional Crafts //Artesanías

El Boyero Artesanías Argentinas specializes in unique gift items from Argentina including fancy mate gourds with silver or alpaca details, bombillas, silver jewelry, fine leatherwork including belts, wallets, and handbags [including unusual and beautiful carpincho leather], leather boots and shoes, wine accessories, and gaucho accessories such as knives and braided rawhide leather.

Miscellaneous // Otros

» Do you have a huge soccer [call it football, if you must] fan in your life? If so, consider purchasing an Argentine national team soccer jersey.

» Pamper your skin with beauty products made with rosa mosqueta [rose hips] from Patagonia.

Note: Many, but not all, of the links in this post are affiliate links, and I will earn a small commission if you click on them and purchase an item. Thank you for supporting this blog! Read More......

Bathing Regulations — Mar del Plata, Argentina [1888]

Vintage Photo of Bathers in Mar del Plata, Argentina

With beach season just around the corner for those of us here in the southern hemisphere, I thought I'd remind you all of the behavior expected of respectable ladies and gents while enjoying a little fun in the sun (never mind that the rules date to the 19th century!). The following excerpt was translated from the Spanish-language book El libro de oro de la argentinidad by Federico Scagliotti.

Bathing Regulations — Mar del Plata, Argentina [1888]

Article 1 - Nude bathing is prohibited.

Article 2 – Only bathing costumes that cover the body from the neck to the knee are permitted under these regulations.

Article 3 – At Playa del Puerto, Playa de la Iglesia and Playa de la Gruta, men may not bathe together with women, unless they do so accompanied by their families.

Article 4 - Single men are prohibited from approaching women while they are bathing and must maintain a distance of at least 30 meters.

Article 5 - The use of opera glasses or other binoculars is prohibited during bathing hours, as well as situating oneself at the edge of the water while women are bathing.

Article 6 - The bathing of animals at beaches designated for families is prohibited.

Article 7 - The use of lewd or indecorous language or behavior is also prohibited.

Article 8 - Those persons in violation of the preceding ordinances shall incur a fine of two to five pesos or detention for 24 to 48 hours. A repeat offense shall result in a fine of five to ten pesos or detention for 48 to 96 hours. In the event of a third offense, violators shall be banned from the beach for one month.

Click here or here for vintage photos of folks enjoying the summertime in Mar del Plata.

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The Faro Quequén Turns 90

In honor of the Faro Quequén's 90th birthday, I thought I'd offer a photographic tribute to one of the most recognizable and beloved symbols of our coastal community.

A slew of shipwrecks off the coast of Necochea and Quequén in the 1800s prompted the construction of a lighthouse to assist ships navigating the waters near the Port of Quequén. Inaugurated on Nov. 1, 1921, the 111.5 ft.- (34 m) tall Faro Quequén was built of reinforced concrete by the firm Dyckerhoff y Widmann. The lighthouse's 400W beam is visible at a distance of up to 28 mi. (45 km), serving as a beacon for the thousands of ships that pass by every year.

After climbing the 163 steps of the Faro Quequén's spiral staircase, visitors are treated to an aerial view of the port, the expansive beaches of Necochea and Quequén, and even the shipwrecked Pesuarsa II, one of the most photographed sights in the area (in addition to the lighthouse, of course).

El Faro Quequén | The Quequén Lighthouse by katiemetz, on Flickr

Caracol II by katiemetz, on Flickr

Katie atop the lighthouse by katiemetz, on Flickr[The first of many climbs to the top of the lighthouse]

El Faro Quequén | The Quequén Lighthouse by katiemetz, on Flickr

Florcitas | Little Flowers by katiemetz, on Flickr

The Beaches of Quequén | Las Playas de Quequén by katiemetz, on Flickr[The beach in Quequén with the lighthouse in the distance]

Bajo La Luz de La Luna | Under the Moonlight by katiemetz, on Flickr[Faro Quequén under a full moon]

Caminito by katiemetz, on Flickr

Faro Quequén | Quequén Lighthouse
Calle 541 to 700, Quequén, Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 8am-12pm and 4pm-7pm
Admission: Free

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Alfonsina and The Sea

All too often, we lose special people before their time. Such is the tragic story of Alfonsina Storni.

Born in Switzerland in 1892, Alfonsina moved with her parents and siblings to Argentina when she was four years old. She endured a difficult childhood, marked by her father's alcoholism and subsequent death as well as her family's precarious financial situation, which forced her to leave school to go to work at the age of ten.

In spite of her troubled upbringing, she later found success as an educator and author. Alfonsina Storni's prose, plays, and poetry—much of which focused on feminist themes—received literary awards and Monument to Alfonsina Storni, Mar del Plata, Argentina by Martín Gardeazabal, on Wikipedia [used under Creative Commons license]critical acclaim, and she's considered one of Latin America's most respected female poets of the 20th century.

Haunted by demons throughout her life, Alfonsina was frequently wracked by bouts of depression, paranoia and anxiety. After unsuccessfully battling a diagnosis of breast cancer and losing several close friends to suicide, she fell into a deep, intractable depression.

Alfonsina wrote her final poem Voy a dormir ("I'm Going to Sleep") just a few days before her death. In the early hours of October 25, 1938, Alfonsina threw herself from the jetty at the Club Argentino de Mujeres in Mar del Plata, meeting her end in the waters of the Atlantic; however, many prefer to believe that Alfonsina calmly walked out into the embrace of the sea, slowly disappearing into its depths.

In 1969, Ariel Ramírez—one of Argentina's greatest composers of folk music—wrote the song Alfonsina y el mar as an homage to Alfonsina Storni. Inspired by images from her last work, lyricist Félix Luna's words beautifully evoke the ill-fated poet's suicide through touching and evocative metaphors. This moving tribute to Alfonsina never fails to give me goose bumps, especially when sung by the incomparable Mercedes Sosa.

[Click here if you're unable to view the embedded video of Alfonsina y el mar]

Alfonsina and The Sea
By Ariel Ramírez and Félix Luna [original Spanish lyrics]
English translation by Jean Peccei

From the soft sand lapped by the sea,
Your little footprint will never come back.
A path full of pain and suffering
Reaches the deep water;
A path of silent grief
Leads to the waves.

Only God knows what anguish you had,
What ancient pains silenced your voice.
Lying down, lulled by the song
Of the conch shells,
The songs that the conchs sing
In the dark depths of the sea.

Alfonsina, you have left with your loneliness.
What new poems are you seeking?
An ancient voice of the wind and the sea
Breaks off your soul and carries it away.
And you follow, as in your dreams,
Asleep, Alfonsina, clothed with the sea.

Five little mermaids will take you
Along paths of seaweed and coral,
And phosphorescent sea horses
Will swim around you.
And the creatures of the water
Will soon play at your side.

Dim the lamp a little more for me.
Let me sleep in peace.
And if he calls, don't tell him that I'm here.
Tell him that Alfonsina will not return.
And if he calls, don't ever tell him that I'm here— 
Say that I have gone.

Alfonsina, you have left with your loneliness.
What new poems are you seeking?
An ancient voice of the wind and the sea
Breaks off your soul and carries it away.
And you follow, as in your dreams,
Asleep, Alfonsina, clothed with the sea.

[Photo credit: Martín Gardeazabal]

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Foods of Argentina: Vizcacha (Viscacha)

Vizcachas by The Wild Image Project, on Flickr [used with permission of photographer, all rights reserved]

With a thud, Tío Roberto plunked down a large glass jar before me filled with hunks of meat, onion, carrot, parsley, bay leaf and garlic suspended in a cloudy bath of vinegar. He unscrewed the jar's red plastic lid and invited me to fish out a piece of meat and some vegetables.

The jar, I was told, contained homemade vizcacha en escabeche or pickled viscacha. After trying to determine the mystery meat's identity through an elaborate game of 20 Questions with my husband's family, I still couldn't form a solid mental image of this critter. Ultimately, I decided to do what any open-minded foodie would: eat first and google later. The viscacha's meat was tender, lean and white with no trace of gaminess. Whatever it was that I'd just eaten, it tasted decidedly delicious.

Vizcacha (Lagostomus maximus) by Edwin E. Harvey, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]As it turns out, the plains viscacha (spelled vizcacha in Spanish) is a rodent and member of the chinchilla family native to South America. At home on the range here in Argentina, viscachas live together in groups of up to 50 in a system of burrows known as a vizcachera.

Viscachas are primarily nocturnal animals, beginning their period of activity in late afternoon. The group's dominant male pops out of the vizcachera first to check for predators, and if all is well, the rest of the colony follows.

The viscacha is prone to some rather curious habits, which include hoarding sticks, small bones, wire and other objects at the entrances to the vizcachera. In a nod to the animal's propensity for collecting trinkets and baubles, people who do the same are sometimes referred to as vizcachas.

For a number of reasons, Argentine farmers and cattle ranchers consider viscachas an agricultural pest. They strip the ground surrounding the vizcachera bare, leaving little to nothing for grazing animals to munch on. Viscachas also have quite a taste for vegetables and grains, causing significant damage to farmers' crops. In addition, their burrows present a hazard for horses or cattle that may accidentally step in the holes. As a result, the government strongly encourages hunting as a method of population control.

Vizcachera by Ostrosky Photos, on Flickr [used with photographer's permission]

According to Daniel's family, the flavor of the animal's meat depends a lot on its diet, and given that the vizcacha is an herbivore, its meat retains a "clean" (i.e. non-gamey) flavor. Honestly, I found the taste and texture of viscacha to be quite enjoyable, and I wouldn't hesitate to sample it again in the future.

Vizcacha en escabeche [photo] is usually enjoyed at room temperature as part of a picada—a selection of meats, cheeses and other finger foods. If you're in Argentina and looking to try the dish, shops with a selection of specialty foods often carry pickled viscacha. In the country's Cuyo region, viscacha marinated in a mixture of garlic, parsley, onion, wine and spices and roasted in the oven or on the grill [photo] makes the occasional appearance.

Have you ever dined on rodent, viscacha or otherwise?

[Photo credits: Daniel Fox/The Wild Image Project, Edwin E. Harvey and Ostrosky]

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I Love a Parade

October 12th marked the 130th anniversary of the founding of Necochea. Along with my chorus, Coro Alta Mira, I participated in the city's parade to celebrate this special date. This year, inclement weather forced the cancellation or postponement of a number of events, but fortunately, this colorful and chaotic display of civic pride went off without a hitch. Most of these photos were snapped before the parade got underway.

La Guardia [Majorettes] by katiemetz, on Flickr[Majorettes preparing to strut their stuff]

Murga by katiemetz, on Flickr Murga II by katiemetz, on Flickr
[Kids participating in a murga, a street dance troupe backed by percussion]

Coro Alta Mira [Group Photo] courtesy of María Nelly Merlo

Coro Alta Mira by katiemetz, on Flickr Coro Alta Mira - Desfile 130º Aniversario de Necochea, courtesy of María Nelly Merlo
[Coro Alta Mira with our flags and banner for the Coraliada, the multi-day, international choral event that we organize annually in Necochea]
Colectividad Vasca by katiemetz, on Flickr Colectividad Calabresa by katiemetz, on Flickr

[Several colectividades (ethnic clubs and organizations) were represented including the Basques (left) and the Calabrians (right).]

And last but not least, it wouldn't be a parade without some gauchos!

Dos Gauchos by katiemetz, on Flickr Dos Paisanos by katiemetz, on Flickr

Una China by katiemetz, on Flickr

Big Gaucho & Mini Gaucho by katiemetz, on Flickr Gaucho by katiemetz, on Flickr

Waving Gaucho by katiemetz, on Flickr

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Coconut and Dulce de Leche Tart | Tarta de Coco y Dulce de Leche

In celebration of World Dulce de Leche Day, I was invited to contribute a recipe featuring this rich caramel spread. Visit the World Dulce de Leche Day blog for more delicious links to recipes from bloggers around the globe.

Tarta de Coco y Dulce de Leche | Coconut and Dulce de Leche Tart by katiemetz, on Flickr

While Argentina certainly cannot claim exclusive rights to dulce de leche, it's undeniable that this tooth-achingly sweet yet addictive caramel spread is inextricably linked with Argentina. A staple ingredient in Argentine desserts, dulce de leche makes frequent appearances in ice cream, as a topping or filling in cakes, cookies and pastries, and in candies.

As local legend tells it, the birth of dulce de leche can be attributed to a culinary accident that occurred in 1829. With the hope of ending a period of civil war in Argentina, the leaders of opposing political and military forces, Juan Manuel de Rosas and Juan Lavalle, decided to call a truce. Rosas invited Lavalle to sign the Cañuelas Pact at his headquarters on a sprawling estancia [ranch] called La Caledonia. Tired after his journey to the estancia, Lavalle decided to rest a bit before meeting with Rosas. He lay down on a cot in the tent where Rosas normally slept and tried to grab some shut-eye.

Meanwhile, one of Rosas' servants was busy preparing the lechada—hot milk with sugar—that was drunk as an accompaniment to mate during that period. When the servant went to take some mate to Rosas, she found Lavalle in Rosas' tent and panicked. Unaware of the planned meeting between the two leaders, she alerted the troops to the presence of the "enemy," leaving the lechada unattended on the stove in the chaos. When the servant finally returned, she discovered that the contents of the pot had turned into a thick, sweet, gooey spread—what we know today as dulce de leche.

Una Cucharada de Dulce de Leche | A Spoonful of Dulce de Leche by katiemetz, on Flickr

In honor of World Dulce de Leche Day, I decided to make a coconut and dulce de leche tart, one of my favorite ways to polish off a jar of dulce de leche. As anyone who's sampled a Samoa cookie from the Girl Scouts can attest, the combination of coconut and caramel can't be beat. Here in Argentina, bakers masterfully pair these two ingredients in this simple tart with a shortbread crust. A slice of tarta de coco y dulce de leche with mate, coffee or tea will surely put a smile on your face.

Of course, to make this recipe, you’ll need to procure some dulce de leche! If you're feeling adventurous, check out my previous posts about how to make homemade dulce de leche [stovetop methods] and crockpot dulce de leche. No time to whip up a batch from scratch? No problem—you can also order dulce de leche online.

Ingredient Notes

Dulce de leche repostero
With a thick consistency similar to that of peanut butter, dulce de leche repostero is primarily used as a filling for desserts and pastries. It's difficult to find this type outside of Argentina, so go ahead and substitute regular dulce de leche if unavailable, preferably with a brand or homemade version that leans toward the thicker side. Regular dulce de leche might ooze a bit from your tart, but it will still taste decadent!

This recipe calls for finely-shredded, unsweetened, dried coconut, a product widely available here in Argentina. Do not use the sweetened coconut flakes typically found in American supermarkets, as they will alter the texture of the tart and make it overly sweet. Look for finely-shredded, unsweetened coconut at natural food stores, ethnic markets or purchase it online.

Coconut and Dulce de Leche Tart | Tarta de Coco y Dulce de Leche by katiemetz, on Flickr

Tarta de Coco y Dulce de Leche | Coconut and Dulce de Leche Tart
Adapted from a recipe by Norali on Mis Recetas
Yields 1 deep-dish 9” tart

For the dough:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ c. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 stick butter, chilled and cubed
1 whole egg + 1 yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:
2 ½ c. finely-shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 whole eggs
½ c. sugar
1/3 c. cream
16 oz. dulce de leche repostero

Equipment: Deep tart pan [9" x 1.5"] with removable bottom

Place the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine ingredients. Add the butter, and using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the whole egg plus the yolk and the vanilla extract, and mix until the dough begins to come together [the mixture will look dry and crumbly]. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until combined [do not overwork the dough]. Shape the dough into a disc, and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the tart pan.

In a medium bowl, mix the coconut, eggs, sugar and cream for the filling. Set aside the mixture.

Remove the disc of dough from the refrigerator. Pat the dough out into the pan, gently pressing and spreading it evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.

Spread an even layer of dulce de leche over the dough. Next, place heaping tablespoonfuls of the coconut mixture over the dulce de leche, creating small peaks all over. Do not smooth out the top.

Bake the tart on the bottom rack of the oven until the top turns golden brown and the dough is fully cooked, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cover the top loosely with aluminum foil if the coconut begins to brown too much. Remove from the oven, and allow the tart to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unmolding it from the pan. Let the tart cool completely before serving.

Coconut and Dulce de Leche Tart | Tarta de Coco y Dulce de Leche by katiemetz, on Flickr

Check out my other recipes containing dulce de leche:
Alfajores Marplatenses
Panqueques de Dulce de Leche

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Vintage Gauchos

Every now and again I offer up some vintage goodness that I happen to find as I trawl the Internet. I recently stumbled upon this trove of vintage photos from the Witcomb Collection of the Archivo General de la Nación [Argentina's National Archives]. While the collection contains a number of fascinating images, I found myself particularly drawn to photographs from the late 1800s  that illustrate Argentina's gaucho culture.

Like the cowboys of the American West, there's a rugged romanticism attached to the gauchos and the rough-and-tumble lifestyle they led on the Argentine pampa. The images in this collection offer a glimpse into that world.

Most of the photographs featured below were taken by Argentine photographer Francisco Ayerza. An enthusiast at a time when methods were still crude and quite challenging, Ayerza's love of photography inspired him to establish the Sociedad Fotográfica Argentina de Aficionados, the country's first amateur photography club. According to the book Culture and Customs of Argentina, his "…goal was to record and preserve through photography the daily life of both the city and the rural areas. Ayerza took a particular interest in documenting the traditional life of the gaucho and of country folk in general."

We owe a debt of thanks to early photographers such as Ayerza for allowing us to indulge in a bit of time travel.Ramón Tavieres, Estancia San Juan de Pereyra [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][A stunning image of Ramón Tavieres, the gaucho who oversaw Estancia San Juan de Pereyra in the province of Buenos Aires]

Payador a caballo, con su guitarra criolla en mano, by Francisco Ayerza [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][A payador—a gaucho minstrel of sorts—with his guitar]

Grupo de gauchos [c. 1860-1863] by Benito Panunzi [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][Music, asado and mate. In some ways, not much has changed since the 1860s.]

Gauchos en tareas de campo probablemente en Estancia San Juan de Pereyra Iraola, by Francisco Ayerza [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][Gauchos at work. The gaucho at the far left looks to be branding a horse, but it's tough to say what the paisano on the right is up to…]

Gauchos presos y policía a caballo, by Francisco Ayerza [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][Gauchos being hauled off by the police. Is it my imagination, or does the man on the far left have a bloody rag tied around his head?]

Grupo de gauchos sentados al borde de una laguna, by Francisco Ayerza [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][Relaxing by a pond. The dreamy reflections make this photo.]

Gaucho y paisana by Francisco Ayerza [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][Just a reminder that gauchos occasionally turned their attention to something other than cows and horses.]

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Moving Day

After months of careful planning, preparation and packing, moving day finally arrived!

My friends Chris and Tony are taking a leap of faith as they, along with their three children, move to Neuquén, Argentina to embark upon a new life as missionaries. Chris has chronicled the family's preparations on her blog In Patagonia, and now, all that's left for them to do is say their goodbyes—by far one of the most difficult parts of any move.

So, why am I regaling you all with the story of my friends' international move? Well, it turns out that I have something of a stake in the shipping container they're sending down to Argentina. Chris and Tony very Moving Day [photo by Barry Metz]generously allowed me to load up a few boxes of clothing and housewares that had been in storage at my dad's house for the last two and a half years. When I moved to Argentina, I arrived with just four suitcases, as shipping my belongings in a container proved prohibitively expensive, so I feel blessed to have this opportunity to send along a few things together with Chris and Tony's household goods.

The container's long voyage from the U.S. to Argentina has already begun, so now it's just a matter of waiting for it to arrive at the port in Buenos Aires, where the contents must be inspected and cleared by customs. From there, my boxes will be loaded onto a moving truck bound for Necochea!

I owe a huge debt of gratitude not only to Chris and Tony but also to my dad and his wife, as they very carefully repacked my belongings and hauled them to Chris and Tony's house on moving day. Thank you, everyone, for your help!

I wish Chris, Tony and their children all the best in this exciting and challenging phase of their lives. Godspeed!

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Fun and Games

Jugando al Truco | Playing Truco by katiemetz, on FlickrWhen I was a kid, my parents weren't much for playing cards or board games; however, my grandmother absolutely adored games of all sorts.

She and I would often play Yahtzee, and I recall how she'd cup her hand over the plastic tumbler filled with dice and, with a rather devious grin, whisper the numerical combination she hoped for. As crazy as it sounds, I'm convinced her unconventional method worked because I lost an awful lot of games of Yahtzee.

Once when I found an old Chinese checkers set packed away in the closet of a spare room, my grandmother explained that she and my grandfather went through a period where they were absolutely obsessed with the game. Eventually they had to stop playing because my grandmother would dream about the moves in her sleep, complete with visions of brightly-colored marbles hopping to and fro over a tin metal board.

Grandmom taught me simple card games like gin rummy, war, solitaire, and go fish, and we'd spend hours together, laughing and having fun with just a simple deck of cards. She was also a whiz at more complex games such as pinochle, a game I never mastered as a child (or as an adult, for that matter).

I later learned that cardshark grandmas are not unique to the U.S. When I first came to Argentina, Daniel's grandmother Velia told me that on a weekly basis for some 25 years, she and her husband Diego would play cards—either truco or chinchón—with the next-door neighbors, Petty and Juan. The married couples always played against each other, that is, until one night when Petty played rather poorly. Throwing his cards down in frustration, Juan exclaimed, "I'm never playing with you again!" and from then on, Velia was teamed with Juan and Petty with Diego.

Popular card games in Argentina include tute or tute cabrero, mus, canasta, truco, escoba del quince and chinchón. Instead of the familiar playing cards used in the United States, these games are all played with a Spanish deck, which contains fewer cards and different suits. This past weekend, I had an opportunity to learn truco while on a retreat with the members of my chorus.

Truco is a fast-paced card game usually played with four people in two teams. According to the gaming site Pagat, "Each player is dealt three cards, which are played out in tricks, and points are also scored for holding combinations of cards in the same suit. It is possible to bet extra points on who has the best combination or [who] will win the tricks, and the bluffing, talking and joking that go with this are an important part of the game." Truco strategy also includes various signals that you can give to your partner to indicate the cards you have in your hand.

Although rather complicated to learn, I managed to pick up the basic gist of truco, and I was invited to play in a real game. My partner and I actually fared pretty well, losing by just two points to the other team. But best of all, I felt transported to my childhood for a couple of hours—to a time when cards, laughter and fun went hand in hand.

Do you have memories of playing cards or other games with your family? Do you know any Argentine card games?

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On a Late Winter's Afternoon

On a late winter's afternoon, determined to fight the inertia brought on by the dreary weather, we pile into the car and head out to partake in Argentina's national pastime: drinking mate.

Down by the port in Quequén sits a squat little trailer painted robin's egg blue. It's one of those places that quietly says nothing at all. The owner, a petite, unassuming woman, serves customers in a cramped space no more than a few feet wide. At her back hang three shelves lined with neatly-arranged bags of yerba mate.

Hay Churros by katiemetz, on Flickr Buying Churros by katiemetz, on Flickr

Although the faded chalkboard sign touts donuts, fried puff pastry filled with quince paste, and breaded, fried beef cutlets, we will not be distracted from our objective—churros. At this particular moment, there are no other customers at the stand, unless you count the dirty, black mutt waiting behind my mother-in-law Hilda.

Fresh Churros | Churros Recién Hechos by katiemetz, on Flickr

Hilda returns with a mix of plain and dulce de leche-stuffed churros to accompany the mate. The aroma of freshly fried dough wafts up from the bag, filling the car.

We continue on to the Escollera Norte, the shorter of a pair of jetties signaling the entrance to the port. My father-in-law Tomás parks the car, angling the vehicle just so on the narrow jetty. In his easy manner, he jokes about us all going for a swim should he pull a bit too close to the edge.

There's a brief silence as we stop to take in the vast expanse of gray ocean before us. Six ships lie in the distance, mere specks on the horizon, each awaiting its turn to enter the port. The battered old dredge boat chugs past, performing its never-ending duty of removing sand and sediment from the mouth of the port.

Hilda prepares the mate slowly, methodically, just as she's done it thousands of times. Meanwhile, I can barely contain my urge to eat one of the churros. The mate begins to make its way around the circle, and the warmth of our conversation and laughter cuts through the dampness and chill in the air. Admittedly, I still haven't learned to appreciate the flavor of mate, especially when served amargo (without sugar) as it's offered today, but I no longer care about the taste. It's about sharing a moment together with my family.

Hilda Tomando Mate | Hilda Drinking Mate by katiemetz, on Flickr Katie Tomando Mate | Katie Drinking Mate by katiemetz, on Flickr

A hardy-looking fellow appears alongside us on the jetty—fishing tackle in hand—hoping for a bite despite the unpleasant weather. He doesn't last long.

Fortified by the churros and a few rounds of mate, Tomás steps out of the car, daring to brave the elements for a few moments. I follow, camera in hand.

Tomás en la Escollera | Tomás on the Jetty by katiemetz, on Flickr

We both peer down over the edge of the jetty to observe the water, agitated and frothy, where it meets the enormous rocks below. I giggle as a trio of sea lions bobs up from the depths, and we find ourselves entertained by their antics for some minutes before they head out to sea.

Hazy Necochea [Escollera Sur] by katiemetz, on Flickr

A strange yet familiar haze hangs in the air today. Even when the sun manages to break free from the clouds, its brilliance is veiled, blotted out by the latest plume of volcanic ash belched forth by the Puyehue Volcano in Chile.

Trying to Break Through by katiemetz, on Flickr

The cold breeze off the ocean whips my hair across my face and the camera lens, turning my quest for a few shots into something of a challenge. I finally admit total defeat when, a few minutes later, the camera battery unceremoniously dies. I happily beat a hasty retreat to the car for more chitchat, laughs, and of course, another round of mate.

What did you do this weekend?

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