This weekend is the beginning of spring. Argentines never need an excuse to celebrate. Spring is as good as an excuse as any. This year we have had an unbearable winter. It was terribly cold (for us) and the Swine Flu epidemic made it a winter you wanted to stay in more than normal.
My friend Aidana and her husband Steve have invited me to their empanada party on Saturday night. Empanadas are an Argentine turnover. They can be fried or baked. I love them fried, but considering the health aspects, I mostly eat them baked. The pastry is called a tapa and depending on how it is folded, will give you a clue as to what the filling inside is. Traditional empanadas are filled with chicken, ham and cheese, beef, and spicy beef. Spicy for the Argentines, but not for anyone else. Argentines do not like spicy food. Usually you can also find corn, swiss chard, Roqueforte, Roqueforte and ham, and cheese and onion. Many places are now experimenting with eggplant, mozzarella, tomato sauce, tuna, and even dessert empanadas with apples and strawberries.
Empanadas are an Argentine fast food. Mostly they are made in pizzarias or at home. There are specialty stores that sell only empanadas. I don't understand why any Argentine would want to eat McDonalds when they could have an empanada.
I am running late and have decided to buy the empanadas from next door at the pasta shop. The husband and wife who run the store make home made pasta and empanadas. They usually only have two kinds; meat and/or ham and cheese. These are the fillings in their pastas. The empanadas are a little more money but they are larger and excellent.
After waiting for the bus longer than I wanted to, I opt for the subte. Me, the empanadas, and a bottle of wine. The subte is actually better because it will leave me a block from their house. I just didn't feel like changing lines. The key is to get there.
Aidana is an artist who makes jewelry and handbags from trash. Her stuff is great. Very creative. She makes things from old tires, milk cartons, you name it. Trash-Fashions is the name of her site. You should check it out. It is really cool. Steve is a writer.
When I get to their place there are lots of people and empanadas already there. Steve takes me up to the terrace. They have a parrilla going to heat the empanadas. I don't know anyone here, or so I thought. I introduce myself to a group of women seated in front of me. They ask me where I am from. The eternal question. They are not sure whether to try and speak in English with me or not. I start in Spanish. They are delighted.
Within seconds someone puts a glass of wine in my hand. I had confided in Steve that I bought the wine I did because it was A) cheap, and B) had a really great label. He told me that they buy it all the time and that it is excellent. I taste it. I am not sure I would call it excellent, but it is a good value at 6.50 pesos.
I go over to the empanadas. What a selection! It is dark so trying to figure out what something is, will be impossible. I take one and bite into it. Eggplant and mozzarella. Que rico! As I turn, a German couple introduce themselves to me. We chat for a bit when I hear my name. I turn to see a woman I had met at another party. I thought that she had gone back to the U.S. She tells me she did, but collected her dog and came back.
Aidana has salsa music blaring. A man is teasing the young woman sitting next to me. She just started dancing salsa and he is quizzing her. She is frustrated because she does not know the answers. I do. He asks her where to dance salsa on Corrientes. I whisper "Azucar and maybe better is La Salsera on Yatay." She tells him. He is dumbfounded. Each time he asks a question, I give her the answer until he gets bored and walks away. She introduces herself to me. She is a teaching assistant at the University. She gets my number and email "Now we have to go dance salsa." she tells me.
I decide to try another empanada. Yum. This one is chicken and cheese. It is delicious. Most likely because it had been fried. They really are good that way, but so bad for you. I try another wine. I don't drink much so I have to be careful. I don't want to be drunk on the bus going home.
I run into Beatrice. This was a complete surprise. Her husband is a pyromaniac with the fire. He tells me how he likes to kill mosquitoes. I tell Beatrice I hope she has lots of insurance. We catch up on our lives. As I turn around I see an old friend I have not seen for awhile, my friend Victoria. She looks wonderful. It is amazing what a small city Buenos Aires can be.
After consuming too many empanadas, wine, and even a chocolate chip cookie, I decide it is time to leave. I say good bye to my old friends and the new friends I have made. Now it is officially spring.
This post was originally written and posted on Affordable Calling Cards September 20, 2009