Cocinando Las Carolinas

12 Nov

Back in January, I mentioned how badly I wanted to bring grits to South America. Along with the outfits for south of the Equator and my favorite books, I had a two-pound bag of white grits nestled into my luggageMy trip was going to be devoted to seeing the public squares in Buenos Aires and trying dulce de leche, but bringing some of my own culture’s food was at the top of my to-do list.

I managed to make them twice for my host famiy while there, and they were as smashing as Nigel Thornberry. My host family got a taste of my life in the South, and then they asked for seconds.

The process behind making grits was a big deal for them, especially since they had never tried them before. Attempting to explain what exactly grits are in English is surprisingly complicated; in Spanish, I stuck to comparisons. We had polenta for dinner numerous nights, but there’s a world of difference between Italian polenta and Charleston grits. Between the different ingredients and the new chef de la casa, they were eager to try.

They were really impressed with how much cheese goes into “cheese grits.” Since cheddar is non-existent there (read on for more cheese import issues), I got to use some of the regional cheeses.

Hot sauce, not normally used in Argentine cuisine, was a secret ingredient my host family loved. My brother, official photographer of the day, made sure to document it.

This batch was great-they had an aged flavor with some spice that surprised my family and myself. They asked for them again later in the semester, along with some other Southern classics, including red velvet cake.

I’m glad there aren’t pictures of baking the cake-it was a truly lost in translation mess. The cake went fine, but creating the frosting was about as smooth as Jabba the Hutt’s skin. Essentially, the frosting is cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla extract. Powdered sugar and vanilla were easy enough to find, but cream cheese is difficult.

At the store, I picked up “Queso Cremoso.” After speaking Spanish for some time, I know this directly translates to “Cream Cheese.” So you can understand my disappointment when I opened the container and found Argentina’s twist on Moe’s Queso Dip. The disappointment was even greater when I considered the length of the line at the store (Latin American grocery lines can stretch to the end of the store). I stirred and stirred the cheese, adding mountains of powdered sugar, but the frosting did not thicken up. My host mom was concerned.

“Tommy, have you done this before?”

My guilt trip began abroad. We ended up trying to freeze this Frankenstein frosting, but then we decided to take the frosting and use it as a sauce. It had about the same consistency as alfredo, and the taste was there for my family to ladle onto the cake.

Call it participant dining, or call it the worst attempt at cultural crossover, but we enjoyed it as much as the grits. Like learning how to speak the dialect, learning how to cook my favorites in a foreign country was a challenge.

While painting on the sauce, my host father had a technical question.

“Tommy, why didn’t you just buy Philadelphia?”

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One Response to “Cocinando Las Carolinas”

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  1. Ambitions in Argentina « Table Scraps - February 1, 2013

    […] Cocinando las Carolinas: for more Argentina cooking fun […]

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