This post is for you, Todd and Theresa.

Most of the food we ate in Argentine was so good I didn’t want to take the time to take a photo. Thanks to Brian’s gentle reminders, I did stop a couple of times to snap a picture.

This is the staple. Coffee. Morning, noon and night. But in small little cups. No one comes by to offer a heater, warm up, topper or anything of the sort.

In the morning, you eat medialunas –croissants covered in sweetness. It is odd to only eat one and the waiter will tease you.

We already talked about the parilla. (I love blood sausage!)

Speaking of meat–there is a lot of yummy sausages and other cured meats. We got this one from a shy man in San Antonio de Areco. He pulled it off the string that was hanging on the rafter over his head. I miss that sausage.

And then there is cheese.

All of it put together and wrapped in a crust is the famous empanada. We had them a lot. These were my favorite–from a small bar in the small town of Tapalqué.

And then washed down with wine. We encountered the pingüino pitcher a lot. Perhaps a little touristy–but still fun.

Dessert often equaled fruit, often candied. Poached apple.

And candied figs.

The missing photos include dinner from an wonderful organic and vegetarian restaurant in Palermo, Bio, the most amazing lamb and ravioli from a small and beautiful restaurant in San Telmo, Caseros, and a slow roasted beef sandwich at the neighborhoody Oros & Candido restaurant in Palermo Soho–just in case you decide to go.

I had a friend in college who was appalled at the idea of drinking the milk that was offered in the cafeteria. It was an all you can drink kind of thing, big stainless steel contraption with a big handle to open the spout. We had a choice between skim and 2%, undoubtedly pasteurized and knowingly delivered and stored in huge plastic sacks. She tried to explain that the milk, stored and served that way, was completely unnatural and gross tasting to boot. She had grown up on a farm and the milk her family drank was straight from the cow–morning, noon and night. I didn’t understand.

So nearly 20 years later, I finally understand. Not that I haven’t been trying to have a straight from the cow milk experience for about the last 5 years. Thanks to bizarre legislation and an over the top reaction to a couple of unfortunate incidences, the one or two people I know who have direct access to a milking cow are still working on getting me direct access to her udders. It’s also my fault for living in a city.

But in Tapalqué, I finally milked and drank straight from the cow. I now completely understand what it was my college friend was talking about.

Of course, to have a lactating cow, you have to have a lactator–a calf. He wasn’t all the keen on sharing his mom’s milk, so he spend a good part of the day making the loudest, most heart wrenching noises in hopes we would free him to get to his mom.

When the time came, the cow and calf were reunited and he was allowed only a couple of seconds to satiate himself and to help us with the task ahead.

Then it was our turn. No warming of the hands needed. Thanks to Brian’s tutelage (or some dark recesses of my ancestral mind) I found it easy. Pinch at the top with your thumb and forefinger while pushing up, “grab” a teat full of milk and push it down by squeezing the remaining fingers one by one. I filled about two fingers deep with some satisfying squirts. (Those who grew up doing this as a daily chore are likely rolling your eyes or laughing out loud. City slicker.)

Brian went next.

And then Lalo, La Margarita’s farm manager and gaucho, really showed us how it was done.

Two-handed and within three minutes the bucket was full to the top.

The taste? Like drinking steamed milk, but a million times better–sweeter, grassier and creamier. I am asking for a cow for Christmas.

WARNING: this post is for the horsey people.

I like the horses here. They remind me of my favorite horse Buck. A little stocky, completely solid and up for adventure–with a little machismo thrown in.

The horses on the Argentine Pampas are bred for work. Rustling up cattle, pulling carts, transportation. Their life isn’t super glamorous, but I sense they have fun. When not working they are free to roam the pastures with their herd, eat as much grass as they can find and generally be horses without the interference of too many humans.

But even when working, the interference is low. The daily tack is basic. The bridle is basically strips of untanned cowhide (presumably from the cows they once helped herd) attached to a metal bit.

The saddle itself has more parts, but is flexible and comfortable for both the horse and rider. A basic canvas blanket, followed by a felt pad and leather rectangle with two parallel rolls for the knees and balance. This is section is secured with its own girth with the stirrups attached and is tightened with an untanned leather strap and by using a foot for leverage on the horse’s side. The whole thing is topped off with either a foam pad or, my favorite, a fluffy sheepskin. The topper has it’s own girth strap–either more untanned cowhide or a woven band.

When it’s complete it feels like sitting in a comfy chair–yet you can still completely feel the horse underneath you, which makes riding from your seat easy and fun.

I rode three of the eleven horses at La Margarita. (For the record, I do not advocate riding without a helmet. I have fallen off too many times to feel any other way. But we are in Argentina. Helmets are not easy to find. But people riding horses should wear helmets.)

The first horse, Oscuro, was a fun challenge. Someone aptly noted that he looked like a chess piece. He was ready to go and rocketed into a gallop when asked for a canter. I found out later that he detests heavy handed riders (my biggest riding problem) and has had the tendency to go on run aways. Simply walking wasn’t something he enjoyed–but I made him do it. (It is important to note that I was put on this guy only because they knew I had some experience–many of horses were as calm as could be.) We rode together twice and he taught me a lot.

My favorite was Diabla. A complacent mare who went when asked and had a smooth canter. She was Oscuro’s main squeeze. There are a lot of armadillo and hare holes and mounds throughout the Pampas–Diabla and I negotiated around many of them at all speeds and even jumped (very small jumps) a couple of mounds. Very fun!

And finally, Señor–a cross between the other two. He would foam up at the mouth so much that the both of us were speckled by the end of the ride. (The photo below is of Geraldine and Señor. Geraldine is a totally cool and adventurous woman from France who is volunteering on the estancia through the winter. She made me miss my friends from Seventh Farm as she would definitely fit right in.)

No one rode this guy–the 20 year old pony. I think he has had a happy life and deserves his retirement.

We are back in the city and wishing we were still in the country. We extended our stay at La Margarita for an extra night and day. Let me tell you why.

The main house was a simple, sprawling abode with many original touches from its 1870 construction–lots of big fireplaces, terracotta tile floors, double doors.

The view from our room looked out to the barn and the fireplace in our room provided a secondary source of heat and primary source of cozy ambiance.

There were a couple of other guests staying at the farm, but for most of the time it was just us and the animals.

The nandú.

The cows.

The chickens.

The sheep.

The dogs.

The horses.

And of course the people that made the whole place run and made us feel like we were at home–if home included breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner all deliciously prepared with grown on the farm ingredients and served with copious amounts of wine and dulce de leche. The whole La Margarita team was remarkable and amazing.

In addition to riding two times each day (more on that to come), eating and napping–fun was had chasing nandú…

(I know, but they really didn’t mind. They were still walking up close to us on the last day we were there.)

…riding bikes into Tapalqué (the most friendly town where everyone waves and says “hola!” and you can leave your bike, unlocked, in the town square and not worry a thing about it)…

…and just generally enjoying the tranquil landscape of the Argentine Pampas.

If I ever go missing, you will probably find me here.

We are off to Estancia La Margarita at 7:30am tomorrow morning. No internet, lots of food, milking cows (yes, milking cows) and riding means I won’t be updating until we are back in Buenos Aires on Thursday–or never. If this is the last post, send my pups, sell our house, distribute our stuff amongst yourselves and others who need it and come visit us in Tapalqué, Argentina.

Polo is a pretty big deal here in Argentina. Definitely a bigger deal than in the US. Unfortunately, polo season doesn’t start until September. In the meantime the horses are resting (i.e. eating vast amounts of grass without the bother of humans asking anything of them). Fortunately, I found Polo Elite–a polo school started and run by Fernando, a professional polo player. A majority of his horses are on winter rest, but a couple were left at the stables to allow gringos like me to try their hand at polo.

I really was just looking for an excuse to spend a day cantering around on a horse–but now I am completely smitten with the sport.

Fernando picked us up in Buenos Aires for the 30 minute drive out to his current polo club. (He has been invited to join another club and will be moving his horses and school in the next couple of weeks.)

Of course we were met by an entourage of pups.

And horses.

That was my lady on the left. (She had a lot of spunk once we were on the field.)

After a brief but thorough explanation about how to ride–double reins and a crop in the left hand to control the speed, your seat to control the direction and your right arm to control the mallet–all with a focus on being kind to the horse and recognizing that if your horse isn’t doing it right, it is completely your fault. (A great sign that Fernando was a true horseman and that we were using real horses and not numbed school horses.) After a bit of practice with speed and direction, we practiced dribbling with our forehand shots up and down the field and then backhand. My mallet arm and wrist quickly became crazy sore.

We all took a bit of a break and were back on the field to learn the rules of the game and play a match. The rules are a bit confusing at first blush and Fernando assured me that it takes a while to get it right–especially at the high speeds of a real match.

Thankfully our match was medium speed and Fernando was there to remind us about the rules. The horses got excited–much snorting and blowing out–as they chased the ball and shouldered and shoved the other horses and players out of the way (appropriate defensive maneuvering). There isn’t time to over think your ride as your hands are full and you are looking out for the other players, trying to find the ball, chasing the ball as fast as you and your horse can and aiming for the goal. I think I will ask Liz if I can ride with a mallet and ball and goal from now on.

And where are the action shots, you ask? It was too much fun to take photos. Fernando did and once I have them I will post them here. [Finally posted below on July 29.]

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Look what Brian made!

Most of you know that the main reason we are in Argentina is because Brian was awarded a three-week residency at Proyecto’Ace–a beautiful print studio in Buenos Aires. Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm he has been hard at work with ‘Ace’s crew of talented artists.

When he is done he will have three completed lithographs. It’s up to the Argentine postal system if they ever make it home. (Not really, they will make it home and be ready for viewing before the end of summer.)

(We didn’t eat any of these.)

Last Sunday we went to the Feria de Mataderos in a distant part of the city. So many people had told us to go. It’s an adequate way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon–but it’s kinda touristy. Lots of people with cameras around their necks (yes, I was one of them) and booths of things a lot of people would want to see and food a lot of people would want to eat–except for maybe the armadillos.

After roaming through the booths we went over to the gaucho area at the end of the street. The gauchos and horses had slowly started to gather and a line of sand was spread down the length of the street. Then racing began. The gauchos took turns galloping their horses down the street in an attempt to spear a tiny ring with a wooden stick while going full speed. It was fun to watch. We were literally a horse length away as they sped by.

Brian took this eerie and interesting photo with his iPhone. Click on the photo and check out the gaucho’s face.

I have no proof, but I have a feeling that the conventional foods here (the fresh stuff, at least) are closer to organic than the conventional stuff we get in the states. Or maybe that is just what I keep telling myself as we gather our grocery goodies from the super convenient supermercado at the end of our street. The store itself isn’t pretty, but at least the few fruits and veggies they have have been flavorful and delicious.

But I want more. Organic, that is.

A friend of ours told us about a twice-a-week completely organic market not too far away from our too centrally located apartment–the (El) Galpón Mercado Orgánica (Federico Lacroze 4171). A short-ish subway ride later (Orange line to Federico Lacroze) we found the little yellow building tucked down a cobblestone alley and between both live and abandoned railroad cars.

I was too enamored with all the choices of cheeses, breads, coffee, wine, homemade yogurt, ice cream and vegetables and fruits to remember to take photos inside. We gathered our stash (through this odd, but seemingly practical system of ordering your goods at each booth, receiving a ticket, bringing all your tickets to the cashier to pay and then returning to each booth to get your goods) and settled in next to the grill and tucked up to our first parrilla of our trip. (It only took us two weeks.)

Parrilla is the Argentine word for grill or barbeque. (Pronounced par-eesh-a.) A big part of the traditional food culture is centered around the grill. Hungry? Sad? Happy? Eat some barbequed meat or sausage or vegetables. The kitchens are small, but the parrilla space is almost always large. Or is built on the side of a road using scrap wood and metal. This one was from the Feria de Mataderos (more on the Feria later).

I’ve even seen a parrilla made in the crevice of rocks. No fancy Webers needed in this country–and I think the meat is better for it.

Our introduction to the parrilla on our last visit consisted of us walking into a parrilla, ordering a parrilla and getting a plate of meat in all forms and styles. We still are not sure what we ate, but it was delicious!

At El Galpon we knew what we were getting–chicken, blood sausage and vegetables. And it was delicious (and sin agrotóxicos, too).

This guy got a little of the chicken, but still wouldn’t come home with me. I couldn’t spare him any sausage.

We didn’t plan our trip around the Minnesota State Fair, but I was sure happy to realize that I wouldn’t be missing it this summer.

Imagine my complete bliss to discover that not only would I be in town for the Great Minnesota Get Together, but I would also be in Buenos Aires for the annual La Rural–an “exposition of livestock, agriculture and international industry.” Last night (after a new favorite street snack of candied figs on a stick covered with caramel popcorn–yum) we bought our tickets, walked in the door and were immediately met by this guy.

And then we met this guy.

And then we found these guys.

And finally, these guys–in action.

It is hard to tell, but there is a man on the ground between the horses–head down, crotch up. The blur just over him is a horse, jumping, between his legs. These are Argentina’s military cavalry, from what we could tell.

In addition to lots of animals, the fair included booths from the Provinces throughout Argentina sharing their food stuffs (lots of jams, sausages, cheeses and wine) and agricultural industry (wool, furs, horse tack, and knives). Toyota, Fiat and other car and truck companies had big splashy displays of their country vehicles–and even had an excavated space with big ramps, boulders and piles of dirt on which people could test drive vehicles. The fair’s Midway of sorts, I suppose.

Since we were there early (about 8pm) a lot of the food booths weren’t yet open. (Argentinians eat around 9:30 or 10:30pm each night.) We did manage to find a snack of branded empanadas to tide us over. They weren’t the best, but they sure were cute and the packaging was impressive. (It made us think of you, Todd.)

On the way out the door we had a chance to watch a gaucho lunge his horse. It was dark and I didn’t want to use my flash, but I managed to get an interesting shot while watching them work.

And Brian got one when they were done.