Friday, September 23, 2011

Virginia Woolf in Uruguay, final dispatch: food edition

The beginning of the term has me spinning like a top. So much so, that I forgot to mention that my account of the Woolf Conference in Uruguay was published at the wonderful Words Without Borders site, a terrific resource for literature in languages other than English, with many supporting materials for teachers and students and a beautifully designed virtual space. You can go directly to my dispatch by clicking here.

The one thing that was just too non-literary to mention was how great and interesting the food was, but, especially since I got teased for my enthusiasm about it, before, during, and after, I’ll share that with you here, now.

Forty percent of Uruguayans are of Italian descent and pizza was everywhere. When I asked how it differed from Italian or American pizza, I was told it didn’t, but a group of us went out for pizza on my first night there and I learned different. The slices came to our table on individual, dessert-size melamine plate, each slice cut into strips for sharing. The delicious brick-oven pizza had no tomato sauce at all. It was served with fainá, a flatbread made with chick pea flour. Both were delicious, but neither the food nor the generous way it was shared, down the middle of a long table cluttered with tumblers of water and red wine, was much like eating a slice in New York.

The chivito, the national sandwich of Uruguay, surpassed its reputation. This sandwich, with a thin layer of steak, ham, bacon, mayonnaise, hard-boiled egg, and pickles on a sweet soft roll is messy, delicious, and too much. It’s everything a Big Mac dreams of being: too many meats and condiments, too much juicy flavor, all coming together into a perfect sandwich.

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