Tuesday, August 16, 2011

At Home with the Chilean Frat Boys

Saturday morning started off way too early considering what had transpired the night before.  Even though I should have been tired seeing as how I went to bed at 5am— in what can only be described as one of life's cruelest ironies before turning 25— ever since becoming of that dubious, legal, drinking age, I have been unable to sleep past nine in the morning after a long night on the town.  It sucks; I am pretty sure it's your body's way of saying, "alright shithead, enough partying every night, your liver is actually going to shrivel if you keep this up after college."  Needless to say, I was tired and still feeling quite, well, drunk, from the excessive quantity of terremotos (white wine, pineapple ice cream and fernet) and piscolas (pisco and coke) we drank at the asado on Friday night.  People tell me that the name "terremoto" (literally, earthquake), comes from the fact that they leave you trembling at the knees after you drink one, let alone several.  When I awoke I also found that all that sugar from the ice cream (which by some stroke of luck for a lactard like me, was actually made from water and not milk) had left my head feeling like a terremoto as well.

Backtracking, the asado on Friday night cemented my opinion that Chileans do in fact know how to cook some damn good meat (I still love you Argentina).  It was at the house of a fellow Tio (teacher) not too far from the farm; naturally though, living on the side of the highway, it was very difficult for me to get there.  Luckily, one of the PE teachers (and basketball coach) volunteered to pick me up as he said that he was going to be dropping off my host sister anyway—or so I understood.   While it's true that he did in fact come by to pick me up, I didn't realize that he was going to be swinging by in the team van, with the rest of the team—my students—in it.  I ran out the front gate to the highway, bottle of pisco in-hand, my host sister jumped out and I jumped in; into a 15-passenger van full of sweaty 14- and 15 year-olds on their way home from a basketball tournament.  I'm not sure who was more surprised, me after seeing— and then smelling— all of them, or them after seeing me, "Tio Chip," holding a giant bottle of pisco and boarding their team van on the side of the highway.

After a little small-talk of, "so did you win?  That's great, congratulations" and "oh this bottle that I am holding, it's a gift, I won't be drinking all of it," we went our separate ways and the coach and I made our way to the asado.  We found the others out back, grill already going, and I set my bottle of pisco down on the table.  The next thing I knew, I turned around to see coach lugging what I thought was his basketball team's 5-liter water jug out in the backyard where we were.  He set it down next to my now puny-looking bottle of pisco and poured me a glass.  It was, as he explained, a bit like artesianal wine— grown at one of his friend's houses.  These were the last grapes of the harvest and thus the wine had a great sweet flavor, it was so good that I wouldn't have had a problem drinking it solo.

They emptied the whole thing into another, even bigger jar and mixed in a bottle of fernet and several tubs of pineapple ice cream.  It was super-sweet and completely over the top, but how can anything that combines wine, ice cream, and liquor not be?  It was already about 11 and the choripans were ready.  A steady stream of various cuts of beef and pork—filet, sirloin, ribs and flank—began to emerge from the low charcoal fire soon afterwards.  We stayed out there, circled around the grill—plucking a big steak from the embers on to the cutting board, cutting it, and passing it around between the five of us for several hours.  Around 2am, with all the meat gone, and the pitcher of terremotos drained, everyone started to head inside, I assumed, to call it a night.  Once again, I was wrong; I was the last one in and found everyone sitting on the couches, new glasses in hand, pouring piscolas while Pancho, whose house it was, prepared more snacks in the kitchen.  We stayed there until almost 4am, drinking, eating and chatting about everything from politics to porn (it was a gentleman's only event); my first Friday with the guys was truly awesome.

Eduardo dropped me off at home (he has a really cool old station wagon) and luckily for me, Sari (21 year old host sister) had just pulled up in her friend's car as well.  As if it wasn't enough that at 4am we both stepped out of our friends' cars on to the shoulder of the PanAmerican, neither of us had a key to the front gate (it is impossible to open the gate from the outside without a remote anyway).  Sari, who is quite petite, somehow managed to climb over the 15 foot high wall to let me in and I was off for a few hours of sleep.

Friday, August 12, 2011

If I Was Still In College, I'd be Wasted Right Now

Don't judge me, hear me out, I have my reasoning.  Today is Friday, I don't teach on Friday's, I normally eat lunch at school- but not on Fridays.  On Friday's I have lunch at home with Tia Marina and Suzy; but not today.  I'm not sure where they went because when I woke up they were gone.  But Tia Marina, being the fantastic grandmother that she is, cooked and left me a schmorgeshboard offering on the table.  Spaghetti with scrambled egg, some limp, oil-soaked potatoes (I'm sorry they don't qualify as french fries), a steak that was thinner than the beautiful new ultra-thin MacBook Air, a cut up tomato and some sandwich-ready shredded romaine.  Crunchy!

I put together a big-boy sized platter and seeing as it was a beautiful day, went outside to the nice little asado-gazebo-outdoor kitchen area (take that Bobby Flay).  I had a great little outdoor picnic in the sun but suddenly found myself thinking about the good ol' days at Colorado College; inevitably, causing a lot of mayhem, usually with a healthy amount of alcohol involved.  Now, there is no question that this area reminds me in many ways of Colorado, the climate, mountains and more, but it wasn't that.  "What," you might be asking, "does eating lunch in the sun at a beautiful outdoor kitchen have to do with college, or being wasted?"  "Surely, you didn't have a fully equipped outdoor asado shack in college, did you?"  Unfortunately, the answer is no, we didn't; but I tried damn hard!  So what about this experience reminded me of my glory years at Colorado College?  

You see, as I was sitting there eating, I couldn't help but watch the traffic speed by on the PanAmerican.
Even though the highway was less than 50 yards away from me, all I could make out was each car's color.  My two roomates and I also happened to live on a very busy street our last year at CC.  What did we do when we were bored?  We would crack open a beer and drink to our livers dismay!  Inevitably we quickly tired of just plain-old drinking and we always managed to invent some new drinking game to help boost the fun factor (you can really make any mindless activity into a drinking game): Wii Tennis, Playstation Baseball, even the song "Black Betty".  One of my favorites however, was traffic.  The premise of this simpleton game is so easy that only a drunk could enjoy it (are you sensing a trend?).  The rules are as follows: sit on the front stoop with a 30-rack, pick a color and any time a car of that color drives by, you drink.

Cheers to living on the side of the highway!

Avocados and Kids: Avocados

Avocados and Kids; for better or worse, that's basically what my life consists of.  Let's talk about the former.  There are avocados on everything- literally EVERYTHING.  Breakfast time?   How do you like your toast, margarine and avocado or just avocado?   Hungry before lunch (perhaps you didn't like your avocado toast this morning)?  How about a hot dog?  Oh don't worry, your lightly boiled tube of mystery meat (read: flaccid) is down there in the bun somewhere; buried deep beneath a few mashed up avocados, an ice cream sized scoop of mayo and don't forget the ketchup and mustard!  These things, known as completo italiano, put the Chicago Dog to shame!  And I am not talking about taste but the sheer size and impossibility of fitting the damn thing in your mouth.  The taste, in case you were wondering, is...well, as you would expect.  I like some strange combinations and am especially fond of sausage (you really can't go wrong with meat in tube form) but these just fall flat in every category and have an oddly gummy texture.  Not to mention avocado and ketchup, the Silverman in me is balking!  I digress.  Dinner time?  How about a ubiquitous ave palta con mayo?  Here comes your avocado and mayo sandwich, enjoy the side of turkey.

At this point, you are probably saying to yourself, "wow, Chilean food sounds terrible."  This however, is not the entire story!  I for one, am getting hungry while writing this and would happily devour a big f***ing completo right now, gummy or not.  I am lucky however in that I don't have to.  By some stroke of luck (especially considering my previous homestay experience), a fantastic family decided to take me in and play host to me for 6 months.  I swear, I like them more and more every day!  

We live on a farm, on the side of the PanAmericano, in the middle of Chile's Fruit Bowl (which is to say in many ways, the middle of nowhere).  It's rural, real rural; when I look out my window I can see: cows, horses, fruit trees, the smoke of wood-fired heaters in hastily constructed homes of corrugated steel, burning trash piles and of course, I can hear and feel the roar of trucks whizzing by on the PanAmerican.  But there are also some sweet mountains (La CampaƱa for one, summited by none other than Mr. Charles Darwin).  Sure, it has its downsides (and yes I will gripe about them at some point, most likely a lot) but at the end of the day the family rocks!  As far as food is concerned, I am really grateful that the back entryway to our house looks like the storeroom of the farm next door (maybe it is?)  Even though I eat a lot of Chilean grown fruit back in the US, it doesn't taste nearly this good.  Even the avocados, they are sweet, silky and incredible; I just can't believe that there is a freaking avocado on my hot dog.