Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Day at the Fair - Feria de Matederos

I had completely written off last Sunday as a recovery day, having gotten in at 6:30 AM from a very entertaining Saturday night. Luckily, I have some good friends here that were not content with letting me lay on the couch all day in a position that would be considered much more embryonic than fetal. So when the phone rang at about 1:00PM, I was thinking about answering it with some choice words about parentage, followed by a scolding about how no one is awake at 1:00 PM on Sunday in Buenos Aires. Instead, I accepted the invite from Gina and Javier to what became one of the most special days I've spent here.

The small town of Matederos (roughly translated as"Killers") is just on the very edge of the city of Buenos Aires. It has been, and continues to be a bustling meat market during the week. However, instead of hearing "Hey baby, wanna go back to my place and play army?" the "pick-up" lines run more along the lines of "how many kilos?" The reason being that this town is THE place to purchase choice Argentine cow by the 10's, 100's, maybe 1000's, after which the live cattle are taken somewhere else to be slaughtered. Although it would probably be entertaining to come during the week and see how this all goes down (make a purchase, take it home, laugh when it can't get downstairs), on Sundays the place turns into a locals-only fair.



The main square is surrounded by colonial style buildings, most likely used for the administration of the town's main industry. It almost feels like the old trees surrounding the plaza store the memories of hundreds of years of this weekly event. Their reaching shadows seem as if they are almost embracing the multitude of dancers, singers, or those like me who are simply overwhelmed by the communal happiness and sense of belonging during those few hours. A middle-age woman sings of good times and bad, and of loves lost and found with the frankness and matter-of-factness that many her age, having seen it all in this country, seem to possess and are willing to share with those who want to listen. The fact that she draws the same emotion from her guitar only serves to induce a sudden welling of the eyes. It is times like these that I feel an intense closeness with this country and its people, which I am easily beginning to feel a part of.


There's nothing that can break-up a nice emotional reverie like the pangs of hunger caused by a hangover. So, the three of us went off to find some sort of meat (duh). Instead of hitting up one of the many street vendors, we walked into a nearby restaurant, went straight back to the guy at the grill, at which point Javier negotiated the purchase of three pork sandwiches for about $2USD a piece. Coming from the States, "simplicity" is sometimes forgotten, and many would look at two pieces of bread with a healthly piece of grilled pork in between as something out of a Home-Ec class for special-ed students, but in my twenty-something years, I have never tasted pork quite like that. Nor will I ever forget sitting on a mound of grass in the adjacent park with my two closest Argentine friends, listening to really bad karaoke.

Afterwards, it was time to check out the gaucho games. It is my understanding that the gaucho is still a very big part of ranching in Argentina. Remembering that Argentina is roughly the size of India with a population of only 90 million, this leaves a lot of room for cattle to do what they do best....graze unconfined. So, it is still up to the gauchos to control these massive herds. Where the tango has mostly been overtaken by the tourist industry, the gaucho is still a enduring symbol of the true Argentine countryside...in other words, these gauchos-in-training below are not just hanging around for tourist photo-ops:




I don't know exactly what the game is called, but the way it works is the gaucho and his horse propel themselves down the street towards a small golden ring hanging overhead from a string. Upon reaching full speed, the gaucho tries to "grab" the ring using a utensil roughly the size and shape of a ballpoint pen. This almost reminds me of a saying of my father's; involving the eye of a needle, a hundred yards, and a bag of dried apricots.


The ring hangs from a trellis like structure the arches over the street


A moment of sheer precision


Success?


Gaucho games make me hungry (again). Time for crepes or panqueques with dulce de leche.


In the end, I left with a huge bottle of artesanal olive oil, and a greater (if that's even possible) appreciation for Argentine life.

Chau!

-R

5 Comments:

Anonymous Gina said...

wow. that's your best writing yet! and so sweet of you to say such nice things about us! awww!

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like you are entering into a dangerous love affair with this place...intervention!! Will my children ever see Uncle Cookbook again? Stay tuned for next week's episode when Ryan enters gaucho training & declares he might be home for Christmas...

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds a bit like A. Bourdain, but better. M.and D.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous claire said...

You know, it's kind of mean to suck people into your blog with the writing and the humour and the adventures, then just not post at all for weeks on end.

I wonder if Rod Stewart has a blog. Maybe he posts more regularly.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous claire said...

Oh, and Argentina's population was never 90 million.

(that'll teach you to leave me blog-less.)

2:49 PM  

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