Monday, June 27, 2011

Just because

When I was a student in elementary school (maybe 7 or 8 years old) my mother struck a deal with both my sister and I.

Given that we were average to good students, that we had good health, that we lived within walking distance to school, and that really, almost never missed school, once a year, we could not go just because. Maybe we wanted to stay home playing, maybe because it was rainy or too cold, or... I don't know, we just didn't want to.

It was a wise move, I saw then and see now. In one move she got ridden of the combined whining of two, taught some responsibility and gave herself some peace of mind. And I personally remember those stay at home days very fondly, watching shows on TV I'd only heard about, watching a movie on the VHS (a definite highlight), playing with my dolls or reading.


We're in winter break right now, a two week lapse when kids all ages don't have classes. Unfortunately I don't have a break (I might be able to use my yearly holiday, but we're encouraged to do that in January), yet, we're allowed to miss any two days. Just because.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What's cooking?

Food and what we eat is not only a question of where in the world we live, it's also a question of cultural values and traditions, which sometimes really don't have anything to do with much.

We spent some time in Minnesota in the USA, and Granada in the south of Spain, and cooking was sometimes difficult for reasons we wouldn't have foreseen in a million years. So, for you to bear in mind if you're coming to Uruguay (or the south of Brazil, or Argentina for that matter), or simply to think about it, here are a few things you'll typically find in a kitchen in Uruguay.

1. We seem to nurse an unrequited love for ice cream containers, which are found pretty much everywhere. Pictured: under the sink container waiting for an hydraulic disaster coming from the sink.

I say the love is unrequited because oftentimes they're not up to the task assigned.

2. Butane gas bottles. They're the source of heat of choice and they're usually located in plain sight next to the stove. Ours in hidden under the sink, making company to the ice cream container.

They don't grow on trees so one needs to know what to do when the contents end.

3. While newer stoves models contain some flickering system, most people don't own a newer model. So the matches are very common.

When we lived in Minnesota in a rental home, we weren't aware of that system being available in our stove so we bought a lot of matches we never used. Silly us.

4. Oregano. The best selling dried herb in local markets. We were a little surprised and bereft when we couldn't find it that easily in Spanish or Minnesotan markets.

Tarragon, thyme and rosemary just aren't the same.

5. Repurposed containers. Pictured: a cookie jar containing cocoa powder, a jam jar containing oregano, a Nescafé bottle containing bread zippers (here they are not a clamp, they're a little wire coated in plastic and I collect them, just in case I need them some time).

If you're a guest, be ready for spending some time guessing what's where.

6. Cothespins. The weather allows to air dry clothes year round (unless it rains, of course), so clothespins are a common household item. They're usually found applied ad nauseam in the kitchen. Pictured: seasalt, confetti, baking powder.

7. Crandon's cooking book. The quintessential uruguayan cooking book, it's brilliantly written and the recipes reflect the local taste well, but don't require any exclusive local ingredient. Matter of fact, many recipes are of anglosaxon tradition.

Mine was a wedding gift, and I think my mom's was too. I know my grand mother's wasn't, but it was one of the first editions and I wish I had claimed it when I had the chance.

8. Accoutrements for red meat preparation. Uruguay being one of the top consumers of red meat per capita in the world, the required equipment to prepare a good steak, stew, barbeque or meatloaf are typically found in home kitchens.

The knife point tells I'm not very good at storing my wares.

9. Milk is sold exclusively in one liter (1 qt) plastic bags. While some people transfer the milk into a better looking container, most people simply put the bag into a jar. Also, the bags containing red are for whole milk, and the blue or green are for skimmed milk.

But don't worry, the jars are sold in markets and cost barely above a liter or two of milk.

10. A friend from Chile said he was surprised Uruguayans don't seem too fond of sweets unless it's dulce de leche or quince jam.

In that case, there is no limits for sweetness.


Update: If you found me from I link I posted in Chez Larsson, welcome, thank you, and know that I've never done that before or plan on doing it again ever.

Monday, June 6, 2011

(Just a little) peace of mind

Lately I've been wondering and regretting not having kept my childhood books. My sister and I had quite a few and I loved them so much... we had books with stories, with pictures (with and without text) and activities. At one time or another we donated them in batches to libraries or schools, and there were only a few that apparently were worth the shelf real estate value.

The ones that survived are good to revisit in a rainy afternoon but I doubt my daughter will enjoy them as much as I did, because they're just... very old. Children's books these days are really different, and while I don't underestimate (beforehand!) my child's ability to appreciate old fashioned ones, I don't think her sensibility will lean towards vintage.

This thought gives me some peace of mind. Had I kept them all they'd be a bunch of yellowish, musty smelling old fashioned books that my child may or may not appreciate, rendering the whole preservation endeavor a little pointless.

And contrived as it may sound, not having a good starting library at home might be the excuse I was waiting for to jump on children's libraries and bookstores around town. Because, seriously, is there a better place to spend your time and money?