Wednesday 17 February 2010

Monday Night: The Great Flood

Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Cooking classes started on Monday at Gato Dumas Colegia de Cocineros in Belgrano. It's a great little school, pretty well equipped, though not up to Ballymaloe standards. But the classes are in Spanish. Completely in Spanish. Still, it's surprising what you learn; your eyes tell you what's happening and you begin to piece together and understand things as you go.

On Monday we made Tartas - vegetable, tuna and spinach. The most interesting part of this was the pastry method - the flour is shaped into a giant ring, the butter is very soft and the dough is brought together in the centre. It is then rolled in the same way as puff pastry, in thirds and layered, but using melted butter and a lot of flour along the way.

The other pastry is much shorter and crumblier, and in the heat was almost impossible to roll. Fillings were spinach and ricotta (good), tuna with tomatoes (not great) and the crumbly one was a medley of vegetables topped with egg and cream (good). The only slightly worrying thing about all this is they are not really teaching people. They're not going round watching and pointing and showing. They demonstrate; you cook. Nor do they teach people to taste, meaning things are coming out either over or under seasoned.

Anyway I get by, and actually really enjoy it. The class is half men and half womenThey crack the wine open as soon as you get in, and a few of the guys, very jolly anyway, avail themselves of as much as they can. They are all locals with the exception of Hannah, an American who speaks fluent Spanish and helps me out when I am completely confused.

We finally leave around half nine, and are confronted by the most Almighty rainstorm I have ever seen. There are rivers of water rushing down the streets. Hannah and I are heading for the tube, but we don't even reach the end of the block. We later discover that all the lines were flooded anyway. After about half an hour, we manage to hail a cab. It's ten o'clock and we're only four miles from home.

Taxis in Buenos Aires are unbelievably cheap. But that's when the journey isn't interrupted by flooding. In Palermo the water is well over a metre deep in places. The drains are blocked with rubbish, and there is nowhere for the rain to go. The city grinds to an abrupt halt and, completely gridlocked, we are stranded a couple of miles from home. We could walk, but it would involve a lot of swimming. And praying that it was only rainwater we were swimming through. So we decide to sit it out in the cab. It stopped raining for a bit and we stood outside, until our saturated clothes brought on a chill. In the end, it took three and a half hours to get home, and the ride cost 120 pesos, which must be some kind of record for this place.

At half one in the morning then, deliriously tired yet unable to stop myself laughing, I lay my head upon the pillow.

The world screamed out loud at me, and I smiled and screamed right back.

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