Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cerro San Cristobal

Yesterday D and I decided to take advantage of our last day of doing nothing (he goes back to Valpo since his U is finally stopping the strike and we both are working this weekend) and hit Cerro San Cristobal for some much needed exercise. And of course because I'd been whining about wanting to see "la cordillera" for several days. Winter may mean hell here in many ways, but at the same time, it's the only time we get to enjoy the mountains in their blanket of snow. Due to a lot of rainfall, the mountains have been gorgeous. Anyways, we were debating going or not because it was the first "pre-emergencia" day for bad air. Pollution, oh so yummy! We sucked it up and decided to go fill our lungs with smog and take pictures while we were at it.
Cerro San Cristobal is a large park towards the middle of Santiago and is a great place for some exercise in what most approximates nature in this wonderful metropolis and that of course includes a massive incline that you may be missing in other workouts (treadmills here, anyone? yeah, no incline, just flat, flat, flat boredom). On weekends it is full of cyclists and runners of both the beginner and hardcore persuasion, and of course, tourists. Tons of them. In the summer D and I would run up and at the top treat ourselves to some mote con huesillo (a chilean treat made of highly sweetened peach juice, some kind of cooked grain like barley - that's the mote - and dried peaches that have been re-juicified - those are the huesillos - I find it very delish when done well). It is quite the refreshing treat on a hot summer day, and I especially like the ones on San Cristobal. Often the street vendors give you tiny portions with narsty crusty bits of peach. No good. But then again, some are, so it's hit or miss I guess. Before I go any further, I have a very important and necessary disclaimer: do not go alone. Just don't do it, do not run that risk because I highly doubt it's worth it. San Cristobal is a big place and people with not the best of intentions can easily hide away and attack when they please. I don't mean this to scare anyone off, just to be completely clear that you keep your gringa/gringo head screwed on straight (or wherever your head may hail from).
So, I've been wanting to go for about a week now, a desire seriously reinforced after seeing Kyle's badass photo she took from the top of San Cristobal and put as her new header. Sick photo. So disclaimer no. 2: my photos aren't gonna look anything like that, but perhaps they will allow you to approximate between them to get a sense of what these mountains really look like. I usually run up the 5 kilometers from the bottom to the top of the hill, but today I decided to bike up with D. I was nervous about it because the first and only time I did it I thought I was literally going to die and was moving so slowly I thought the bike would fall over from lack of momentum. Sad story. But I'm glad to say that my gym membership seems to have paid off, even though I've been really bad lately and only going about twice a week. I could've made it up to the top without stopping if D hadn't had a fit of a smog attack. Suffice to say he does not have a gym membership.
Here we are before our adventure up

My favorite picture during our rest where D got annoyed at me for being so sucky at taking one handed photos of us. So typical, D trying to fix the damn thing and me just peeing my pants laughing.
The mountains!!!! And the smog blanket I breathe everyday. If this is pre-emergency, what on earth is emergency going to look like? Ugh. I don't want to know.
And then on the way down I saw this crazy tree. I don't remember what it's called, it's not the monkey puzzle tree, is it? I don't think so, but it is pretty sweet. It has cactus-like spiky thingies as leaves. I asked D what he thought it was and he said "pino" - pine. Yeah I don't think so honey, it's not exactly your average Christmas tree.
Speaking of Christmas, I am currently listening to Christmas pretending it is the holidays. Perhaps in a near future post I will explain the US ex-pat need to celebrate Christmas in July here. I'm just setting the mood to celebrate my holiday season. It helps me through the winter, people. I bake holiday cookies, too. I'll let you know when, and we can rejoice in spice cookie bliss and hot cocoa.

Monday, May 26, 2008

More cooking adventures!

There is only so much rain I can take.

Since Santiago has been covered in a layer of fog and wet, icky rain, I have kept my imminent depression at bay by cooking. Typical. I made zucchini bread last night for the first time, and it is yummy yummy I must say. Although next time I think I'm going to try a different recipe just to see which one I like better. I must say, though, I love my "How to Cook Everything" cookbook by Mark Bittman. I'm turning into my mother. I used to laugh at her at how she could be entertained by reading cookbooks. Now I get it! Also, today the fridge was utterly bare so I bought some ingredients for a Spicy Asian Noodle dish. Mmmm was it good. Basically spaghetti noodles soaked in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, some sugar, sliced fresh ginger, garlic, hot sauce and at the end I tossed in some slivered red pepper and scallion. Check out my happy face next to my creation. D was quite pleased too, and he's more likely to diss a dish than to give me his immediate sign of approval. This time though he said, "Amor, tus noodles te quedaron la raja!"
Aw, thanks baby :)

p.s. Should I invest in a pair of rainboots? Can I wear them to work? I feel like not so much....ideas?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eventful Month of May

I realize during these past few weeks I have proved myself as a most unfaithful blogger, and for that I truly feel ... well, a lot of things: bad, guilty, regretful, but mostly anxious to get back to it. So:
The past 20 days have been filled with activities, all of which have had their element of fun (ok, so I'm just ignoring the fact that I have to work to maintain myself here...wait, how do we say that in English? Maybe "survive" suffices). Let's start by looking back about two weeks ago.

May 11th, Mother's Day
I am happy to say I really enjoyed it. Feeling the ever blessed gringa, I had 3 very important mothers to appreciate that day. One was Ely, my Chilean host mother who I lived with for a year about 2 years ago. She is the most awesome Chilena mom I know and I cannot imagine my life here in Chile without her. I ended my Mother's Day with her family, over at her beautiful old home having some coffee and cake. The other is my equally important "suegra", or mother-in-law, although the term carries a different connotation in Spanish. Just imagine if I had to say "my boyfriend's mom" every time I mentioned her. Besides, that doesn't say much about my relationship with her. So, she is my suegra. Anyways, she is especially significant because she has opened her home to me here and made being here a real possibility for me whereas otherwise it would have been near impossible. Also, she's quite young (39!) so it's easy for us to get along and laugh and giggle like little girls. We spent lunchtime together that day, all prepared by yours truly. And then of course, mi mamita who gave me life, the queen bee and most dear to me of all. And how I miss her. Now, as they say here in Chile, I think I am somewhat of a "regalona" (help me out if you can think of a good translation for this word!) and I do miss my family and especially spending time with my mom, but I am also very used to being far away at this point. So, I pulled my resources together (i.e. the internet, a debit card and e-mail) and sent my mother a long Mother's Day letter and a beautiful bouquet of flowers from our local florist (in Maryland). Of course I was a bit misty about not being able to spend it with her, but I did my best to appreciate each of my mothers. Now, what I really want to tell you about is the meal I made. In order to cope with the occasional lonliness and boredom here in Santiago, I have started to bake and cook, and I've really, really liked it. Thus, I was zazzed (made up word, just think how it makes you feel when you say it outloud, I think you'll get the point) about being able to cook up a storm for my suegra. She is a cooking machine and usually insists on providing me with food, so the least I could do was make her a damn good feast. Knowing I couldn't spend a bundle, I focused on things I knew I could make delish but with limited resources. So I made a yummy pasta dish with a mixture of two recipes, one called Winter Pesto and the other called Ziti with Spicy Pesto Pantesco. Now, important note here, as I've become more involved in the blogging world (read: I sit at my computer for hours reading fashion and food blogs, and my friends of course), I've become obsessed with finding recipes and reading about food. That's how I came across the Winter Pesto idea and I loved it. Here I'll hit you with the recipe for my fellow cooks out there:
(note: I doubled it, and as I said, mixed it with another recipe which I'll explain further on)

Winter “Pesto” with Parsley and Almonds
2 Tbsp. whole almonds
1 packed cup Italian parsley leaves (flat parsley)
4 - 6 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp. salt
1 small garlic clove, pressed (opt.)

In a small food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground. They don’t need to be quite as fine as, say, sand, but close. Add the parsley, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic (if using), and process to a paste. Taste and, if needed, adjust salt, lemon juice, and/or olive oil. I like to add an additional tablespoon or two of olive oil, just to boost the flavor.
Yield: about ½ cup

I tweaked the recipe by adding pepper, mint, and dried basil (I had no fresh) to the pesto and then at the end added chopped tomatoes and grated Parmesan. I served this with "penne" pasta, which unfortunately here sounds like the same word for penis. It's definitely caused me issues in the supermarket when telling D to go fetch me some "pene". Yikes. Oh, and this can be given a kick with some crushed red pepper, which I can't seem to get my hands on here. And I must give credit where credit is due. If I can only remember where I found this thing. The recipe, that is, not the penne. So I'll just let you know my fave food blogs and it came from one of those: The Amateur Gourmet, Orangette, The Wednesday Chef and Dorie Greenspan. Awesome. Ok, but that wasn't it. I made garlic bread with "marraqueta", my favorite of Chilean bread, and it lends itself wonderfully to garlic bread. I made it in the oven wrapped in tinfoil, spread with butter, garlic, a bit of parsley and parmesan. And of course we made a big salad which I dressed with a homemade dressing that was mmm mmm delish. Try it out, it was super easy and was scarfed up all in the same meal:

Cream Vinaigrette
4 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. heavy cream

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

About 1/4 tsp. pressed garlic

About 1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of sugar

Whisk all ingredients well. Taste, and adjust as needed. Spoon liberally over any bitter (or bitter-ish) greens, such as watercress or arugula. Toss well. Top, if you want, with a poached egg, bits of bacon, or cubed ham.

And then of course there was dessert: French Apple Tart. This recipe I got from The Amateur Gourmet, and I must say, mine looked a lot prettier than his. Check out the recipe at the link. It came out well, although I manhandled the dough a bit too much (hey, it was my first time!) and I think I'd prefer a juicier pie with more filling. All in all, though, it was beautiful and I was pleased, as were my happy eaters.

May 17th, Gringa/Chileno Asado
What a great night! Lovely Katina so graciously hosted us for this barbecue get together and we got to use their swanky grill for the asado. It is a lifesaver indeed that these ladies exist and that we've all somehow managed to make our lives cross. I am happy to report also that I finally got to meet all the significant others and while each was so different from the other, I really liked all of them and was pleased to see the chileno-folk getting along and having some good man time together. And I am pleased to say my banana bread and banana cake (I made two different recipes) was a hit and finished seconds after I put it on the table! So easy and so delicious. Check out Kyle's or Tamsin's blog for a photo of us crazy ladies. I can't wait till we all get together again! I'm still counting on poker night ;)

May 18th, Baptism
So I went to my first baptism last weekend. D became a godfather! It's all very bizarre though touching I guess, he is his cousin's godfather who is maybe 3 years younger than him. Anyways, it wasn't exactly the sacred service I was expecting. People were taking photos like crazy, practically on top of everybody, and my suegra forced the camera into my hands and I too converted into one of those that I so desperately get annoyed by. I understand having a photographer, but please, ten+ people running around with cameras, not necessary. So I have no idea exactly how the ceremony went, it was over in a flash! Literally! But I do have some beautiful photos to show for it and the church was amazingly beautiful. I can't remember the exact name, but it was something like Sacramentina. I have to admit, though, that my favorite part was seeing D in his suite. Sigh. I'd include a picture of myself with the D-man, but unfortunately we are mid chew in all the photos.

This past week has been a whirlwind of other family events, the most important of which were a bachelorette party and a wedding! This was my first bachelorette party and I must say, wow, impressive. I had a blast, and I would include photos here, but you know, better to keep that stuff private, and the wedding was a civil ceremony in D's aunt's home, so I wasn't snapping away during that, left that task to my suegra who happily obliged.

I have eaten an obscene amount of food in the past 2 weeks and am ready to get back on track at the gym, where I only seem to be able to keep the motivation rolling with the company of my gringas (Kyle? Emily? Where are you?!). So, thus begins a new week, and instead of preparing class for tomorrow I think I will now run off and make some cornbread or zucchini bread. I've been dying to try these recipes, and hell, maybe I'll make both!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Chilean "yes"

When I'm feeling a little bit cynical, I usually tell people the Chilean "yes" is really a "no" or just a massive lie. But being cynical or not, the Chilean "yes" most certainly does not mean what my "yes" means.
Case and point: yesterday I was going to meet up with a potential private student. By going to, I mean that we had spoken the Friday before and decided he would come by the apartment after his work day ended around 6 or 6:30. Super. I said I would call if there were a problem. So, Monday rolls around, I make sure I'm home, get my materials together and I wait. Ah, silly gringa. Never wait! I waited, slowly becoming more anxious that he just wasn't going to show and that I would miss the Aeroboxing class I so desperately wanted to go to at the gym. Now I know I really should have turned off my gringaness and packed on my chileno sense and just called the man right then and there. But I waited. Fortunately, by 7:30 I came to my senses and thought, DUH Emita, call him! So he answered, totally relaxed, ah yes, ok, let me call you back in a few minutes. Ok sure. He calls back, is right now ok for you? I said yes, wincing as I knew I was saying good bye to my gym class, but realizing I really needed this job. Everything turned out fine, and I tell this story not because it was particularly painful or a hard lesson to learn, but that somehow, after all this time, I still fall into the trap of thinking with my gringa sense. When one agrees to a time and place, that agreement is in fact true, a solid yes, and if I need something to be confirmed I say just that.
It's a different story here, my friends. It might seem a little backwards at first, but when someone says, hey let's get together! And you say, sweet! How about tomorrow? And they answer, ok, yeah! That DOES NOT mean you are going to get together tomorrow. Confused? I know. Now think about the fact that this applies to everything, not just informal social engagements. How do people run businesses like this? I have no idea! I can't tell fact from fiction! And boy does it cause a conundrum in relationships. Sometimes, just to make things less complicated, I ask D, "Now is that a Chilean yes or a gringo yes?" I realize this isn't an exactly fair comparison, Chilean with gringo, and I'm leaving out a lot of important cultural nuances, but it's what I've got to work with, so I'm sticking to it.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Saturday of New Things - the National Cemetery

This past Saturday I managed to use all my gringa charm to convince my lovely chileno to take me someplace that he would never go out of free will: the Cementerio Nacional, the national cemetery. I've been wanting to do something involving "conocer Santiago", or "Getting to Know Santiago". I've been living here for quite some time now, but there are still many places I've never been and I'm really quite the curious cat. So, after minor and major quibbling (I had in fact watched a zombie movie, which I HATE with a raging passion - all in the name of being agreeable), D agreed and Saturday morning we got up and braved the metro out to the Cementerios stop on the yellow line (in Recoleta).
It's really quite easy, the metro drops you at the entrance. We definitely lucked out, though, in our choice of meandering. I had no map of the cemetery, he had no clue what was heads or tails, so we wandered. And we magically came upon the more "important" tombstones of famous Chilean figures (like Balmaceda and Allende, as I have shown here).
We saw the more carefully manicured parts of the cemetery and the parts in "reconstruction" upheaval. There were large church-like tombs and extremely small ones where all that fit was the name of the deceased. It was beautiful, peaceful and especially calming to watch as the various Santiaguinos went about their tasks of cleaning and decorating their family's place of rest.
After practically overheating due to the major blast of hot weather that afternoon (and being uncomfortably overdressed) D dutifully asked random people where the memorial for the "desaparecidos" (or "disappeared") from the Pinochet dictatorship was. We found it with considerable ease when you think about the infamous nature of Chilean directions (they usually consist of various forms of saying "pa'ya" which means "over there" or are completely inaccurate) and we were able to look at the lists of people who disappeared and who were murdered during that time. All in all, it was very beautiful and so different from cemeteries back home. I was glad I had come and I had so luckily seen everything I wanted to see. My trip to the cemetery was complete.
After a good two hours wandering among tombstones, I needed some reinforcements. This for me almost always means ice cream. I asked D, while he was being so compliant, to accompany me to the Emporio de la Rosa, where I'd never been before. This is a wonderful little cafe right by Bellas Artes (where Merced basically meets up with Parque Forestal, right at the end of the street Lastarria) where they make incredible artesan ice cream. It was DELICIOUS. It's not cheap, but it was certainly worth it. Besides, the "simple" includes 2 flavors and I think I tried at least 10 before deciding. Diego and I shared, agreeing on the Chocolate Peperecino (or something of that persuasion) which was the chocolate I have been dreaming of since the states - it has cayenne in it and is divine, and the Yoghurt Guinda - guinda is like a cherry. The fruit had an incredible flavor and I love yogurt flavored ice cream (ever had the fro yo at Bloomingdales in NYC? Only the best thing EVER).
Although D and I have been going through somewhat of a rough patch - no one said moving to Chile was ever easy - this day was wonderful, and I am glad to say I have now been to both the Cementerio Nacional AND Emporio de la Rosa. Any flavor suggestions from those of you who have been? A trip back is definitely in order and I welcome any and all company!