Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chao Mendoza

After ten weeks in wonderful Mendoza we said good-bye and packed our bags for Salta, Argentina. We had mixed feelings. We were ready for the next part of our adventure but sad to leave new friends. We met so many wonderful people in Mendoza - Nike Running Team who sincerely welcomed us, Mercedes & Javier from B&B Italia, Melina - my Spanish teacher, friends from our Spanish classes.
Melina, my friend and a great teacher, is to my left. 
Before we left, our friend Carlos invited us to his house for dinner with his wife and daughter. We met Carlos in the running group early on and he and John hit it off right away.

Carlos' wife, Veronica,  cooked a wonderful dinner - homemade chicken milanesa, a fantastic carrot and apple salad, mashed potatoes, and, of course, wine.  Dessert was dulce de leche and banana pudding followed by a glass of fernet and coke. The food was incredible and we had fun visiting with Carlos and his family. His daughter is ten years old, and I was able to practice my spanish.  We talked about dolls, the color pink, field hockey and Disneyland.

Our last Saturday in Medoza, the running group had plans to run in San Rafael, about an hour and a half from Mendoza, and then have an asado. We carpooled to San Rafael, and after a dropping off our clothes to change into and taking a few group photos, the team drove to the start about two miles away. Thanks to Turco, our coach, who toted John and I around to more than one asado during our time in Mendoza!  We ran 18km on dirt roads with the mountains on one side and farms and vineyards on the other.

By the time we made it back to the asado, we were ready to clean up and eat. Turco brought a bottle of wine to share with John and me, so we shared a toast and drank wine to recover from our long run. I could get used to this!
Coaches Turco y Martin
The asado was in a yard with a huge kitchen and dining area behind a bank. The wife of the bank's manager runs with the group, and they hosted us. Friends gathering to enjoy conversation and food - that's the heart of an asado. There is always an asador who grills the meat and watches the fire. People  bring their own plates, cups and silverware, so there is no plastic waste, and the host doesn't spend money on disposable table wear. It is brilliant.
Some folks bring this set-up while others bring a plate/cutlery from their kitchen. This is pretty fantastic, though. 
Asados seem like a big production but everyone works together to make it easy, so the host(ess) doesn't have to do everything. It seems like there is more emphasis on everyone visiting and being together than guests being waited on, so to speak. People bring overflowing bags of bread and produce they buy from the roadside stands, and minutes before the meat is ready, they throw together wonderful salads tossed with vinegar and olive oil.

I love the big salads - lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, carrots. I will confess that John and I brought a huge bag of potato chips and it was barely touched. In addition to the salads and bread, there are open bottles of wine and coke on the table. Everyone helps themselves. The asador periodically walks around with a cutting board full of new cuts of meat and the guests select which piece they want. People don't pile their plates with food from the beginning, instead, people eat bit by bit - a little meat, a little salad, a roll, repeat the cycle a few times as the asador comes around and then you're full.

Martin, el asador
After a few hours, we said our goodbyes and thank-you's, and returned to Mendoza to finish packing. Sad to say good-bye but also excited for the next part of our journey!

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