Archive for September, 2010

Not only tango

Monday, September 20th, 2010

There’s more to Argentina than Buenos Aires. And there’s more to Buenos Aires than tango. Or so I’m told.

Actually there really is. Although my focus this visit has been tango I have done a few non-tango things. Today was a day for something else – learning to make empanadas. This was another recommendation from my friend Sally, described in her blog here. There is a tango connection though because empanadas are staple food for a lot of people at many milongas.

I cut short rather a good night’s dancing at la Milonguita so I could get up early enough this morning to get to Adrogue at 11am for the Cooking with Teresita Empanadas Argentinas Cooking Class. Teresita’s web site gives directions for several modes of transport. I chose the Adrogue shuttle bus from Cerrito and Tucuman. It was $8 (pesos not dollars) one way and took about an hour and a quarter. On a good day it might only take 50 minutes but don’t count on it. On a bad day your shuttle might get stopped by transit authority inspectors and another 15-30 minutes added to your journey. I recommend taking the train from Constitucion station instead. Only $1.10 and 30 minutes each way.

Despite the traffic I arrived just on time and was greeted by the delightful Teresita and her husband, Raul. There were only two other people on the course today (the maximum number is eight) and we waited a few minutes for them to arrive. When they hadn’t arrived by 11:15 we started without them. Brilliant, a one-to-one cookery class. Irwin and Kwin arrived just as we finished chopping ingredients. They had taken a shuttle bus too. They actually boarded theirs 15 minutes before I got in mine, and guess what happened to them.

Under instruction from Teresita we cooked the fillings for the two types of empanadas (carne and humita). Good empanadas start with cold fillings so they went into the freezer to chill for a while. We retired to the garden to learn about and sample the right wines to accompany meat and corn empanadas. Then it was dough making, stuffing and cooking. We made both baked and deep fried empanadas. Two fillings times two cooking methods made four types for sampling.

Back to the garden we went to eat the fruits of our (not very hard) labours and drink more wine. We ate until we were stuffed and chatted until the wine was gone. Teresita provided doggie-bags to take away our uneaten empanadas. We took the train back from the suburbs. No prizes for guessing what I’m having for dinner tonight. Followed by facturas of course!

If you want to try something different I can thoroughly recommend Teresita’s empanadas course.

Paying it forward

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

About three months ago a British tanguero turned up in Buenos Aires for a couple of weeks. It was his first time here. He knew the names of a couple of milongas and what the cabeceo was but not a lot else about dancing tango here. It was a bad time of year to be a lone tanguero on a first visit. The milongas were very quiet and you had to be at the right one on the right night to have much chance of a dance. I was able to help him out and hopefully made his visit better than it might have been otherwise.

Then about seven weeks ago another woefully under-prepared British tanguero turned up in Buenos Aires for a month. It was his first time here. He knew the names of some tango teachers and a couple of milongas. He knew nothing about the cabeceo or most of the other things that are useful to know. I met him on his second night here, in El Beso where he was having a crap time. I gave him a spare copy of the Caserón Porteño Tango Map and Guide (essential survival gear for all tangueros) and explained the cabeceo. He danced a couple of tandas that night. I was able to tell him which milongas were worth a visit on which nights of the week, what the music, people and dancing were like in each of them. He preferred dancing close embrace to traditional music, the same as me, so we hung out together at several milongas over the next few weeks. He did a lot of group classes and found some of them good, a lot of them not so good. Group classes are very hit-and-miss affairs. I think they can be a good way of meeting people to go to milongas with another time, but not much use for improving your dancing there and then. He met a Turkish tanguera at one of the classes and the three of us went to milongas and did some sightseeing together. I suggested other sightseeing things to do, and recommended somewhere for him to buy shoes. He ended up buying 7 pairs I think from different places including my recommendation. The Turkish tanguera went home.

About two and a half weeks into his visit my tanguera friends from the UK, Sam and Jo, arrived here for their holiday. The four of us went to several milongas and did some sightseeing together. My tanguero friend went home and then a few days later so did the tangueras. I got nice emails from the three of them thanking me for helping them get the most from their time in Buenos Aires.

Helping them all out was great fun and a way of paying forward the help I received from Sally, whose marvellous blog Sallycat’s Adventures provided me with invaluable background information before my first visit to Buenos Aires in December 2009. I hope my friends will pay it forward in turn if they have the opportunity to do so.

Standards, what standards?

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I’ve blogged about the “Lunes de Tango” milonga at Club Gricel before. I’ve just got in from another Monday night there where there were more codigo violations to add to my list.

First off, who thinks a baggy t-shirt printed with “Fuck Google, ask me” in big letters across the chest is appropriate attire for a milonga? Who thinks it is a good idea to let someone wearing said t-shirt into a milonga? He looked and sounded like a porteño, in his fifties I would guess. There were mostly locals in, and very few tourists. OK, it was printed in English so some or even a lot of them might not have known what it said. But no-one else knew what it said? I find that hard to believe.

It is not uncommon for guys, especially those in poor seats, to go sharking around a milonga looking for a partner after a tanda has started. Women are not supposed to do the same thing. They might get up and visit el baño, or walk outside for a cigarette to increase their visibility but they’re not supposed to go sharking. And they’re definitely not supposed to verbally invite men to dance as they cruise past. She was in her fifties, looked and sounded like a porteña. “Bailas milonga” she asked on her way back from el baño. Surprised I shook my head and replied “No”. She didn’t break stride, just kept walking. She probably knew I was an extranjero. Maybe she thought I wouldn’t recognise or mind the codigo violation, or I’d be flattered.

Things just aren’t what they used to be.