My biggest concern before arriving in Argentina was how I’d get along with my host family and the type of food I’d be eating with them. I’d heard a lot about the argentine love affair with beef (as we all have) and a bit about its rich Italian influence. What’s more, my trusty guidebook warned about the lack of vegetables, which it said the argentines consider a simple garnish. In my mind this translated to an extreme, protein-and-starch diet for the duration of my stay here, so during my last week in the States, I prepared to say good-bye to fresh greens, savoring every last salad or raw vegetable I could get my hands on.
Once in Argentina, I quickly realized that the food here is nothing to worry about. There are salads abound, the fruits are ripe and the vegetables fresh. And as for the beef, and especially for the abundance of Italian food, the Italian immigrants have done justice to their European heritage. My apprehension was clearly misplaced.
In fact, a few days ago I awoke to find my host mom making ñoquis caseros (home-made gnocchi). I was quite impressed: she was boiling and mashing the potatoes, adding in an egg, spices, and (best of all) chopped parsley. Before beginning to knead the gnocchi dough into flour and shaping them into the classic gnocchi shell shape, she even set a pan of tomato puree to simmer and reduce with onion, bell pepper, left-over chorizo, and more spices. It was going to be a fabulous lunch.
And indeed it was. I’d never really appreciated gnocchi before this meal because I had always found them heavy and tasteless. These, however, were something else: because they were made with very little flour, they were much lighter than expected. And paired with the reduced tomato sauce, the combination was more than perfect. Argentina has outdone itself once again.