Coffee and Sweets
They LOVE dulce de leche here. (Dulce de leche is a thick caramel goo. Delicious, and very rich.) They fill cookies, breads, churros, cakes, and pastries with it, smear it on toast or crackers for breakfast or tea, put it in coffee drinks, smoothies or milkshakes, yogurt…basically everything edible here is partially comprised of dulce de leche. Another foreign exchange student told me his host mother once offered to make him an omelet filled with dulce de leche!
Dulce de leche ice cream (the ice cream here is expensive, but worth it), crepes layered with dulce de leche, flan covered in dulce de leche…
Often we (or maybe I’m speaking for myself here) eat it plain, by the spoonful, scooping it out from the tub in the refrigerator.
My host sister taught me how to eat dulce de leche with bananas for dessert. There are two methods, she told me. This is serious business. You can slice the banana and drag the slices through the dulce de leche. Or you can mash the banana with a fork and swirl in the dulce de leche, then eat the final product like pudding. I prefer the first way, she likes the second.
I think by the time I leave Argentina, I will be comprised of about 80% dulce de leche.
The most well-known or popular cookies are called “alfajores”. These consist of two shortbread type cookies sandwiching a thick layer of dulce de leche, with the edges rolled in shredded coconut. The bakeries sell them ranging from quarter sized to larger than my fist.
In la UBA, there is a table at the entry of the facultad that sells sandwiches, apples, portions of cake, and the miniature version of the coconut rolled alfajores in packs for 1 peso each. I always like to buy one, then walk up the stairs and buy a small coffee in a styrofoam cup from one of the coffee and tea stands. I think the woman who sells the alfajores downstairs judges me for only buying one. She raises her eyebrows and repeats, “one?” As in, how could you only want one? They are so rich, one is enough for me. Which is saying something, considering I have a ridiculous sweet tooth.
Kiosks and cafes sell individually wrapped alfajores, usually the chocolate dipped (milk chocolate or white) variation, sans the shredded coconut. Before I leave Argentina, I am making it my mission to sample every brand. So far I prefer the alfajores sold by the Havana chain of cafes. I like that you can select from their menu the “special” of your choice of espresso beverage plus an alfajor. Coffee, alfajores, medialunas (porteño version of croissants), and the omnipresent dulce de leche…I am in a caffeine/sugar addict’s paradise.
I wonder if the fact that the porteños never seem to sleep arises from the fact that there is a café on every corner in Buenos Aires. Or rather, if the fact that there is a café on every corner is part of the reason why the porteños never seem to sleep.
My daily coffee intake before coming to Argentina was already high. Now it is out of control. I can’t help it! I love coffee, it is especially delicious here, and very readily available. It is in my house for breakfast or afternoon consumption. When I go to cafes to study, ordering a coffee is a cheaper option than ordering a full lunch. Also, I take many classes at night, in la UBA, from 5 to 11 pm. So I need to buy a small cup of coffee (or two!) from a coffee stand to stay awake and focused. The first floor has two or three stands, so does the second. There are also at least 5 kiosks or fotocopiadoras or cafes that sell cheap styrofoam cups of coffee within a two second walk of the facultad. I am going to miss the cheap, not the greatest, tiny styrofoam cup coffees from the university. The powdered milk that the woman stirs into the cup with a plastic spoon, never managing to get rid of all the clumps. The display of boxes of tea to choose from, a cup of sugar to help yourself to, sticking in bits to the serving spoon from the humidity. And the platter of cellophane wrapped pastries and alfajores.