Don’t Cry for Me Argentine Parrillada

My sister came into town on Thursday. I thought it was Friday on Wednesday, and couldn’t really tell what the date was after June 3rd, the last of the GP Junior exhibitions. When you’ve been working seven days a week, it’s hard to notice the days hat start with “s.” Starting off June with a commitment to sanity and my own well-being, I took an unprecedented two whole days off from work. [gasp]. They were glorious. Some people apply a strange term to these days of rest, and call it a “weekend.” This “weekend” thing and I are of late sadly estranged.

I would like to officially declare I’ve made out of my springtime slump. The causes are multitudinous, but can be distilled to a few greatest hits:

  1. The winding down of my West Wing retrospective marathon (just 2 episodes to go!)
  2. Another year of GP Junior wrapped up with a much lower disaster quotient than last
  3. People reaching out from my past, resulting in A. one completely unexpected romantic encounter proving that no, I am indeed not a leper and/or invisible and B. the subject of this post.

Sometimes I like people. It’s rare, I know, but it happens once in a while.

The Williamson girls went out for a real-estate reconnaissance run on a beautiful late spring eve, and A asked me what my plans were for the weekend. My goals, I replied, were simple: eat a real dinner every day (underlying overambitious subtext to actually eat three meals each day), do laundry, and get some exercise. Our crepuscular Thursday run followed by a delightful Brooklyn Public dinner was a good portent and gave me the push I needed to stick to the plan.

At some point during the week I received a quick email from the Miami girls to schedule a very long overdue get-together. I literally have no memory of when this happened, but I’m sure the email record will prove otherwise. I put it into the back of my head, tucked away from the insanity of party planning and life at Global Partners. Eventually, I realized that I’d invited people over to my place for dinner, and that I would have to feed them something. Immediately I thought of the summertime asados on the beaches of Patagonia, the slopes of the Andes, and the twinkling streets of Buenos Aires. Forgive me folks…If I can’t actually travel, I’ll have to use florid travel-language and relive past adventures. Such is life.

Friday arrived at last, and I managed to notify my guests that we’d be eating various forms of delicious grilled meat in honor of the gaucho life. Now, were does one go in New York City to find such quantities of animal flesh? The Meatpacking District, duh!

Seriously—I know you thought it was just full of sterilized condos and anorexic supermodels, but tucked in behind Chelsea Market there’s a tiny remnant of the former industrial area. Appropriately named, Western Beef is the BBQ host’s paradise where you can walk through plastic flaps into refrigerated aisles containing 20 and 30 lb. cuts of meat, and not just beef!
The Vespa “luggage” compartment was soon stocked with short ribs, chorizo, hanger steak and vidalias for the obligatory chimichurri sauce. But carnivores we are not, and I needed some non-meat supplies if I was going to faithfully recreated the most delicious multilayered diner sandwich from south of the equator: the lomito. Onwards then! Giddyup to the market! Am I confounding my cowboy cultures? Whatever.

Leafy greens, early tomatoes and eggs fresh from Ronnybrook Dairy loaded down my backpack, topped with brioche rolls and an Amy’s epi baguette looking more like a medieval torture device than the crusty wonder of deliciousness that it is.

The girls rolled in around eight with the steak marinating happily, the chorizo warming on the griddle. We popped a bottle of Malbec, plopped down on the floor around the coffee table and caught up on the past few months of each other’s lives.

I find that it’s hard to really keep in touch with people in the city. Nobody really comes over to just chill at your apartment, and most of my friends are scattered across two boroughs. I don’t know why it takes so much effort and coordination to get people in the same place, but for me it does. Fortunately, it’s completely worth it.

The dreary winter and busy schedules had kept us apart for months, so we said our hellos over a toast while the short ribs sizzled under the broiler. The courses trotted out over the next few hours: I sliced the chorizo and baguette as we heard about A’s first year of law-school; we spooned spicy chimichurri reminiscing about school in Miami and learning about M’s new school in NYC; much girly giggling was had by all as I recounted the bizarre events of last week. We finished a bottle and I re-suited up in my cooking gear for the obramaestra.

In a veritable grand finale of an evening, I sliced tomatoes, toasted brioche, layered la quercia prosciutto lettuce and provolone, fried eggs, seared steak and finally served up three perfect lomitos as we moved on to the present and future of our lives. When it’s been a while, you need at least four courses to catch up before you can get a discussion going and really talk about anything interesting. Luckily I think we had five, including a decidedly un-gaucho peach pie. Aah, Argentina, the truth is we’ve never left you. You’re far too tasty to forget. It’s good to know that I can remember Buenos Aires and my little Odyssey in the company of friends and have it truly a fond memory. I think that means todo anda bien.

Spending a whole day with food, zipping around town on a sunny day running errands, running in the park under the elms, and then making a meal into an evening of friends and debate is pretty much the best part of life. On a night like this, feeding the people you love is as far removed from the elemental necessity of ingesting nutrients as the end of the earth. It’s tragic that some people treat the process of shopping, preparing and sharing food as a chore. That kind of attitude brings hint of tears to my eyes, and there will be no crying here, that’s for sure. Life is good here as the sun warms the east coast and summer begins to stir.

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