Sunday, September 6, 2009

Santiago: You can't always get what you want, even if it's on the menu

Here in Chile we like to play a little game. It goes like this: See this thing on the menu? Well, I'd like to order it. You can't order it. Hmmm, what about this other thing? Nope, that either.

Alternatively, you can order something that's on the menu, be told that you can have it, and then when it arrives, more than half of the ingredients are missing. You may order a sandwich with bean sprouts, goat cheese, arugula and avocado, and find that it comes with quesillo (like solid cottage cheese, no relation to goat cheese), no sprouts, lettuce and measly amounts of avocado, in a country where avocados actually do grow on trees.

This is confusing and annoying, but also humorous. So much so that when I was out with a friend the other day, the ex of an ex (which by the way, I heartily recommend to you that you become good friends with your exes exes, and not so that you can pelarlos (lit: peel them, but in Chile means to make fun of), but because if he/she had good enough taste to date you, then chances are that the other exes are equally shmabulous, and this one totally is), we could do nothing but laugh when I asked for something at a café and was told that they were out of said item.

Specifically, we were at the Crepe Cafe at Drugstore in Providencia (map here), which is a place to which I will happily never return, as their prices are self-importantly high ($3800 CLP for a crepe which is more of a tidbit than a meal), and the food is not even as good as Crepes and Waffles, that Colombian chain with locations around town and at Parque Arauco and which saved a certain six-year-old's dinner on a few occasions when I was in Cartagena (Colombia, not Chile, and those of us in Chile will know why I am quick to point this out, Cartagena being a beach town that everyone likes to pelar (see above!)). And the first crepe I tried to order at the Crepe Cafe was salmon, even though I try not to eat salmon in Chile because it is all farmed and OH NO, the poor fishies, and the lakes and the bacteria and the antibiotics and some green dye they put in it to make it look redder, and man is it toxic (says this article)

So. No salmon for me.

And my friend and I laughed, and talked about how menus in Chile are not really about what they have on offer now, so much as what was, at one point available. "Ya no trabajamos con eso" (we no longer have that) is a common response to a restaurant request. You'd think that with the popularity of corrector (white-out), they could fix the menu situation, since often it is an item that's been on the menu for years, and that they haven't had since the menu was printed. Like the "bagel" sanwich at Gatsby, which comes on a baguette, but still appears on the menu as a bagel, which reminds me very much of a time when someone I know was served a spinach salad that was comprised of lettuce. When she complained, she was told it was spinach lettuce. You know, like the famous bagel baguette. Or the invisible salmon crepe.

This conversation about menus offering things that are not available got us to thinking, and me to making analogies (surprise!). The next time I have an party in my cuchutríl (hovel), and you ask me who is coming over, I will tell you the name of every person who has ever been in my apartment, regardless of whether or not I am still in touch with this person, whether they were invited, and how likely I think it is that they will come. I will also name people that I'd like to come, but who I don't know, or live too far away. If we can imagine sandwich fillings, certainly we can imagine a tiny apartment stuffed to bursting with humanity.

Which is my way of telling you that, much like the delicious food I sought on Friday, and was later denied (though somewhat redeemed by a really good coffee at Sebastián, one of the best ice cream places in Santiago), my apartment search is turning up a lot of duds.


Still Life in South America said...

I agree on the Crepe Cafe. A crepe was one of my last meals in Santiago, and it left me hungry. You know it's not enough when I'm looking for more!

Bystander said...

Have you tried Mr Lafitte on Francisco Noguera in Provi for crêpes?

Emily said...

as soon as i started reading this post i thought of the "bagel" sandwich at gatsby. so disappointing.

Eileen said...

The Crepe Cafe is a grand disappointment, it's true, but I should mention that I'm not actually a huge fan of crepes, though I'm always game for anything with Nutella, oh sweet hydrogenated fat.

Thanks all for commenting from near and far, and I should tell Bystander that I bought chickpeas IN A CAN today and it's all very exciting, and I can't wait to put them to good use.

And I should say that a little truth in advertising can go a long way towards deflating disappointment before it has a chance to take hold. Alas, dreaded cultural construct!

Danielle said...

lol..if you love nutella you should make a stop in my kitchen..i bake a lot naughty and wiked desserts with nutella...:-)

Emily said...

We had a dessert crepe at Mr Lafitte the other day, and it was good but small. Also, no Nutella from what I could see, and in my opinion the best crepes contain Nutella and strawberries.

I always buy chickpeas in a can...they're expensive, but frankly my time is worth it. And I feel fancy because my Lider stocks them.

(Also, just for the record, I am not the same Emily as above...I really should have come up with a more original name for my Google profile!)

Margaret said...

your blog makes me smile and laugh and think all at the same time. thanks!

Eileen said...

So many Emilys and Margarets, I'm getting confused. Happy to see you all here, though.

The chickpeas in a can I have to be several miles from my house to find, and I find the price scandalously high, but still delicious. I don't really live in the hood, and yes, there is nutella in the supermarket, but we don't go too far afield with the kooky ingredients.

Welcome from Osaka via Samoa Margaret! I'm sure you could regale us with a tale or two. In fact, I'm sure you can, having now perused your blog, oh the indignity of the hip beside yours.

Hey! everyone! go click on someone else's blog you see from here. Won't that be fun? More fun than being denied a sandwich anyway. Or a sanwich, as I, apparently like to spell it.