ENFOQUE—FOCUS An American Dream: Passion for Argentinean Cooking I was looking for a recipe for vegetarian empanadas when I came across Rebecca’s blog—an American married to a Mendocino, Guillermo—and taken by the cuisine of Argentina. Rebecca’s blog, “From Argentina With Love” isn’t just a recap of cooking recipes, rather a collection of personal stories, of the places Rebe (as her husband Guillermo calls her) visits in Mendoza, and the tradition and legends behind each one of the recipes she shares. To ‘cook’ with Rebe goes beyond the simple preparation of a dish, to connect with each of the ingredients, each of the flavors and scents, with the origins of the plate you’re preparing, to transport yourself as back in time to our motherland and connect with our Rioplatense (from the Buenos Aires area) roots, with love. So I decided to call Rebecca and learn more about this American woman with a great passion for the cuisine of her husband’s country, Argentina, and is working so ardently to make her own ‘American Dream’. I found myself talking to someone truly charming on the other end of the line. “When Guillermo took me to Mendoza to meet his family for the first time, I fell in love with everything—the generosity of the people, the beautiful landscape, and of course, the food”, said Rebecca. Guillermo comes from a small town in the Mendoza province called Bowen. Rebecca told me that “In the U.S., some people are making an effort to revive the art of growing their own vegetables, bake their own bread, can their own jam or tomato sauce, or cure their own meats. But in Argentina, that’s the way things have always been done.” For that reason, says Rebecca, “The quality of the food is much better, much fresher, and because of that the flavor of the food is better, without the need for heavy sauces or without using many spices.” Rebecca is full of personal stories, that she’s accumulated over her multiple visits to Mendoza. “Bowen has a small family bakery called ‘Al Pan Pan,’ that’s been run by the same family for three generations. I love the warm welcome that they always give me when I visit Al Pan Pan and seeing them bake the bread and the pastries. I always feel that there’s a real human connection with what they’re preparing.” Another of the many places that Rebecca likes to visit whenever she can is the ice cream shop Piré in Bowen, Mendoza. Rebecca tells me that “the grandfather of the owner was an Italian immigrant who started with an ice-cream cart and built his business. Today, a woman prepares all 67 ice cream flavors available at Piré from memory—and she’s the only one who knows how to prepare them. Rebecca likes to visit places in Mendoza that tourists don’t always go. “One of the best barbecued chickens I’ve had in my life was from a stand on the side of the road, in San Martin, or in the Pizzeria Capri—which claims to be the oldest pizzeria in Mendoza—recommended to us by a parking-lot attendant—it was unforgettable.” But does a true ‘Argentinean Gastronomy’ exist? Even though the base ingredients are the same as in American cuisine, Argentineans have created their own dishes with a singular personality. “Each group of immigrants has brought their own gastronomic culture with them, but through history, these recipes have transformed themselves into something characteristically Argentinean. Some example of Argentinean dishes (although they are similar to dishes in other parts of the world) and that represent Argentina are alfajores (origins in Spain), milanesas, (origins in Italy), arrollado de matambre, chimichurri or pastel de papas (origins in England) and of course, empanadas. But just as these dishes were born as something else in their countries of origin, the they’ve transformed themselves into something totally different, into something completely Argentinean.” Rebecca’s blog has become a reference point for me. If you, too, would like to connect with the origins and history of our cuisine, don’t hesitate to visit ‘From Argentina With Love’ and cook with Rebe. Rebecca Caro is a freelance food and travel writer, and author of the award-winning blog about the food and culture of Argentina, From Argentina With Love. Her recipes and articles have been published in Cookie, 5280, Natural Solutions, Draft, and Dining Out magazines. Her recipes have appeared on the websites of the Food Network and Wines of Argentina. She has appeared on the Departure Time radio show on Radio Studio 1430 and at the Museo de las Americas. She teaches cooking classes at the Seasoned Chef Cooking School and Whole Foods, and is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and Slow Food International. Rebecca is writing a cookbook about the rich culinary traditions of Argentina. And she can be contacted at www.fromargentinawithlove.com or at [email protected] Rebecca lives in Denver with her family.