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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

butter or grease? anyone? anyone?

Butter or grease? Perhaps from a European perspective, it's much of a muchness. But oh, the world of difference to me now. Every day I have to choose: butter or grease? Butter or grease? Because there are two kinds of half-moons in this country (and they never make a whole), and ne'er the twain shall meet (except in my belly). Half-moons, or medialunas, are the ubiquitous Buenos Aires' croissants, their curled up, slumbering figures lined up coyly dozing in bakeries and cafés the length and breadth of the city. And they come in two varieties: butter, or grease (the latter being a rough translation of the word grasa, referring to the oil used in their preparation). So much subtler than the cat/dog cliché, the subcategories in the half-moon war make the game infinitely more complex. A butter half-moon from Continental, the café across the street from my Time Out office, is worth ten of grease, but not if the grease are the simultaneously melting and crunchy variety (ooh, the blissful recollection) available from the Entre Rios panadería. And if they're warm, fresh out of the oven? Ah, that changes things too. The sweetly springy butter version rarely stands the test of time, but oh, when it's warm and soft from baking! And there are other factors to take in. Whether they are to be eaten with coffee or mate, whether it's morning or merienda (afternoon snack) time, whether you're dunking or eating it dry, whether you're starving or merely peckish. The permutations would leave even a committed croissant muncher dithering. Well, I'm going to go out on a limb here, and state my preference. I am going to define myself against the butter brigade, and go with grasa. And like Boca Juniors, this preference isn't something you can change on a whim. I am committed. Grease it is and the devil take me for it. Unless, of course, it's from Continental . . .

Monday, April 03, 2006

I still can't say what I want to say

It's been almost four years. I know how this city works. I speak the language. I've even mastered the slang. So why do I suddenly get tongue-tied in a hairdresser's, and find myself completely unable to explain what the hell I want? It was hard enough to understand what sleek golden haired Fabian was saying to me over the drone of hairdriers and the punchy punchy of electronic beats, but all of a sudden I found myself at a loss when it came to useful expressions like "thin out" and "the curls will bounce up and I will look like a Pomeranian". I felt under pressure, knowing that if I didn't get it right, I'd probably end up with a mullet. Which suddenly, scarily enough, doesn't seem so bad. Have I been here too long? Probably. But here's a funny thing that happened. The very kind gentleman who washed my hair also gave me a head massage in the process. A delicious, fifteen minute squish that left me so relaxed they could have shaved my head and I wouldn't even have whimpered in protest. And as he wrapped my towel on my head, he explained that my preferential treatment was due to the fact that my eyes made him melt. "Do you understand the word melt?" he asked me. Of course, that was the one word I did understand, and to show him the breadth of my knowledge, I started to define melt for him. What I meant to say was "yeah, it's when you heat up something and . . ." What I said, and in fairness to me it's such a small leap in Spanish, was "yeah, it's when you get all horny and . . . " Nice one Fiona. The sweet-talking gent was slightly taken aback at my graphic interpretation, and I was mortified. "Yeah, you're telling me that my eyes are so gorgeous, you want to jump my bones." Ahem. As soon as I saw his expression, I cringed, knowing that I'd made it sound like I thought he was saying what he obviously wasn't saying, or at least not explicitly, and mortified that, having teased and toed the line so expertly, I had suddenly, inadvertently lept right over it and landed myself practically in his lap. I was even too mortified to leave a tip, after all my hot talk. And I walked out there with big hair and a heavy heart, knowing that it'll be years, long light years, before I'll be easy enough with the language and the culture to be able to banter with the boys and come out with a decent haircut.