Monthly Archives: December 2007

First Week

I spent Christmas with a family in La Junta. Lillian, the woman who keeps everything running smoothly around here by cleaning and helping in the kitchen, felt bad that I had nobody to spend Christmas with, so she invited me over to have dinner with her family. Since last year I had a Christmas dinner and we ate at about 2:30PM, I was a little worried when at around 8:30 she still hadn’t picked me up. I thought that maybe I had said that I was going to walk to their house, which would be bad since I didn’t know where it was. Lillian (at the head of the table in the pic below) came and picked me up, and then I sat around in their living room, since we didn’t start eating dinner until 10!

Dinner was delicious, there was a lot of great food including a salad that was a cross between coleslaw and guacamole, different kinds of salsa, and some meat. I made a lemon-poppy seed pound cake that was a hit.

A few hours and many glasses of wine later, I was surprised when they started to open presents, but I guess that’s how they do it down here. Many items were received, and one of the kids got an “MP34” player. I was stoked when Lillian handed me a beautiful handmade basket. I thought it was awesome that she even thought to get me anything, let alone spend time to make something handmade. At this point we had moved on to scotch and, my first real day of work being tomorrow, decided I had to go to bed. I got to sleep around 2, and the next day I heard they all went out dancing and didn’t get in until 4:30! It’s hard for me to picture where they would do that, in this town of 500 people, but hopefully there will be another holiday sometime and I’ll be able to go with them.

Then, of course, the guests arrived the next afternoon. I had been cooking and baking a lot, trying to stock up the kitchen before everyone arrived. We cooked up a storm this week and the days were long, but fun. We make breakfast, lunch, and dinner so I’m up at 6 and working until the kitchen is clean, which can be as late as 10. For breakfast there’s always a sweet dish, like coffeecake, as well as a hot dish, like pancakes or waffles. We also do eggs to order, bacon, and sausage. So for about an hour the kitchen turns into a short-order restaurant. Then we make and pack lunches that the guests eat on the river, and either take a break or start right into prepping dinner or things for tomorrow. For dinner, we’ve made some great stuff. One night we made homemade cheese-filled ravioli, which was delicious. We also served a fish of the region called Congrio with risotto and a roasted tomato sauce.

Last night was the Lamb Asado that some of you have heard about. It’s the guests’ last night, so it’s kind of a celebration. For appetizers I made thin-crust pizzas that were excellent. 1. Roasted tomato, spinach, and parmesan. 2. Salami, onion, and green olive. 3. Bacon, blue cheese and carmelized onion. 4. Green Pepper, red pepper, and onion. It was fun throwing around some pizzas and I’m looking forward to improving my pizza game over the next few months. The oven here has a stone bottom, so we roll the pizzas on Silpats and then cook them right on the stone, so the cheese browns on top and the crust gets crispy on the bottom.

Then we move down to the barbecue house, which is down a hill closer to the river, where Christian, the main administrator and manager after Frans and Anna, has been barbecuing a whole lamb and slowly basting it with Chimichurri sauce for the last several hours. There are plenty of salads on the table, grilled potatoes, fresh bread, and plenty of wine. And Crepes Suzette for dessert. All in all, a delicious end to the week.

Now I have a few days off before it all starts again next week…

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Mi Casa

Here’s a picture of the house I live in now. It’s across a field from the La Junta lodge and about a 15 minute walk from town. There are two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen.

“Home” at last

Well, I finally made it to La Junta lodge, where I’ll be for the next five months.  All the wine for both lodges was dropped off here, so we had to split it evenly and then pack half of it away here, and move the other half into a trailer to go back to Puerto Cardenas lodge, and I am exhausted.

This lodge is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I’ve ever been, and I’m excited to live here.  It’s right on the river, of course, and there are all sorts of birds around (there’s a pair of binoculars and a bird guide to the area in the lodge that I hope to use if I have time).  Right behind the lodge are some rolling hills where cows are grazing, and a few miles behind those hills are more snow-capped mountains.

A few nights ago at the other lodge, the meat and fish order showed up, at around 6PM.  So we had to put all the meat away, and filet the fish and split it into nice little portions.  I had never filleted a whole fish before and I think I did pretty good considering.

Tomorrow we’re going to spend stocking up the kitchen here.  There’s still a week or so before the guests arrive here, but I’ll try to post some pictures of anything good we make and the area around La Junta.  The internet connection here is only dialup, but I shall do my best.

Mountains and Rivers

I haven’t had much time to write or do anything.  We’re making all sorts of pastry doughs, stocking up for when the guests arrive.  So far we’ve made croissants, danish, puff pastry, whole wheat bread, white bread, challah, and some pie dough.  Later today we’ll make some cookies.  I don’t have any pictures of food, but here are some pictures of the area around Chaiten.

Not a bad view from the back porch…

Greetings From Santiago

So, I made it Santiago.  Of course, the hard part actually begins tomorrow, when I get on two more planes to get to Chaiten, and (in theory) start working. 

 Today I tried to do some exploring and walking that I thought would get rid of the jetlag.  I´ve never flown directly south before, and even though the plane ride was about 9 hours long, it´s only two hours later here.  I think the weird feeling you get after being on a plane for that long is just from being stuck on the plane for that long instead of the change in time zones.  For me, what´s weirder than the fact that it´s summer here is that all of a sudden it´s light out until 9PM again. 

Well, I went out to get some lunch and email and then realized I was totally exhausted and took a long nap.  When I woke up, I was hungry again (no surprise there) and in dire need of coffee.  So I decided to make things really complicated and get on a subway to explore a different neighborhood (Bellavista for those of you into details).  My guidebook said it was ¨hip¨and ¨bohemian¨so I figured there would be some good coffee there. However, what I found instead was about a mile of outdoor cafes with Chilean hipsters of all sorts drinking beer.  I did finally find the most touristy place and spent about 4$ on a couple of coffees.  Ordering coffee in a foreign country, you never know what you´re going to get, but I asked for ¨mas fuerte¨and I was rewarded for my persistence.

The hostel where I´m staying for the night is located in the Historic District and I did some walking around there afterwards.  I will describe what you see in the image below:
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This man was singing to a large crowd as people got their hair cut in front of them.  I´m not sure what the connection was, but I do know that I´ve never seen anyone get their hair cut in public before. It definitely made me want to try it though, at least once. 

However, little did he know that this small group of teenage carnies was about to steal the show:

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Here´s a picture of the ensuing mayhem:

I pretty much took off after that, and I have spent the last forty minutes uploading and formatting these pictures, and guess what, I am hungry again.