Thursday, 24 September 2009

A Glutton´s Journey

It has been many months now since the tin of Heinz baked beans sat proudly on the table, hand delivered from London to the southernmost tip of Argentina. And what delight it brought to those who sat down to dinner that night, indulging in a taste of home.

Yet since that day, rather than increasing with time, cravings for the culinary delights of the British Isles has rapidly diminished. Set aside at each border to instead mourn the loss of the delicious discoveries, inevitably made and then quickly lost with each new place. To be remembered, craved, and ultimately, shared, in a gluttonous day which is no less than perfect, although perhaps a little far from possible...

A platter of fresh fruit drenched in yogurt and a sprinkling of granola greets the day in Sucre market, surrounded by the bustle of potato sales in the heart of Bolivia. Wash it down with a juice from Kensho restaurant in a barrio of Buenos Aires, as the chef shares secrets of fresh ginger. Or a mango juice from the streets of Rio-de-Janeiro, to calm the baking sun.

Late morning, stroll down Calle Chocolate in Bariloche for a melting taste of Belgium amongst the Patagonian pines. Or head back already to Buenos Aires, where a white bench waits by Parque Lezama, to soak up drips stolen from the customers of the Heladería.

A few blocks away lies a lunch of deep-pan Spanish omelette, delicious enough to endure the grumpiest chef in all of South America, who will barely endure your smiles. Cram in with the locals for a soup in Cochabamba market; knowing nothing of the ingredients, but being sure the recipe is bound to Bolivia. Try one last taste of Argentina before heading to the equator, and drizzle chimichurri all over a steaming choripan, down a side street of San Telmo.

The long journey north brings with it an appetite, and afternoon tea is served in Ecuador. With cacao fresh from the jungle oozing from Killari cafe's brownies, it may be impossible to leave Quito. But you must, to become out of place in Otavalo, eating an apple pie surely stolen from the Dutch, and disguised with a dollop of icecream. And as the afternoon light fades, warm up with a mate cocido in Filadelphia, Paraguay, where soft spice wakens warn milk. Or sip hot chocolate in Cacao y Canela cafe in Cuenca, infused with a little too much liquor.

Wait not for main courses at dinnertime; start with a piping hot pumpkin empanada, appearing out of a woven basket only on Sundays, as the crowds gather on the streets of San Telmo. Perhaps a humita in Quito's Old Town, dipped dangerously deep in aji.

After an age of waiting a main course will come; garlic prawns served on plastic tables along Copacabana beach; a banana pizza sprinkled with cinnamon to confuse the cheese, on Isla Grande, Brazil. If the night is cold, take your knife and fork to Asunción, for a shredded beef risotto, to challenge the palette of Paraguay's steak-obsessed neighbour. Order a side of roast potatoes, littered with fresh herbs and baked in the fire of a farm near Malchingui, Ecuador.

Drink nothing but Malbec throughout, sipped upon a vineyard roof terrace in Mendoza, Argentina. Dessert will come on wheels, in a glass trolley across the beach of Ilha Grande to tempt you into excess. End with an aperitif of hot canelazo, served from a steaming spiced cauldron on La Ronda, Quito. And perhaps a fig pisco on ice, please, from the vineyards of Ica, Peru.

And if Christ the Redeemer has not yet struck us all down from his Brazilian hilltop, to the bar it must be. Adding a sugary zest to the night with
a cachaça-filled caipirinha overlooking the islands of Florianópolis. And an impossibly cold pisco sours at Fallen Angel, Cuzco. As exhaustion calls you to bed, stand only for a toast - to the day of delights - and drink down your shot of snake juice in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.

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