Category Archives: food

Two Lines, No McD’s for Me

I had some time before my bus departed so I thought I’d grab something quick to eat and test out the currency exchange.Of course there was a McDonald’s. With an insanely long line.I had decided McDonald’s was not in my immediate future, but I took a few seconds to observe since it looked like organized chaos. McDonald’s took up a rather large part of the terminal yet have two completely separate operations going on. I’m not even sure if it was totally effective but again, it was very calm. Maybe this is what Laura was referring to about how Uruguayans are never in a rush.

This is what I gathered from the situation in front of me. If you wanted food or soda, you stand in line at one of the five registers. Then just to the side, there’s an offshoot McDonald’s that only serves ice cream, dessert or milkshakes. Because the line at the main McDonald’s was so long, they basically intertwined.Needless to say, I went to a little vendor in the bus terminal and grabbed a bag of chips and an apple juice. Not so healthy but technically I did get a fruit and a vegetable. My version of ‘fast food.’


Mate, Pronounced like Mah-Tay

Later in the day Laura’s cousin, Irina, came over and joined us.

At this point Laura invited me to stay the night. I had cancelled my reservation at the hostel and went with the flow.

Together the four of us chatted like old friends, visited the aquarium, more of the waterfront (where I had been the day prior before meeting Laura), a church and the main street in the historic section.

Before sunset, Irina and Laura’s mom headed to a concert in a park and Laura and I headed to the beach for one of Uruguay’s most beloved traditions. Mate!

I learned about mate when the boyfriend and I visited Argentina last year and I was about to get reacquainted very quickly.

To say that mate is tea doesn’t do the popular beverage any justice.

Mate seems like a complicated concoction with the thermos tucked away in a leather case, a silver-rimmed cup made from a gourd and silver metal straw. And that’s just the paraphenalia needed to prepare mate. There is also a bag of yerba leaves, the brand is debatable depending on which mate-crazed country (Uruguay, Argentina and Uruguay) you are in.

First the mate goes in, packed tight in the cup, and one has to shake it a bit to get rid of the loose leaves. Then the hot water has to be poured at just the right angle so the leaves don’t float. The metal straw gets placed in just right.

And then it gets passed around. It’s just a chance to hang out and chat. There’s an etiquette. If you don’t want to drink more, you politely decline.

You know it’s time to add more water, when you hear the slurping noises when you are solely sipping air and leaves.

I was actually given the opportunity later on in my trip to prepare the mate. I drank leaves. You’re not supposed to. Let’s just say I will leave it to the experts to prepare.

Laura had packed plenty of snacks and we headed off to one of Colonia’s beautiful beaches. We shared mate on the beach and watched the sunset.

Exploring Colonia with Laura

Before we left, Laura’s mom, who was visiting from Miami and did not speak any English, had asked what we wanted for lunch. I knew I was in meat lovers country but I did let her know that I wasn’t much of a meat-eater. And she said no problem. That, I understood!

Note: I became a “vegetarian” later in the trip, not because of my experience here, because apparently pollo (chicken) is not considered meat. I love hamburgers but this is not hamburger country. This is a land that loves carne (meat) and enjoys all kinds of tastes and textures that, unfortunately, I just cannot appreciate. It was easier to just say that I was soy vegetariano (I am vegetarian). If you know me, please laugh. If you don’t know me, I say this because I am not the biggest fan of cooked vegetables yet I ate more than my share on this trip.

Laura and I ventured out and we walked into the historic center of town. We passed a lot of places I had visited the day before, but this time I got a fully translated explanation of what I was looking at, and the history behind it. I couldn’t have asked for a better guide!

Laura gave me a history lesson on the Spanish and Portuguese influence on this very important port city.

There are eight museums in the (for lack of a better word) system. Each focuses on some part of the Spanish and Portuguese history that this city is so full of because of the history that created this city. All of the placards in the museums were in Spanish with no translations anywhere.

As a teacher, Laura was keen to improve my Spanish before I left Colonia! She’d let me read the plaques in the museums and once I got the words translated to the best of my ability, I had to give her my best guess of what it actually meant. Then she would give me a proper English translation since many of my translations didn’t make much sense! Close, I was told. I think she was just being very nice.

We walked along the waterfront and chatted like old friends. I learned that Laura didn’t like heights but she insisted I climb to the top of the lighthouse for some incredible water views while she waited on solid ground below.

The walk up, was not for the faint of heart.

I did love these trees on the way up.

The views up were incredible.

Laura was sure to point out the Calle de los Suspiros, a famous street in Colonia that I had noticed the day prior but did not know why everyone was taking photos since there was no signage noting the street had any significance.

After museum hopping for a few hours, we went back to Laura’s apartment where her mom, Marcela, had prepared us a traditional Uruguayan lunch – Ravioles Con Tuco. She had made the raviolis from scratch while Laura and I were out exploring Colonia.

Tuco, is actually like a meat sauce. But it was more meat, less sauce.

I was slightly nervous to dig in as I knew I was in meat-eating country so I asked for a small, pequeno, portion of sauce. I made it a point to try everything put in front of me on this trip.

I don’t know how she did it but Marcela had me asking for seconds. With extra meat sauce.

Yes. Really.

Belgian Food is more than Beer and Chocolate

During my time in Brussels, I remember visiting the Grand Place, the main square, the Mannekin Pis, a famous landmark (Google it!) and the inside of many bars and chocolate shops…Belgian beers and chocolates anyone?!

I saw many attractions but this post will be solely about food, which, let’s be honest, is an attraction within itself.

First, frites…you could get a paper cone filled with French fries, and before it was handed over, it would be topped with a big squirt of mayonnaise on it.

To some, including the boyfriend, it sounds disgusting when I tell this story, but I remember it being absolutely delicious! Perhaps I imbibed on too many Belgian beers but even sober it sounds delish!

Second, chocolate shops were everywhere. At the end of my trip I had some Belgian money remaining (this was before the Euro) and I just went to a chocolate shop in the train station, I gave the shopkeeper my money and together we filled a bag of chocolate for my train ride home. This served two purposes – getting rid of Belgian money and an edible souvenier.

Third, waffles…I only had them once but they were more of a waffle on the go rather than what we do here in the US, loading them up with fruits and sweets. I remember them being thinner and lighter.

Fourth, beer. The array of beers was incredible. Each beer would be poured in a specific glass with the brand label. The shape and size of the glass was created to ensure the best taste with that particular type of beer. I went into a shop and brought a few bottles and their respective glasses home with me. And not just to London, but these bottles (unopened) made it back to the States with me many months later.

Fifth, I wrote a post about Belgium about ordering fondue in a restaurant and out came mozzarella sticks. A pleasant surprise.

And two other points to note. I have written before about my McDonald’s currency exchange plan. Belgium was the only country where I never saw a McDonalds. Or a Starbucks.

A country known for fries, chocolate, waffles and beer…how could you go wrong in Belgium? Though as I write this post, I have to wonder how prevalent heart disease is in Belgium. Or the increased incidence found in travelers.

What’s your go-to dish?

People always have their go-to recipe when bringing a dish to a party. Mine is wine. Or cheese. Last Thanksgiving my sister hosted and she put me in charge of…the wine and the appetizer. She assumed I would bring a simple starter, like cheese. But I surprised her with a recipe for sun-dried tomato bruschetta I had eaten at a book club meeting a few weeks earlier.

What’s your go to recipe? I know my (five) readers have some delicious recipes of their own…there’s a layered taco dip, there’s homemade mac and cheese, there’s some amazing sausage patty thing, there’s some great mac salad, there’s a buffalo chicken wing dip and there’s a brie and croissant gooey mouthwatering awesomeness out there! Feel free to share — you know who you are!!

Rogue Recipes

Some people (maybe just me) may find it funny that I collect recipes, being that I don’t really cook.

I don’t know why I do it. I have loads of recipes I have seen online, in magazines and have collected over the years, yet I’ve never really dabbled in it.

Maybe because I don’t have enough pots or bowls. When I make brownies I have to pour the mix (don’t judge) into two bowls because I don’t have one big enough. Never really bothered to get one big enough but it makes for adventures, and a big mess in the kitchen.

Anyway, if you are looking for an interesting recipe, I have it. I can’t vouch for it, but I’ve got plenty. I’ve been doing this for years – is there such a thing as vintage recipes?

With all these collected recipes, I inadvertently made my own kind of recipe the other night – and maybe this already exists – but if it does, I didn’t know. I meant to buy fresh spinach to make a salad for dinner. Forgot to buy the spinach. But had purchased a few pears. I peeled the pear to the core with a peeler and the pears served as the ‘greens’ for the evening. Topped with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar — voila! Who needs all those recipes?!

Most importantly…it was very, very good.

WHY call it a starter?

It drives me nuts when you are in a restaurant and you order an appetizer and a meal, and they come out together.

More often than not this happens when you are seated at a really small table.

Then the server has to do the dance moving salt and pepper shakers and waters and wine glasses to get everything situated.

If I wanted buffet style, I would have gone to a buffet.

WHY Wednesday.