Those of you that know me are probably aware that my idea of a balanced breakfast diet is a healthy dose of nicotine in one hand and and a forceful kicker of caffeine in the other. The truth is that I am probably in my breakfast nirvana here. I was a traditional porteño before I knew it, though the more solids inclined may add a couple of medialunas (think slightly sweeter small croisants) with some strangely tasteless slices of bendy cheese and a bit of industrial ham or a queso blanco cream that doesn’t tast of cheese but yes of cream with a bit of jam on toast. Kind of a Cornish cream tea without the scones.
However that won’t cut it for my guests at The 5th Floor. The only time I really eat breakfast is on an aeroplane (why I don’t know but flying makes me starving) or in a hotel. And if they offer it in the price, it had better be good. Otherwise I’d prefer they didn’t and I’d just go to the cafe round the corner. If it was warm enough and I could smoke outside! Who ever explained to a chef that scrambled eggs would retain a delightfully creamy texture sweltering in a bain marie or that bacon would benefit from a 3 hour sauna? I go to hotels on holiday. Yes I can wait 15 minutes, while tucking into a bit of fruit and yogurt, for my freshly cooked eggs to arrive!
But breakfast for a Brit, is something to “set you up for the day”. And traditionally a day of hard labour or at the very least of hard tourism. And no British breakfast is complete without pork products. But herein lies the rub. Argentina has no shortage of pork products but they are mainly designed for slow cooking on the parrilla (BBQ), slowly, letting their high fat content flavour and lubricate, while the smoke does its work. Briefly, not what you want for breakfast.
As La Doctora continually points out to me, in Buenos Aires you can find anything if you know where to look and further every problem has a solution. A bit of lateral thinking obviously required! Everyone has additional activities here, its a kind of hedge against disaster or the natural entrepreneurial spirit of those who have decided to live in a country with a bundle of uncertainties . Or simply the reaction of guys that can’t find what they want and decide to make it themselves.
So who is going to sort out my pork problem?
Well obviously, as the guys that are making my furniture run a Fish and Chip shop, I knew I needed an Oil Trader to provide me with Bacon. And Heath makes Baines BEST Bacon, and when you meet him you know Bacon is in his genes. He is the image of the person that you would have 100% confidence in buying bacon from, plus he is a damn good bloke. Put his bacon in the pan, leave for 5 minutes, take it out. It’s the same size. No hormone fed, water injected nonsense here. But what if you want smoked bacon? Well Larry is an engineer from Texas. El Tejano. And our friend Craig makes the most amazing smokers as a hobby. We are talking triple insulated works of art here! So Larry can smoke what you want, when you want and probably feed 500 people from one of his machines. So if you are lucky we will have a choice of Bacon.
Sausages are a bit more complicated. If you want sausages in Buenos Aires you have to look for a a couple of German software engineers. Sure, they make fantastic chorizos here, but that is something you cook slowly on the parilla. Eat them for breakfast and you will be catatonic ’till midday.
Of course if you are actually a German software engineer, you probably lie awake at night wondering why the busses don’t run on time, why people turn up to your parties 2 hours after the invitation time and why you can’t get a decent sausage. Then you decide to show them how its done!
So what do all these people have in common? Why would I prefer to work with them, rather than just pop round to the supermarket? After all they are small producers. This is Argentina. I know that from time to time I am going to have supply problems.
The short answer is passion. All these people are producing a quality product because that is what the want to eat. That is what they want their wives, or friends or party guests to eat! And they are all nice people.
If you live here you will understand how important that is!