Opening the wine

We were recently the recipients of a couple of bottles of excellent Swiss white wine (thanks Syd and Gundy!), a Humagne Blanche (fascinating: according to Wikipedia, “the total Swiss plantations of the variety in 2009 stood at 30 hectares (74 acres).” And a bottle of Aigle les Murailles. Both excellent, and mostly unknown outside of Switzerland.

These bottles had corks. I generally do not rue the transition to screw tops for wine, though I admit I don’t completely understand the ecological implications.

So, translate to Uruguay (and notice this has only been a recent issue): a nice Stagnari Chardonnay, produced maybe 45 km (28 miles) away, accompanied by Camembert and blue cheese. Sounds good, eh?

Stagnari Chardonnay - pliers required to remove top
Sorry for the ill-exposed photo 🙁

Well, yeah, except for one thing: can’t unscrew the top because it doesn’t separate from the part below. Hence, we have now as Essential Kitchen Equipment a pair of needle-nosed pliers to tear the top off in, inevitably, a half-dozen or more pieces.

Q: How do you say quality control in Latin America?
A: ¿Qué?



Fried eggs

Shortly after we moved here, the cleaning lady walked by as I was having a couple of fried eggs or breakfast. “Oh, you Americans and your eggs!” she commented.

fried eggs and toast

Which is kind of strange if you’ve spent any time in Uruguay. Here’s the famous chivito:

Uruguayan chivito

And here’s an Uruguayan hamburger (the white stuff isn’t mayonnaise):

Uruguayan hamburger with egg

So it’s fair to say Uruguayans don’t have a problem with fried eggs.

But an obsession?

potato chips, fried egg flavor

Potato chips with fried egg flavor?

I think I’ll pass.

Picture credits: fried eggschivito, hamburger

Christmas bagels

We don’t do anything special for Christmas (except attend our neighbors’ lovely afternoon food fest). I mentioned to my wife that she normally hangs red ornaments on our ficus tree, at least. She reminded me we have a fast-growing puppy who probably find them great fun to attack. Good point.

We’re also not Jewish.

But in the country we came from, bagels are ubiquitous, and in Uruguay they’re nonexistent. Well, except for one place in Montevideo owned by an American. There’s a place called Donut Shop that advertises bagels but makes — well, you decide.

So she asked the food processor and bread-object specialist (that would be me), to make bagels.

First attempt at homemade bagels

Obviously I’m low on the learning curve, but they were delicious with cream cheese, smoked salmon,1 organic tomatoes and red onions.

Plus, always a treat in Uruguay, the taste made us feel we were somewhere else, somewhere one has a choice of tastes. Restaurants are gradually getting better here, offering variety. One nearby puts the old Uruguayan standbys like chivitos and milanesas under the heading, “Lo de Siempre,” the ‘always available’ stuff. I take that as a good sign. But I can still have fun tormenting recent North American arrivals by asking them what’s their favorite Thai restaurant in Uruguay.2


unfortunately from Chile, but that’s all we’ve got

2 I haven’t been, but expect Konichi-Wa Sushi y Asian Gourmet is not really Thai

Patético (“marketing”)

We just bought some fresh mushrooms at Tienda Inglesa. The good news is that, since we moved here, they are usually available. Bad news is that they’re kind of ridiculously expensive — USD $7.50/pound. But they sell side by side with another imported brand that sell for almost 70% more. Have to wonder why anyone would pay that, but hey.

So here’s what we bought:

Mushrooms in supermarket, Uruguay

200 grams! 50 grams free! So we paid for only 150 grams?

Well, no — from the Tienda Inglesa web site:

Fresh mushrooms, Uruguay
Just have to note in passing that no accessories are included, and technical information may vary.

And what did we pay?

Supermarket receipt, Uruguay

94 pesos for 200 grams, as advertised. Yet we somehow got 50 grams free, paying 94 pesos for 200 grams?

Bill Hicks had a routine* in which he said, “If anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself … seriously, though, if you are, do.” I found that a little strong when I first encountered it.

But when I consider that these people are trying to convince me they’re giving me something for free when I pay the same for the same amount that I paid last week — well, thank you, Bill Hicks, and you marketers, kill yourself. Seriously. You’ll be doing your soul, and the rest of us, a favor.

*no link, because being Bill Hicks, it contains considerable profanity, but easy to find.

Uruguay retrograde: feedlot beef

As I thought everyone knew, grass-fed beef is superior to feedlot beef in every way. And the wonderful thing in Uruguay is that most cattle are grass-fed. There are some feedlot operations, but from what I gather, they tend to be smaller than their North American counterparts, and duration of cattle poisoning shorter .

Poisoning? Yes. On a feedlot, cows stop eating grass, which their bodies are designed for, and are fed massive quantities of (genetically modified, herbicide resistant) corn, barley, soybeans, and other grains that seriously mess up their digestive systems. They also get loads of antibiotics and growth hormones. They spend the last six months of their lives wandering around in their own excrement, with not a blade of grass in sight. But getting fat, fast, which boosts corporate profits.

Feedlot versus pasture in California
Your preference? Photo source:

In North America,

“Many are choosing to follow organic practices in their herd management, which are clearly healthier and more humane for the animals. The good news is that meat from those animals is free of antibiotics, steroids, hormones, pesticides, herbicides and other potentially toxic substances. The bad news is that it can take nearly two years to bring those animals to market on grass.

“Studies have shown that an animal’s diet can have an impact on the nutritional content of the meat on the consumer’s table. Grass-fed meat has been shown to contain less fat, more beneficial fatty acids, and more vitamins and to be a good source of a variety of nutrients. According to a study published in the Journal of Animal Science in 2009, eating grass-fed beef provides many benefits to consumers:

  1. Lower in total fat
  2. Higher in beta-carotene
  3. Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
  4. Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
  5. Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
  6. Higher in total omega-3s
  7. A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
  8. Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
  9. Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
  10. Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease”

Source: Grass-Fed vs. Feedlot Beef – What’s the difference?

So what’s this got to do with Uruguay? Profoundly marching in the wrong direction, and proudly advertising the fact. Here’s the current flier from Tienda Inglesa:

Uruguay ads for feedlot beef

Unbelievable? I expect consumers here will swallow this whole, and embrace this “modern” idea as a good thing, just as dousing the entire countryside in glyphosate seems like a perfectly good thing to do.

They’ll figure it out eventually. Or not.