Finally, I have taken care of my tech issues, everything is back up and running, and Buenos Aires is beautiful! There is so much here, I feel like after a month, I have only scratched the surface.
It took me a while to figure out the normal rhythm of Montevideo, but conveniently, it turns out to be similar here. This rhythm is somewhat baffling to me because it calls for super late dinners – people barely seem to arrive in restaurants until 8:30, things don’t really get going until 9:00, and they continue to be going late into the evening (even on weeknights! how do they stay awake at work?). I’m hungry way before that, even if I don’t eat lunch until 2:00 (also like the Argentines). I think the Argentines must feel the same way because they came up with a perfect solution: add a fourth meal.
La merienda is kind of like the English afternoon tea (but in this case, most people drink espresso). Between about 4:00 and 6:00, la merienda is just a time to have a little something to tide you over. Maybe the popularity of this is why there are so many fantastic cafes in Buenos Aires? I don’t know. If you order a café, with your order, you generally also get a shot glass of water, often a shot glass of orange juice, and a plate with a few cookies. People often also order medialunas (croissants – literally “half moons”) or toast, which comes with marmalade and often dulce de leche. On the savory side, they have crustless, toasted sandwiches, and on the sweet side, any number of pastries or a slice of torta (cake).
Now, I am an old person at heart. I like to go to bed at a reasonable hour, even if that is not chic in Buenos Aires. If I drink coffee after about 3:30 PM, I will be awake all night staring at my bedroom ceiling. Luckily, the Argentines have a solution for this – a number of their commonly available “coffee” drinks don’t have much or any coffee in them. One of these is called a lagrima (literally “tear drop), which is just a glass of hot milk with a lagrima of espresso.
My personal favorite, however, is Argentine-style hot chocolate, called a submarino. Order this, and a glass of hot milk is delivered to you with a small bar of chocolate and generally a coconut kind of cookie (for which I don’t know the word). Drop the bar of chocolate in the milk (so it’s swimming like a submarine, haha) and stir until it is more or less dissolved.
Seriously, I know that there are only some things I can take home with me when I go back to the States, and I am so glad that la merienda is one of them. A whole(ish) meal dedicated to drinking sweet things, eating pastries, and lingering with friends? Yes, please.