It started with a shared meal between an Australian engineer, a Swiss girl, and the three of us Americans. Over barbecued veggies, steak, our usual pasta with tomato sauce, and grilled peaches for dessert, we discovered our mutual interest in viewing Peninsula Valdes off Puerto Madryn. The next morning we got up early and headed to the local car rental and got a white Fiat sedan, stick shift. Our instructions were clear; do not hit the local Guanaco, a protected animal that looks like a cross between a camel and a llama, because it will cost us the same as flipping the car.
Cramped in the little Fiat we listened to Argentinian mashups of America's top 40 list on the radio. All was well until the Australian took off his shoes, proclaiming "I need to air them out", while placing them half out the window. This was met with a slightly too hostile, "Oh, thats what smells." The shoes were placed in the trunk for the rest of our travels, and the Australian adventured barefoot collecting splinters.
Soon the paved road ended and we were driving in mountains of dust, skidding every 15 minutes. When we put the air conditioning on, it spit a cloud of dust into our faces. We distracted ourselves for the next hour with a never ending game of 20 questions. Playing 20 questions with a group of scientists lead to overly specific definitions, and debates over the word 'organic'.
After arguing which turn to take at a fork in the middle of nowhere, we reached our first stop, penguins. These little guys were just as awkward as I had hoped. I found myself staring at them, trying to figure out how their knees worked. The sun was so bright it was hard to grasp just how blue the water was behind them.
Next were the elephant seals. These giants were even lazier than the penguins. The sun seemed to have stupefying powers making all the animals unable to move. It made me feel better regarding my personal policy of avoiding direct sunlight from 1-4pm.
Our last animal adventure was at Punta Norte, where killer whales come to eat baby seals. At this location, whales will attack the seals even when they are on the beach. I was slightly relieved to see piles upon piles of baby seals, but no killer whales. We sat on the cliffs watching territory disagreements, and mothers barking at their children for almost 2 hours. We were also visited by armadillos in the parking lot who had discovered my bananas and Nutella. The little guys kept circling me, looking like they were going to attack all for the sake of chocolate.
Then it was nap time on the pot hole ridden dirt road until we reached a sleepy little beach town. The first thing I noticed was the abundance of golden retrievers scattered along the corners of the town. The Australian jumped into the ocean, while the rest of us regrouped with hot tea and sandwiches. We walked through town with our new friends, and shed 10 years as we laughed about everything and nothing, taking silly pictures.
The day was full of new experiences and excitement, but by the end all I wanted was a little taste of home, apple pie. Since we are in Argentina, I decided to mix up my usual apple pie with dulce de leche. Here the streets are practically paved with the stuff. Breakfast consists of dulce de leche on toast, and the dulce de leche section of the grocery store is one of the largest. Dulce de leche has replaced peanut butter down here (literally, I can't find peanut butter anywhere). Toasted almonds were added to offset the sweetness, and create a little crunch.
Un Tarta de Manzanas y Dulce de Leche
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 40-50 minutes
- 3-4 medium green apples
- 1/2 cup dulce de leche
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup sliced almonds
Bake the crust for 10-15 minutes at 425. While the crust is baking, slice the apples and saute them in butter, until slightly pliable. Cover the bottom of the crust in dulce de leche. In a bowl, toss the apples with lemon juice, and then place them on top of the dulce de leche. Bake the pie for 30 minutes at 375 or until the apples start to brown and the dulce de leche begins to bubble. Slice almonds, toast them on the stove, and sprinkle them on the pie while it is still hot.
This makes one nine inch pie. However, the picture is of a miniature version due to the constraints of travel.
Note: I am cooking in a hostel kitchen without the ability to set the temperature of the oven.