Love, Lust, & Bondiolas in Buenos Aires
By Rachael Leonie.
Before leaving for Buenos Aires, they all told me: you’re going to fall in love.
Little did I know I’d first fall in lust: not with a tall, dark, and handsome Porteño, but rather with the bondiola –Argentina’s famed pork sandwich.
Love came later for me and it wasn’t always pretty. But regardless of the quality or quantity of men Buenos Aires brought me, there was always a bondiola finding its way into my love story.
My first relationship in Argentina ended after two months. However, due to conflicting tastes in food, I should have foreseen its end much sooner. During one of our first dates, I revealed my love of Argentina’s oily pork-packed sandwich. My suitor’s response? “That’s the food of street walkers.”
Feelings of shock and indignation washed over me as he continued browsing the wine list, in search of an accompaniment to our overpriced asado. Obviously, I thought, this man had no real knowledge of culinary greatness if he dared to belittle the bondiola. He didn’t notice my indignation, and remained focused on his Malbecs and Merlots as my face flushed Cabernet red.
A few months later, we ended things. I brought up our “conflicting bondiola preferences” during the awkward exchange in an attempt to both lighten the mood and give more reason to call it quits. His response was nothing more than a stern, blank stare.
My second relationship lived on the border of “maybe” and “yes.” Full of passion and awe, yet lacking in love and commitment. Like a bondiola completa with lots of chimchurri and cheese, yet no fried egg: bursting with flavor but lacking substance.
We often planned elaborate outings together. He’d call me on a Sunday to organize a picnic for that Friday at los Bosques de Palermo. I swooned at the picturesque date idea and allowed my mouth to water as he described the greasy bondiola we’d share that he knew I loved so much.
Well that Friday came, and that Friday went. There was no date, no picnic, and – worst of all—no bondiola.
After multiple disappointments and unfulfilled promises of greasy sandwiches and porky picnics, I knew it was time to end things.
I swore off Argentine men for months afterwards; sharing a bondiola and coke with amigas rather than an amigovio; spending solo afternoons in the park, my teeth tearing through the layers of pork and pan as my eyes perused that day’s paper; allowing the sandwich’s oily scent to seep into my pores and the dense smoke of the parrilla to cake my skin.
And then I found amor in a pork-loving porteño.
On my first date with Marcos, I tried morcilla. That didn’t go so well.
On our second date, we ordered in doner kebabs but the delivery boy never showed.
On our third date, we took a walk through the city and stopped at a carrito where he bought a bondiola for us to share. As the meat cooked, small talk revealed our common love of this particular breed of sandwich –solidifying both my attraction and increasing hunger.
Weeks later, Marcos and I were lying around debating what to do. It was 8 p.m., thus capturing us in Argentina’s awkward time limbo: a bit too early to eat dinner, too late for merienda, yet no time to watch a full movie or get drinks with friends before supper.
I thought of a marvelous idea to help us work up an appetite before dinner. Right as I was about to suggest we walk to Puerto Madero’s parrilla carts and order piled-high sandwiches (I assumed we were past the point of caring about eating daintilyin front of one another), Marcos looked at me quizzically. “Che, Raquel. Caminamos hasta Puerto Madero y nos comemos unas bondiolas?”
That’s when I knew: it was love.
We re-tell this bondiola bonding story to friends when asked how we make our bi-cultural, bilingual relationship work so well (except his version is filled with a lot more “che” and mine with a lot more “so like”). Our Argentine friends find it endearing and the Americans think it’s amusing.
Marcos is the perfect bondiola –complete with fried egg, cheese, chimchurri, and a bit of jalapeno to spice things up. And never once has he criticized my dinner choices (cough, cough, hombre numero uno). It took falling in love to realize all the other so- called love encounters were just that…”encounters” and not much else.
Armed with bondiola in one hand and my heart in the other, I’ve learned that love can be reckless; love can be messy; and love can be hard.
But as long as I keep following my heart, my relentless hunger for both love and asado will forever be satisfied.
Rachael Leonie aka The Wanderita is a spunky twenty-something-year-old who found her way back to Buenos Aires after a series of misadventures through South America. She spends her free time talking porteño with taxi drivers and taste-testing choripan. Follow her as she bares her souls to Buenos Aires at www.TheWanderita.com.