In years past, what excited me most about going home for Christmas was the eating (I love you, Mom). It became a ritual. Somewhere around September or October I’d begin working out again – not because of the approaching bathing suit season but more so to drop the five pounds I knew I was going to gain at home during a month of unbridled face stuffing and beer chugging. I’d purchase my flight carefully making sure I didn’t land too early in the morning so that we didn’t have to wait in the parking lot of the In N Out before they opened at 10:30am. My mom would get a food and liquor list a week before my arrival, and instructions to have my favorite cookies ready for the car ride.
True to form, pastrami became a thing in Buenos Aires from one day to the next. No aviso previo, not a single heads up, just a hey guys, I’m here. Even a paro naciónal gives a brother some warning. Suddenly the deli meat associated mostly with east coast Jewish delis was popping up everywhere in BA – on lunch menus and high end deli counters, with an entire week appropriately named Hot Pastrami Week even taking over some of the city’s trendiest kitchens.
Pastrami is one of those foods that sits on a pedestal right alongside sushi, burgers and burritos in my nostalgic food competition. I have done my due diligence with trying all the pastrami. For science, you know. And to be totally sincere, very few places merit a return visit. Two to be exact. And when a pastrami sandwich is good, it’s dangerous. I had to change my Friday delivery route because of La Crespo’s sandwich of gluttonous proportions, and Le Blé, after having heeded the screaming in my head that happened each time my plate arrived has upped their portions and made itself a dangerously close lunch addition to my neighborhood.
When I moved to Buenos Aires at the ripe age of 23, fresh out of college, mostly (read: completely) skill-less and ready to drink as much fernet and coke as it took to transform into a porteño, I was above all things, poor.
My first real apartment was a two bedroom in Abasto that came adorned with a leaky faucet, broken kitchen window, questionable stains on the walls, and a furnace that por suerte didn’t explode. There were four of us crammed in there. We slept on the cheapest mattresses we could find (on the floor) and “decorated” the place with furniture mostly made of things we found in the street (tied together with string from Ugis) and a couch that smelled like a wet dog, all working whatever jobs we could get to scrape together a minuscule amount of money for rent (and a little extra for said fernet). But we made the best of it: we covered the nail holes with wall to wall art, danced at home rather than go out, and threw monthly bring your own bowl stew parties for our like-walleted friends.