Navigating in Argentina

By Rob Packer

There are just twelve days to go until Argentina’s 2011 presidential elections and there is little doubt that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will be re-elected. She won Argentina’s primary in August with more than 50% of the vote—unlike in the US or France, Argentina’s first-ever primary was more like a dry run for the real election. The press has read the writing on the wall: today’s edition of Clarín, Argentina’s most-widely read daily and no friend of the Kirchners, seemed more concerned with who will be the Finance Minister when Cristina wins and Amado Boudou, the current minister becomes vice-president.

On the other hand, I have yet to find an Argentine with a nice word to say about their president and have been variously told about the lack of a credible opposition, a government more interested in settling old scores than keeping the country self-sufficient in meat, or authoritarian inclinations that many thought had died with her late husband and presidential predecessor.

If the press and the Argentines themselves (I haven’t watched much television) are ambivalent or indifferent to their president—elections are compulsory in Argentina—a look at any street or highway in the country might have you believe that the country is in election fever because there are posters everywhere. The vast majority of these are for Cristina, showing the president with her candidate for governor and for mayor if there’s space on the wall. All this has a surprise advantage: navigation.

For example, I was recently in Mendoza and wanted to go to Maipú, where some of that region’s vineyards are. I knew that the bus routes either went through the municipalities of Guaymallén or Godoy Cruz, so all I needed to do was to count the mayors: this really isn’t that hard as there are posters at least every block. When I arrived at the third one, I knew it was time to get off the bus.

Turn left at the third mayor.

Helado argentino

By Rob Packer

Ice cream in Argentina is one of the areas where the country’s Italian influence is strongest: in the parts of the country I know, it feels like there’s a heladería every couple of blocks selling sambayón (zabaglione), frutilla (strawberry), an obligatory plethora of dulce de leche flavours, and many more.

Dulce de leche is too sweet for me, so the best flavours are often the ones involving wine. In Mendoza, Argentina’s wine capital, Ferruccio Soppelsa was recommended to me as the city’s best heladería for its wine-based flavours that use Argentina’s two most famous varietals: Malbec and Torrontés. The combination of strawberry and Torrontés in a sorbet fell slightly flat for me, probably because of its relatively delicate flavour. Their vanilla and malbec ice cream, on the other hand, was a dream. But my favourite has to be the Malbec and Fruits of the Forest flavour that two friends and I decided was the clear winner on a recent trip to a branch of Freddo in Buenos Aires.

Frutilla al Torrontés on top; vainilla al Malbec underneath.

%d bloggers like this: