Sunday, December 28, 2008

Switzerland in Argentina

We walked out of the Parilla restaurant where we had just dined on ‘cabrito’ (grilled kid) done Argentinean BBQ style feeling quite satisfied after another great meal. As we turned up the main street in downtown Villa General Belgrano, I stopped in my tracks as a man walked by wearing Liederhosen. A little further on, the sound of yodelling wafted out of the “Viejo Munich Bar.”

No, we hadn’t suddenly changed continents. We had arrived in this German/Swiss-style town in the foothills of the sierras just in time for the “Fiesta” of centro-european gastronomy.
A large stage had been set up in front of the Alpine looking town hall and a group of chefs were demonstrating how to make Apple Strudel while a tall blonde, very Teutonic looking, "Senorita Oktoberfest" looked on appreciatively. The town hall itself was decked out like one of those Christmas cards where you lift up a flap to reveal a chocolate underneath and a countdown to Noel.

It was the first long weekend of the summer in Argentina even though summer doesn’t officially start for another two weeks. But nobody seems to care, it’s hot enough to fry a wienerschnitzel on the pavement and everybody is lining up for ice cream.

Several women in Swiss clothing were handing out Swiss chocolate pastries as oompah band music blared in the backgournd. And then the big moment arrived. A hush fell over the large crowd as the mistress of ceremonies, who looked like Heidi, called for a drum roll and announced the arrival of the “longest weiner in the world.” The crowd rose from their seats and rushed over to witness this phenomenon as it was pulled down the street behind an ATV driven by a man in a German Alpen hat and braces.

Carolann and I pushed our way through the throng to witness the spectacle and capture this Guinness Book feat on camera. On a decorated float behind the ATV was a large split-open bun, festooned with Sauerkraut and a thin, five-foot long wiener, looking ever so much like a dead eel. The excitement over this sliver of beef was so hilarious we both started laughing out loud as the crowd eagerly lined up to get a slice of this “incredible” specimen.

Fortunately, they also started handing out free draught beer drawn from a keg inside a wooden cart. As I snapped pictures of the foaming mugs, a beaming Senorita Oktoberfest and men in Alpen hats and braces, I introduced myself as a photographer from Canada and was offered a cup of freshly poured German beer and a slice of the star attraction, wiener on a bun.

It wasn't Malbec and “lomo” steak, but what the heck, when in “Munich” do as the Munchners do.

No comments: