Sunday, September 16, 2007
Yo Amo Pastalitos! - Episode 9
I might have mentioned in prior blogs that the food in Venezuela (at least the stuff we were being force fed) was not the world's greatest stuff. We wanted to go out and be adventurous, sample some of the local flavor, but the opportunity really wasn't there (until the very end when we were all outta dough of course). On day 3, the start of competition, I discovered the concession stand in the basketball facility. I happend to be in there because my little phenom swimmer was to subjected to drug testing. I'd been in there first thing in the morning, but only to tape up basketball and then I hightailed it to the pool. Stopping by, or even looking for the existence of a concession stand was not an option. Regardless, I ended up there, for 2 1/2 hours, later that morning. While we waited and waited.........and waited, for my girl to pee in the cup - I made my way around to the concession stand. Little joint - sorta what one might find in a middle school somewhere. They had the usual, soda, cookies, chips - and then the not so usual, 3 different kinds of wafers (I should blog about wafers just cause I love them so much and they were completely abundant down there), odd and assorted juices, and homemade pastry type things.
Let's keep something in mind here - at our concession stands we sell what? Nachos, hot dogs, popcorn, perhaps a burger if they're real well equipped. Maybe they've ordered pizza to sell. It's virtually always something along those lines with the candy, soda, and whatnot. I suppose that hot dogs, and nachos just aren't staples in Venezuela like they are here, but these pastry things apparently are.
Well, lunch has come and gone and the bus left us ages ago, so we're sitting around waiting for my girl to pee in the cup...........still. I head back to the concession stand and order up a Pepsi. I am eyeing these pastry things and wondering if they're gonna be safe to eat. My stomach cannot handle poorly cooked food - or really greasy food - or undercooked food - or really much of anything on any given day. I'd prefer not to have an adventure in foreign concession stand cuisine ruin my day and/or my entire week in Venezuela. Nonetheless, it's my only option for lunch so I figure I should give it a go. Along with the Pepsi I ask for whatever's in the case there. Uno. The guy (who later became a fantastic friend) grabs a papertowel, picks up the pastry and hands it over. It's nice and warm and flakey. It smells pretty good and they've already told me it's filled with meat. I take a deep breath and bite in to it - completely unsure of what to expect. Well, what I got was complete and utter amazement. It was good. It was so amazingly good. A flakey filo dough, square, filled with chicken and spices. It was by far the best thing I'd had to eat since my glorious crabcake sandwich at the Tidewater at Dulles. I expressed this sentiment - "This is the best food I've had since I got to this country!" Mind you, not a single soul there had a clue what I was saying, but they could tell I was thrilled to death with my lunch. I asked what it was called. Being super dumb and full on knowing the world "nombre," I didn't manage to pull that outta my limited vocabulary. Nope, took several tries to get them to tell me what the damn thing was called - the hard way. "Pastalito!" Sweet meat and pastry nectar of the Gods - pastalito! I was so excited by this I could hardly contain myself. I don't remember if I went back for another one immediately or later that day, but I definitely went back. In fact, I went back just about every day at least once. I took whomever was interested with me and forced them to eat one as well. Surely if I loved it they would love it too - and I was right!
I believe it was day 5, I was heading over before volleyball got underway to grab myself a Pepsi and pastalito and I asked for takers. Mike was willing, so he came along. Seeing my new concession friend I said "tres pastalitos y Pepsi." Yep, I was getting right good at the Spanish (or not, but I could at least order what I wanted from the concession stand). So Mike gets the pastalito in hand and looking familiarly unsure - takes a bite. Waits for it, smiles, and says "this is the best thing I've had to eat since I've been here." Oddly familiar - yep, my sentiments exactly. I was super excited to have a friend to share my pastalito love with. I forced this experience on virtually every athelete, parent and spectator I could convince to follow me over there - each one truly pleased to have come along. I would eat pastalitos over the OV virtually any time the opportunity struck - and with all of our athletes getting drug tested it was really quite easy to do so.
I really need to put some time and effort in to one of three things. 1. Find an easy recipie and start making these bad boys at home (somehow in the oven cause deep frying is not something I'm keen on). 2. Find a store that sells them ready to cook. 3. Find a Venezuelan restaurant that would actually serve up something you'd find in a concession stand.