First Impressions: How to Navigate a Meal in Buenos Aires

Whenever I go out to eat in the United States with my family, my father likes to put on his phone timer as soon as we order to see how long it will take our food to arrive.

Generally, after a half an hour we, like most other Americans, start to think of all different reasons in our head as to why our meal hasn’t made its way over to our placemat.

Perhaps they have a new cook who is still learning the line? There are a lot of people here, maybe they’re short on staff? Oh gosh, I hope they didn’t burn my food? If I ask them what is taking so long, do you think they will spit in my food? How can I make this time go by quicker?!?

See, for Argentines, there is an appreciation for the passage of time between life’s moments. In my opinion, Americans instead appreciate getting to the result of life’s moments, whether that be receiving that A on a test or, like in my case, receiving food promptly.

Because I am dietetics major and I make most of my decisions in my life based on food, the clearest example of the slower paced Argentine way of life that comes to mind is during our meals here.

Buenos Aires Breakfast Food

I can recall the first night, going to the Palacio de las Papas Fritas, a name that literally translates to the Palace of French Fries. I knew a little bit of how an Argentine meal generally takes place, but while I was expecting the food to be the main showcase, it was more so another movement in a symphony.

There is a sort of liberation in going out to eat in Buenos. One must seat oneself, get the attention of the waiter to order, and finally, be creative enough to figure out a way to pass the time until your food arrives.

Conversation is the most popular way to accomplish this and while there are topics that may be off limits in the United States, you can bet that Argentines will say to hell with that. Be it politics or personal views, just get ready to be bombarded with questions. Yet, this experience makes the build-up to the meal even more important and the dialogue can continue even an hour after everyone is finished. In no time at all, you have spent anywhere from an hour and a half to almost three hours relishing the Argentine eating experience.

This way of life is sort of ironic for me. I pictured Buenos Aires as New York, with a life so fast-paced that you have to run along with it or it will make you eat its dust. While at times Buenos Aires can be a bustling big city like New York, I find myself, as an American, having to take a step back to catch back up with the Argentines.

I think there is a stress on not stressing yourself too much here. It is evident like not only in dining but in work, where mate and a healthy amount of breaks are embraced.

Mate Buenos Aires Cruz Aleman
A man carves mate gourds at a market. If you know me, then you know my love affair of maté.

In short, as an American accustomed to the need for speed, I slow myself down in Buenos. On any given day, I am the tortoise and not the hare; I give time to time so that nothing may pass me by in this wonderful city.


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Cruz Aleman

Cruz Aleman

Cruz is a 2016 Cultural Vistas Fellow interning in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A rising senior at Ball State University, Cruz brings an activist’s commitment to bolstering food availability, protecting the environment, and improving the treatment of farm laborers.

View all posts by Cruz Aleman

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