We had left Buenos Aires and were in Cordoba when a man there gave us two warnings about Bolivia.  First, he mentioned the crime there, but said there is crime everywhere.  Then he mentioned food, and we thought we were in for the usual lesson about not eating fresh vegetables or street food.  But no, he struggled to describe the food there until we supplied the word for him – hot.  His eyes lit up, and he agreed, “Hot, yes.  The food there is too hot.”  Before Argentina we had spent six months in Mexico, and we both love hot food, so his words were more a promise than a warning, but the fact that an Argentine might think food was a bit too hot and flavourful was not a surprise.

The food in Argentina, particularly in Buenos Aires, was often disappointing, and one of the main reasons for that was it was so limited.  Steak, empanadas, pasta and pizza represent most of the food options easily available to us, at least in the neighbourhood we were in.  The steak was very good but not the best ever (as we’d heard beforehand), the empanadas inconsistent (even in the same restaurant), and the pasta unexciting.  We had read in travel guides that despite a huge influx of Italian immigrants to Argentina long ago, the Italian food options were “boring” and the travel guides were right.  The “exciting” topping on the pizza was ham.  No salami, no pepperoni, nothing but ham and cheese, no matter what pizza place we went to.  Sandwiches, too, were invariably ham and cheese.

They start with good products in Argentina, like some of the best beef anywhere, but they just don’t do much with it.  The steak is nicely cooked to bring out its natural flavour but they don’t put any seasoning on it in most restaurants.  In over a month in Argentina, we saw pepper on the table once.  Really, just one time, in dozens of visits to restaurants.  To give ourselves a little variety, we had hoped to cook some of our own food in Buenos Aires, but when we visited the grocery stores and looked at the spices available, our hearts sank.  There would be literally a total of from 8 to 12 varieties of herbs and spices in a store with a good selection, leaving me to wonder whether Tang would make a good substitute for paprika.


With so many Polish people here in Cork, it makes sense that there are dozens of small markets catering solely to Polish customers, but there are times I wish there was an American Store. So, I asked Amy, if we wanted to open a store catering to Americans and the things they can’t get here, what would we sell? Here are just some of the things we’d stock:

Ranch dressing. Actually, the overall selection of dressing is pretty meager here compared to in the states. Amy went to a good sized grocery store the other day and swears they only had two kinds of dressing. Some places have a better selection, but nothing like in America.

Pizza. Okay, they have pizza here (see our earlier post on eating out) and Gino’s in City Centre is actually good, but most of the other pizza we’ve tried sucks here. To give you some sense of how bad it is, the local paper The Evening Echo had a section a couple of weeks ago recommending several restaurants in Cork. So what did they come up with for pizza? Domino’s.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Love it or hate it, you won’t find it here. You won’t find any elbow macaroni, either.

American Cheese. Enough said.

Hershey’s chocolate. The Irish don’t really like American chocolate, so it’s impossible to find Hershey’s candy bars, chocolate chips, syrup, or Kisses.

Pepsi. For all of you who know I’m a Coke fiend, you know how hard it must have been for me to write that I would stock Pepsi, but I think I’ve seen Pepsi in only three or four places (one of which was the Euro store). The company just doesn’t have a presence here, but it’s not just Pepsi that’s missing. A few places have a better selection, but most stores here that sell minerals (pop) usually have about four choices: Coke, Diet Coke, maybe 7 Up, and possibly an orange drink like Fanta. In America, usually there will be dozens of choices in even the smallest of stores. Amy insists we stock Dr. Pepper in our store, just for her.

Fountain drinks. From our earlier post, you know that although fountain drinks exist in a few restaurants and in movie theatres, I have yet to see a store, any store, with fountain drinks.

Mexican food. As mentioned in an earlier post, most stores stock just one brand of Mexican food, Old El Paso. Some stores also have some Uncle Ben’s Mexican foods, and rarely will you see any other brands. Besides a limitation in brand selection, some foods such as pinto beans, jalapenos, and canned green chilis can’t be found here. Making chili (which can’t be bought here, either), is not going to be easy.

Chips (crisps here). It’s impossible to find a big bag of unflavored potato chips, and difficult to find tortilla corn chips (except Doritos). Fritos, too, are not to be had.

Almonds. We’ve looked but haven’t found roasted, salted almonds here. It is possible to find raw almonds, but they are expensive.

Sunflower seeds. Like almonds, you can occasionally find the raw variety, but that’s it.

American peanut butter. Like choosy moms, we prefer Jif. We eat quite a bit of peanut butter, and I think the Panda brand is fine here, but Amy pines for her American peanut butter.

We would also stock a selection of dry goods, such as three-ring binders, deodorant (they have it here, of course, but most places have a very limited selection), contact lens solution (one pharmacy had only one brand, which I didn’t recognize, another said most pharmacies didn’t stock it, and only Boots has the brand I use, Opti-Free. Grocery stores don’t have any contact solution, either, so the recommendation is to go to an optician’s office, which is probably closed at lunch and on weekends). Finally, we would sell measuring cups for dry measuring. There are the Pyrex one- and two-cup variety, but the smaller half-cups and so on don’t seem to exist here because recipes usually use weight and not volume, so converting American recipes can be a challenge.