Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chewing Well: BA's Feria Masticar

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an error-prone account of the Buenos Aires food scene – are they skimping on proofreaders and fact-checkers? - stressing the contributions of Gastronomía Argentina Jóven (GAJO), a movement of young Argentine chefs. Coincidentally, even as they corrected some of the mistakes, GAJO played a major role in the Feria Masticar, a foodie festival whose motto is “Comer rico hace bien” (Eating well is good for you).
At the events space known as El Dorrego, in the barrio of Colegiales on the edge of Palermo, the Feria – whose name comes from the Spanish word meaning “to chew” - started on Friday and ended Sunday. I tried to go Saturday afternoon but, with entry lines stretching longer than two blocks, I gave up and returned on Sunday morning, when the lines were shorter. The idea of sampling modestly priced small plates from chefs such as Martín Molteni (from Pura Tierra, one of my favorite restaurants here), Germán Martitegui (of Tegui, below at right), the GAJO group and others was a tempting one.
In practice, it didn’t work out quite so well. For one thing, the crowds made it uncomfortable, for me at least; for another, almost none of the stands accepted cash – rather, you had to buy at least 50 pesos’ worth of the Feria’s coupons, which were non-returnable.  Most plates were in the 20 to 35 peso range and, uncertain how much I might want to spend and eat, I simply refrained. For me, that took the spontaneity out of the event.
It’s understandable that, in the midst of such crowds, it was much simpler to manage a scrip-based system than wads of cash. As it happened, the only thing I ate was a delicious dark chocolate cookie with hazelnuts from the Compañía de Chocolates, which was accepting cash.
That said, I found many admirable things at the Feria. There was an abundance of quality produce and products on display, and the Ciudad de Buenos Aires even had a public stand where visitors could check their weight and blood pressure, and speak with a nutritionist. Still, at this event, the message only reached a fraction of the local middle class, and will probably never reach the urban and rural poor whose meat and starch diet contribute to obesity, diabetes and other ailments.

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