Tuesday, July 29, 2008

at last

I cannot even tell you how nice it was to unpack and unwind in the place that is going to be my real home for the next 5 months. I have loved and appreciated all I've done so far but even travel junkies need to plant their roots somewhere and that somewhere always becomes the perfect outlet for relaxation. Not only do I already feel secure here but I'm happy too. My family is wonderful in every way I'd hope they'd be... especially when it comes to food! They are super conscious of what they put in their bodies and the majority of every meal is made up of a variety of vegetables followed by fruit as dessert.
In these past few days my "mom" and I have discussed my reasons for becoming a vegetarian (well, pescatarian here, I guess, but you get my drift), the difference between supermarket and farmers market produce, passionate cooking and eating, raising veggie-loving children, and the importance of not filling your body with unnatural things like chemicals and processed goods. Just between the two of us I feel like it's a match made in heaven and I know we're going to become very close over the next semester. The rest of my family (my host dad, 13 y/0 brother, 11 y/0 sister, and baby sister) are also great. My first day off this past Sunday we all went bowling at their country club, so much fun! Now for a glimpse into Chilean eating habits...
Sunday morning's breakfast consisted of toasted Chilean bread, cheese, mixed berry jam, a banana, and green tea. The bread was by far the attention-grabber though, it became nice and crispy on the outside while still maintaining it's soft interior. Yum!
After morning bowling we all came home and I helped prepare and quick and easy meal for lunch. Spinach & Ricotta raviolis in a sauce consisting of tomatoes, onions, basil, oregano, and soy meat. It was quite delicious and filling and as is customary was followed by a salad.
It's interesting to note that by salad it usually means more than one mix of a single vegetable tossed in olive oil and lemon juice with a pinch of salt and pepper, etc. Here was our tomato dish with avocado.
And then the lettuce bowl. I'm almost positive that this was the South American equivalent of iceberg lettuce, plus the tomatoes were incredibly in season, so I definitely took a lot more from our first side dish. Afterwards I was felt perfectly balanced and satisfied and played with Julieta, my baby sister, for a while before going to my room to work on my first essay of the semester.
Later that night, around 7:30, my mom explained to me that although they usually have a real dinner, Sunday nights sometimes only consist of Once. This is a "meal" that is made up of bread, tea, and a few sweet condiments, similar to tea time. However, since she knew how I like to eat my 3-square-meals a day I had left over raviolis (a much smaller portion this time) with a side of carrots and cauliflower. Thanks Mom :)
Monday was a busy and big day for me. Not only did I have my orientation at the Universidad de Chile but I also had to get there all on my own using the city's metro system. It was about a 35-minute commute between the walk to the station, the line transfer, and then getting to the actual building but I didn't get lost at all. I was so proud, haha. For lunch my mom packed me a large salad with a hard-boiled egg, lettuce, carrots, tomato, avocado and cheese (although I didn't eat much of it as I'm not really a fan of cheesy salads). It was so basic and yet with a squeeze of lemon juice the flavors really came alive and I enjoyed my packed lunch as I reunited with my friends.
Dinner was absolutely delicious too! She made one of my favorite soups in the whole wide world, Lentil soup! I'm not sure of the exact recipe yet, although I'm sure I'll ask soon, but it was different and maybe even better than most I had eaten before (besides my real Mom's). I topped mine with a little sprinkle of cheese but my sister suggested I take a picture of her bowl since this is how it is more traditionally eaten... with a sausage, no thank you, lol. This was followed by lettuce and celery and the combo became my packed lunch for the next day which was even better when the flavors sat a bit!
Yesterday we finished our obligatory activities early and my friends and I strolled around our new city for most of the afternoon. It really seems like the ideal South American city to take classes in. It's just big enough, just busy enough, just safe enough, and there are so many beautiful buildings and parks. I really am loving it but it is not like any American or European city I know. I'd say it's closest to Montreal. Around 5 we stopped at one of many little cafes for a cafecito, steamed milk and coffee. It usually looks like a mini-cappucino but I mixed i together before the picture, oops!
Almost done! Last night's dinner was creamed spinach, potatoes, and a large camera-shy raddiccio salad. I only ended up eating 2 of the slices of potato because I was loving the purple cabbage so much. I feel so lucky to have a host mom who is such a good cook and cares about what she puts into her food, you can definitely taste it!
Finally I made it to today's breakfast which will completely bring me up to date with meals, yay. Is that a bowl of what you think it is? Oh yes ma'am. I went with my mom to the largest grocery store in the area and bought steel-cut oats, plain yogurt and peanut butter. The only thing this big bowl of goodness was missing was flax but I may just be able to get it today since we have another free day. And on that note I have to jump in the shower and start it, there are a lot of little things I want to get done. Thanks to everyone for joining me on my travels, I'll continue to try my best with keeping you interested a.k.a. more new foods and places to come! "See" you soon!

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