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Day 46 – Danish Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Date: Thursday, November 25, 2010

This trip I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with Danes and Canadians and learned much of their cultures. For example, Danes engage in something called issparkning (literally: ice kicking) where they unwrap cartons of vanilla (and only vanilla) ice cream and see who can kick them the farthest. Calgarians (Canadians from the city of Calgary) spend two weeks of every year dressing up as cowboys getting drunk before lunch in a tradition called “Stampede.” Both countries have small populations relative to their size. Both have lots of white people.

So you see, I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned much from two Danes in particular. I alluded to them yesterday like they were random dinner companions. The reality is that I met them in Huacachina, Peru after hanging with Willie. Later, I planned to meet them in La Paz, Bolivia but inadvertently ran into them crossing the border to Bolivia. In La Paz we shared the joy of traffic zebras and the witches market. Through it all, we’ve eaten and drank way more than we should.

It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that I met them in Buenos Aires. Today just so happens to be the eve of their return home. It also happens to be American Thanksgiving (turns out Canada steals more than our democracy, TV, and military security from our standing army).

Today, we made a final cultural trade. The Danes (Sture and Soren), took me and a couple of their Danish friends for lunch at a Danish restaurant. In return, I showed them how to overeat on the first day of America’s “I’m-Not-Fat-Enough-Please-Make-Me-Fatter” Holiday Season.

First up, a meal at Club Danes, one of the few (the only?) Danish restaurants in Buenos Aires. Appropriately, it’s in the same building as the Danish consulate. Since consulates are the sovereign soil of the visiting country, this led us to speculate that the Danish emissaries had stashed a Danish cow somewhere in the building so they could have access to genuine Danish milk. (I learned that fresh Danish milk is a big deal to Danes.)

The venue was entertaining, but the meal was not as successful. Though I thought it went well, the Danes were not impressed. Each dish lacked a finishing ingredient or replaced a key ingredient with something inferior. It was enough to get them missing home, but not enough to satisfy. My lesson from lunch: Danish food is hearty, tasty, and even better in Denmark.

The evening went much better. The venue for my Argentinian Thanksgiving was La Cabrerra in Buenos Aires’s Palermo neighborhood. While waiting in line, the restaurant offers complimentary champagne and apps to take the edge off what can be a 45 minute to one and a half hour wait. It also gets the dining experience off on the right foot.

The joint’s classy but didn’t bat an eye at serving a bunch of underdressed backpackers. A few things make La Cabrerra stand out from its restauranticle brethren.

First thing we noticed were the knives. Heavy, well balanced, and deeply serrated. They would have been at home on the belts of a pack of swarthy pirates. We took this as a good sign.

Next up was the service, which is hard to come by in Argentina, a country rivaled only by China in how aggressively a waiter can ignore your pleas for anything beyond inattention. In fact, on our tables was a small console with three buttons. When we pushed one, I saw our waiter—standing in the back—look at his wrist, then walk directly to our table. It’s like having a remote controlled butler. I wanna be a billionaire, so frickin’ bad.

Most importantly, the food was awesome. Top rate beef, good wine, all at Texas size portions at TGIF prices. Every dish came with a slew of sides which, if we’d eaten them all, would have left no room for the meat. We didn’t have room for dessert, but ordered the giant sampler platter anyway. It’s Thanksgiving, after all.

In the end, the Danes proclaimed it their best Thanksgiving ever. They then noted that this was also their first Thanksgiving.

Another thing about Danes: they’re some pretty funny people.

GALLERY: Click through to see Mervyn with Danes at a Danish lunch, all under the picture of a king and queen.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2010 12:20 pm

    Well, my Danish grandfather would enjoy this post, were he not deceased these 64 years!

    Since that was before I was born, I have no idea what he’d have thought of the specifics of the cuisine, but he was apparently inordinately proud of his country of birth, and appreciated any positive mentions.

    I don’t really know any Danes except family, but after reading this, I’m figuring that my own sense of humor must come from my Danish heritage!

    • December 13, 2010 2:58 pm

      Soren and Sture actually had a fun bet on who could guess what was on the menu. I wanted write the items into the post, but my keyboard does not support the weird letters of the Scandinavian alphabet.

      At stake for the bet was one my favorite humiliations. Soren lost and now must hug the next five guys he sees either around the waist or over the shoulders around the neck, thus violating the unwritten guy hug code of “one arm high, one arm low, back slaps all around.” If you’re a guy, try doing it to another guy some time. It’s disconcerting.

      Since they were leaving the next day, he’d be getting home and hugging all his friends while Sture watched and laughed. Best of all, Soren wasn’t allowed to explain why he was hugging this way. I can only imagine the welcome he received.

      The fact that they executed my humiliation bet made me love their sense of humor more. Danes really are hilarious.

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