After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Truffles Take a Holiday

The hardest time for expats is the holidays.

So it's no wonder that sometimes we crawl into a hole, refrain from blogging about our so-boring-to-everyone-else pain, and just try to survive until it gets better.
This is kinda related to my previous post about hitting the wall; it's no accident, I'm sure, that several blogs went inactive recently. It's that tough time of year. Or maybe blogs have a predetermined life-span of their own, like relationships.
What I do when I'm down either physically or mentally and most often it's both at the same time, is read.

So I've been hitting the books.
A couple have been absolutely fantastic: Water for Elephants and Suite Francaise.
And a couple others have started me thinking along different lines, not always a good idea.

Flashback: several years ago when I lived in Mexico, I met another expat who also danced tango. She had written a book of correspondence between herself and her boyfriend, who lived in the States. She used to sell it on Valentine's Day at autograph parties. I was impressed with the romantic and beautiful writing of her boyfriend, who I had met and truthfully I didn't think he had it in him.

Well, one day she let it slip that he hadn't written those letters at all; that she wrote what she wished he would have written! (Nowhere in the book or on her website did she state this little fact.)

Flashforward: so I've been reading a lot, as I said. And it so happens that many of the titles were very similar: lush memoirs by American/Australian ladies of whiling time away in Europe with their be-smitten and handsome Eueopean lovers, cooking and eating fabulous food, chatting up the charming locals, and including the recipes to make the rest of us without access to such ingredients drool even more.

Oh yeah, usually these ladies are restoring ancient palacios, chateaux, convents, or barns in which to live. Sigh. Rarely any comments about money worries, or details of the handsome European lovers and how they earn their living, or problems with visas or papers.

So I read Kim Sunee's Trail of Crumbs; Hunger, Love and the Search for Home, (she actually tells us all about her lover, but then Kim is only 25 and gorgeous, which can explain a lot.)

I read Malena de Blasi's The Lady in the Palazzo.

I read Eat Pray Love;One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Of course I've read Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes and all of its clones.

Where was I?
Oh yes, my point is that in these memoirs, the sun always shines in Provence, the buildings are always ancient and charming, it only rains first-pressed virgin olive oil in Tuscany and Umbria, and no one eats anything without truffles--well you get my drift. And you've probably read all these books too.

Guys, too, have written this way, only with fewer recipes, and it all began with Peter Mayle. Tony Cohan tried to pull it off in Mexico (my town of San Miguel de Allende, in fact), but he's just not funny, and the Mexicans aren't French (but almost).

My point is that for bloggers writing away a couple of times a week and then running it up the public flagpole, maybe the truth of an expat life is raw and naked--not perfumed and poetic or polished like the memoirists. There's no time to edit one's life let alone one's daily blog plus recipes.

It's not easy, folks. And whether some of us put ourselves out there when we're down or others crawl into their home libraries, it's just survival. Even if we have a handsome local boyfriend (Yay, Ruben!), even if we manage the language, even if we have a nice place to live and even if it's not ours, even if we can dance tango whenever we want, still we are SO far from home. Especially at the holidays.

Just in: Caroline of Tangospeak, and Miles of TangoBliss, have taken their blogs down.


Tina said...

Oh, this was wonderful, and you've given me ideas for some e-books I can buy for my flight to Buenos Aires! :-) "Almost French" is one I haven't heard of, it sounds like my kind of book.

I really like the expat fantasy books, because it is hard to live somewhere else, and those stories remind me of *why* I choose to do it in the first place :-) Plus if the books come with recipes (like Tuscan Sun), I'm hooked.

Though I think it really, truly does rain extra-virgin olive oil from the sky in Umbria and I rarely ate anything without truffles - but I must say that I discoved WHY it's like that - it's a government ploy to make us forget about how hard expat life can really be - especially the bureaucracy and homesickness, ay yi yi. ;-) Everytime I had a bad day, some great food would present itself to me.

tangocherie said...

Tina, you're killing me!
If I had Tuscan food or ingredients from Provence, I'd be a whole lot happier here!
Whenever I have a bad day I have to eat a steak. Don't get me started on Argentine food.

So The Lady in the Palazzo and Trail of Crumbs both have recipes. But you can't cook those recipes here because you can't find the ingredients!

What I wouldn't do for a truffle!

Anonymous said...

Oh shoot, I forgot to ask you the most important thing, Cherie!

Can I get fresh basil? Please tell me yes!!



tangocherie said...

Dear Anon,
I am very happy to be able to reply, SI! SI!

Basil (albahaca) can be found everywhere, and I even have some growing on my terrace.

That's the good news.