Tag Archives: Argentine

Gnocchi on the 29th of Each Month

“As kids, my mom would make gnocchi once a month. It was always on the 29th of the month. They were always homemade and extremely labor intensive, so it would take her all day to make them. She had this custom that everyone would sit down that the table, and she would put a dollar under each plate. It was supposed to bring good luck with money, and it could only be done on the 29th of the month, but I have no idea why.”

Background Information and Context:

Unable to explain why the tradition exists, she called her mom to ask. While the phone was ringing, she theorized that it could be a family tradition from their Italian roots. The informant came to America when she was young, but generations of her originally Italian family lived in Argentina. When her mother picked up, she received the simple explanation that it was just something that her mom did, her grandmother did, and in Argentina they still do it. A cursory Google search revealed that the tradition of making Gnocchi on the 29th occurred because people were paid on the 1st of each month and potatoes and flour were all they had to cook with by the end of the month.

Collector’s Notes:

Some of our most valued traditions are ones whose origins are unknown to us. Especially when the tradition is introduced as a child, it can become ingrained into our lives for the simple fact that it is fun and brings fond memories. Food is especially good at doing this. As shown by the informant’s mother’s simple explanation, it is not necessary to have or to be able to share a full explanation of a tradition in order to engage in it and share it with others. This tradition is interesting because it shows the multiculturalism of Argentina by incorporating a traditionally Italian food into a monthly Argentine ritual.

For another example of Argentine gnocchi, see “The Story Behind Gnocchi Day in Argentina” on Food Republic.

Month-Long Vacations for Argentines

“In Argentina, when people go on vacation, they take a whole month of vacation. When people say they are going on vacation, they’re gone a whole month. A lot of people will come to the states to Miami. A lot of them will go to Brazil. That’s a popular place to vacation. Some will go to Europe, like Spain. They don’t joke around with vacation in Argentina. They have the right idea, and I think we need more of that here. Most people have their own businesses, so it’s not uncommon to pick a month, usually in the summer, and take a vacation. It’s impossible to get anything done in the summer in Argentine. It’s a completely different way of life in Argentina that you wouldn’t understand if you haven’t lived there.”

Background Information and Context:

This topic came up when the informant told me that the lifestyle in Argentina is completely different from life in America, and I asked her to explain. She knows this from experience because she was born in Argentina, and she still has family that lives there.

Collector’s Notes:

As the informant said, this different approach to vacations, and the fact that most Argentine’s own small businesses shows a marked difference between the way of life there and that at of Americans. A month-long vacation in America is often thought to be reserved for those who do not care about money, especially those who are already rich. Living in a deeply capitalist society, most Americans do not think to take so much time off work, nor would their places of employment allow it. America is a place where large companies flourish, and financial growth, security, and what it means to have a successful life are often the same.

A Typical Friday for a Young Adult in Argentina

9:00 a.m. – go to work, usually at a family boutique or bakery

Noon – close store for a few hours (if you didn’t get your bread at noon, it’s too late because everything is closed), have lunch with family, and take a nap.

3 p.m – go back to work

7 pm. – close the store and go home

10 p.m. – serve dinner

11:30 p.m. – get ready for your night out if you’re young (“Sometimes we’d pile into a bus after a couple of hours at a club and head to another club an hour and a half away.”)

6:00 a.m. – stay out until then and have breakfast before going home to sleep

Background Information and Context:

While talking about how the lifestyle in Argentina is completely different from that in America, I noted that we usually have dinner at 8 or even 9 p.m. whenever I’m at her house – much later than most American families – and remembered that she had told me, the first time I had dinner with her family, that “everything goes late in Argentine.” To get a better idea of this, I asked her to outline a normal day in Argentine. What she gave me was based on her experience when she went back to Argentina at age 18 and the lifestyle of her cousins back then.

Collector’s Notes:

The informant summed it up well when she explained that Argentine people live by the motto “You’ve got to work to live, not live to work.” Whereas most Americans maximize their 9-to-5 work day, barely taking time for breaks and lunch, Argentines make time for a hearty lunch, family time, and a nap. Night life for young people in Argentina seems extreme compared to even the more adventurous students at USC.

Drinking Mate

“Everybody drinks mate. As long as I can remember, since I was a kid, my mom and her friends used to drink mate. I think it’s made out of coconut or something. Everybody drinks it out of these cups made out of wood that basically look like coconuts. They put tea leaves in it, and drink out of a strange straw made of metal. The straw lets the liquid through without letting the tea leaves through. Basically, whoever is serving the mate has a bowl of yerva, which is the herbs, and they put it in the mate, and once you have all the tea in, you pour in hot water and sugar. The person serving drinks first because it’s usually very bitter but gets sweeter. You pass it around, adding more sugar and hot water, and everybody gets the mate out of the same container and straw.”

Background Information and Context:

According to the informant, her parents drank mate every morning and throughout the day, and her cousin drinks it by himself by the river, but the particular ritual she described is meant for a social gathering. She’s not sure if any of this is symbolic. “People will share with complete strangers. It’s really strange,” she remarked, “My cousin will be down at the beach and meet some strangers, and they’ll drink mate together.” In Argentina, kids drink it too, but with warm milk and lots of sugar. She remembers drinking it as a kid all the time, and remarked that shMare was sad that she didn’t make it for her kids when they were little.

Collector’s Notes:

Traditions reveal a lot about social relations within a culture. Based on this tradition of sharing mate, one can see that hospitality – moreover a deference for one’s guests – is an important aspect of Argentine culture and that being friendly and welcoming, even to strangers, is expected. The first time I came to the informant’s house, I was so confused by the extent to which she’d welcomed me into her home and wanted me to make myself comfortable because it was such a different experience from my own more conservative Vietnamese upbringing. A good way to see the differences between these two cultures would be to compare this mate tradition to what I’d consider a typical Vietnamese social interaction, like greeting each elder individually and bowing, a representation of the strong sense of hierarchy in Vietnamese social groups.