At home in Portland, Oregon, I love to grow and shop for fresh produce, cook in my own kitchen, share meals with friends, and advocate for sustainable, nourishing food systems.
On the road, few things are better than visiting farmers markets around the world, discovering outstanding restaurants, taking cooking lessons from wonderful teachers, and meeting people who also possess a penchant for celebrating the unadulterated joys of food.
During our four week stay in Buenos Aires during the sweltering hot summer months of February and March, we managed to find a clearing in the haze of steak and pasta: a breath of fresh air at a closed-door-dinner hidden in a nondescript apartment building in our neighborhood.
Jueves a la Mesa, Thursday at the Table.
Red wine runs freely in Buenos Aires, but cool, clear water and bright vegetarian food on a hot summer night gave traditional Argentinian fare a run for the money.
Our friend Kaylea was visiting us from Oregon, and booking a spot at the mysterious un-restaurant seemed just the kind of adventure we were looking for. There is no publicized address. No walk-up table service. You must make reservations ahead of time, and only then do you receive directions to the hidden meal prepared and hosted in the owner’s home.
We three headed out into the night, following instructions to reach the gold-knobbed door to the lobby and the dated elevator leading up into the unknown…
There in the small apartment perched several stories above the muggy city streets, we found a warmly lit livingroom and a smiling hostess, Meghan, who had been busily working magic in her tiny (dishwasher-less!) kitchen.
Over the next few hours, course after course of delicious, homemade, locally sourced vegetarian Indonesian food came that little-kitchen-that-could.
Our table of porteños and transplants from around the world savored flavors, sipped mate, and told tales late into the night…
Megan’s joy shined through as she enthusiastically shared descriptions of her favorite dishes, ingredients, and sources around the city. (Like the little San Telmo shop tucked on Chacabuco between Independencia and Chile: “It’s small with plants in front and you step down into it. And they sometimes have things in the back that you can’t see – like cherries or raspberries or blueberries or goat cheese!”)
In a city with no shortage of pastry shops and gelaterias, the surprisingly simple crowning jewel of the night was dessert: fresh fruit and perfect morsels of Meghan’s secret-recipe vegan chocolates. (They’ve grown so popular that she sells them on their own, too, if you’re able to pick them up at the organic market in San Telmo…)
I only took my 50mm lens to dinner that night. The pictures, those close-up little visual snippets, just hint at the details… The big picture lives as a grand impression in my memory. One of those magical nights of good fortune and great cheer, too rich to be entirely contained in simple words and photos…
Many hours later, as we said our goodbyes and ventured back toward the door, another peek into the kitchen reminded me of home, where dear friends have thrown their hearts into cooking meals for us…and vice versa.
The real, the authentic…the dirty dishes kindly cleaned after a night of broken bread: these are the symbols of food well celebrated, friends well loved, and life well lived.
I’m reminded even today to say a prayer of gratefulness for the tiny (dishwasher-less!) kitchen we have in Portland.
A place where friends have brought meals in the spirit of celebration over these past few months. A place where I’ve grown grateful for enough sleeping-baby-time to find myself arm deep in suds. A place where, when that time hasn’t materialized, (grand-)mothers have cleaned dishes as an act of love for their babies. (Thank you, mom!) A place where we’ve stockpiled summer produce and winter squash grown in our community garden plot and our favorite farmers’ fields. A place where we can recreate flavors from around the world and share them with our dear friends…
Hidden treasures are everywhere.
Behind closed doors in far off cities and disguised in the day-to-day meals of life at home.
I suppose the secret to cashing in on the good fortune is in savoring the moments however they come and freely sharing them with whomever may be sitting to your right and to your left.
So if you’ve found yourself here reading this today, I raise my digital glass to you. Cheers!~
Here’s to enjoying the good life and sharing it with those you love.
If you find yourself craving interesting conversation and looking for a vegetarian meal in Buenos Aires, we wholeheartedly recommend Jueves a la Mesa. I’ve followed them on Facebook since our visit last year, and it seems that they’ve outgrown their space, so do a little investigating to find out when and where you can find Meghan’s next amazing meal…
In the meantime, if you’re not in BsA and you’re looking for something new to try in your own kitchen (tiny or not!), she shares some of her favorite recipes on her site.
Note: My good friend Jodi (perhaps you’ll remember our visit to her then-home in Beirut?) is now living and working in Buenos Aires. I dedicate this post to her, as a fellow lover of fresh food, sweet conversation, and the simple joys of life.