Those of you who have used our business, Miles & Smiles, may have noticed that we offer a tour named after my blog, Querida Recoleta. It was important to me to have an option that was a little different to all the usual options offered by agencies, particularly if it showcases how so many people in Santiago live.
It also includes a visit to the General Cemetery, which is probably my favorite place in Santiago. Where else can you go to immerse yourself in history, take some great photos and walk or bike to your hearts content, sometimes to the sound of nothing but your breath and the distant hum of engines. I like to go here to look at the architecture, read the names and think about all the people that came before me and called this place home. I don´t find it to be morbid or unsettling – in fact I find it to be a calm, peaceful place to go when I need to step away and reflect.
It is also almost alive with history. This is the oldest cemetery in Chile where you can find 11 generations buried with enough skeletons to cover 117 football pitches. It was born in the 19th century beside hospitals and medical institutions so that bodies could be quickly taken away and looked after; before 1821, bodies were buried under ground which is today underneath the city pavement.
Patio 29 is where you can find all the unmarked graves of the disappeared, many of whom were abandoned in the Mapocho river, and close examination of tombstones will reveal the deaths that occurred during various epidemics (one particular area is dedicated to the lives lost during the 1887 cholera epidemic, which claimed 100,000).
Santiago is the heart of this nation – all foods end up here – and nowhere is this more obvious than the ubiquitous feria, or market.
The feria is my favorite thing to do here in Chile because there is no other place where you can delve right into the culture and discover what it really means to be a local. They are a lifeforce for the people in the suburbs who use them everyday (except Monday) to stock up on almost everything they might need, from fruit and vegetables to medicine, fresh fish or clothing. Stallholders begin in the wee hours, receiving deliveries and then setting up their spot for the day, of which aesthetics are key. Effort is put in to ensure their produce looks fresh and better than the neighbor’s offering, with everything from fake grass, realms of hanging garlic to delicious preparations of ceviche (seafood marinated in lemon juice) or pebre (a spicy tomato salsa mix) made to show off their ingredients to the max.
Food plays a key part in Chilean life. The indigenous of both northern and central Chile had a diet rich in potatoes, quinoa and meat from sources such as pudues, alpacas and llamas, well before the arrival of the Conquistadores. The Spanish then brought with them domestic livestock and ingredients that today make up traditional comida chilena, the very best of which is known as comida casera (homemade food). Many of the dishes are simply prepared, which reflects Chile’s peasant past. Dishes include the cilantro-heavy cazuela stew or lentejas (lentils), while the hugely popular Corn Pie (Pastel de Choclo) mixes both meat and chicken. Beans (porotos) are so frequently consumed and traditional that there is a saying – “mas chileno que los porotos!”
Chile is also blessed to have the Humboldt Current drifting past it’s Pacific Ocean coastline, which brings a huge variety of sea dwelling creatures up from Antarctica. All year round you can enjoy seafood in delicious dishes, my favorites of which are Chupe de Jaivas and crab/prawn empanadas. You know it must be good if it has been immortalized in poetry, which Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda actually did in his Caldillo de Congrio (Kingclip Chowder) poem.
I also find the feria to be a place where you can see real artisans at work, from the man who quickly wraps up the carton of eggs to the elderly gentlemen who will rapidly explain the medicinal or culinary uses of strange ingredients. Remember to shop around for the best prices (cheapest in the centre), watch your belongings, take small change (no big notes!) and use a portable shopper to cart your purchases (not just for nanas!). Finally, stallholders will give you about a million small plastic bags for your purchases so it can be a good idea to take along a reusable bag or simply place things directly in your trolley – and therefore baffling them all!
Ask the locals where the day’s feria is when you are in the suburbs – they will likely be able to tell you! For a unique Santiago experience head to the bustling La Vega market in Recoleta wbere you can try comida chilena in La Vega Chica, or go for huge portions in the Tirso Molina.
(I wrote this at Emilio’s bedside in hospital last year, and misplaced it until recently)
Dear Hospital Roberto del Rio,
When my 19month old Chilean son stopped breathing on Tuesday I did not think about the distinctions between public/private, Chilean/extranjero – I did not even think forward enough to put my shoes on. To see my son’s lips turn blue, eyes rolled back in his head and his small body convulse with seizures drove all thoughts from my mind except “save my baby.” Roberto del Rio is the closest hospital to my house and considered one of the best for pediatric care, and as we rode there in a stranger’s car I had no idea of the trial that was just beginning.
I have no real qualms about the care we received in Urgencia – my son was saved not once but twice and all manner of exams were organized quickly. However when he was transferred to the children’s ward two things happened that was troubling, upsetting and concerning. The first is that my position as a New Zealander with limited Spanish resulted in a condescending attitude being shown towards me by staff with a complete lack of communication on their part. I was told that I should not be there if I couldn’t speak fluent Spanish, medicines were adminstered without my knowledge or consent, exam results were never explained and intimate details about my son’s case and our family were relayed to the other patients in the ward. Important questions were even directed to them. I was laughed at during my attempts to communicate (by the doctor no less) and those who did speak fluent English did not disclose this information. I felt abandoned, stressed and worried because I felt my son was not being laughed and instead of feeling support around me, all I felt was attack. From a medical standpoint, the lack of interaction and interest shown is particularly concerning as vital information about my son’s symptoms were ignored or unheard by medical staff, meaning that they did not have a clear picture of my son’s condition.
The second concern is how my son was treated. He was confined to the cot – his place of rest – during his stay, and received all medical treatments and examinations in it. Twice a day he was left alone for testing for up to an hour and a half. He was not permitted to see his parents at the same time, which in our case is particularly troubling given then the father speaks English and could act as a translator. My son very quickly began to exhibit signs of severe psychological stress and trauma: screaming, violent behahavior to himself, difficulty sleeping, self harm whenever he was left alone or saw a staff member coming. Staff members made derogatory remarks about him to co-workers and other patients in the ward, spoke harshly to him during testing and monitoring, and at times handled him very roughly (including forcefully administering a blood test that caused him great pain). Each time he was forced to be without me contributed greatly to his mounting terror.
I am disgusted that we should suffer such care and psychological harm in a place of care by the very people who take oaths to protect us. That my personal status as a non-chilean should have any bearing upon the care given to a baby is deplorable. To hear Chileans around me say that I must “suck it up or my son will be punished” goes against the core of biomedicine and of human rights in general. We are just two of many who have suffered at the hands of the system and will continue to suffer unless urgent attention is given to rectifying what I believe to be despicable breaches of ethical conduct.
UPDATE: After concluding our week-long stay at Roberto del Rio, and after having unnescessary tests performed, wrong medicines administered and various conflicting information and advice handed out, we returned home. Over the next few months we lived with a severely traumatised child. He could not sleep alone or eat properly, developed a morbid fear of strange people and things and lost weight. It took a very long time for our family to settle back into a normal routine and now, a year on, our son is still terrified of any medical situation.
Roberto del Rio Acceptable Practice Examples:
Urgencia doctors exhibited professionalism
One excellent female doctor in the ward that we saw on the Thursday morning
Quick exams performed in Urgencia
One friendly tecnical assistant during our ward stay.
List of Grievances:
Lack of translation, interest in translation or attempts at communicating with me, despite being our son’s carer
One nurse hurt Emilio while administering a blood test and made no apology
One nurse reprimanded us for not getting appropriately attired before bringing our technically-dead son to the hospital
Spinal exam performed without anaesthetic
Three doctors did not disclose to me that they could speak fluent English in the ward, even when I was visually struggling to communicate vital information
The Declaration of our rights was partially translated into English but most of it was not
All exams were administered when Emilio was in his cot
Despite being told our twice-daily seperaion would last 10-20 minutes, one time it lasted 1.5 hours.
Conflicting information from nurses
Nurses talked about our case to other patients in the room, sometimes negatively
Staff directed all questions to other patients in the room instead of to me
At no time was information given to us about our son’s condition, his test results or his medicines
One doctor laughed at me while attempting to speak
Repeated remarks made about my son being “too scared” and that it was “the mother’s fault.”
No attempt to ease his pain
No nappy cream administered or offered despite having diarrhoea that was acidic. His entire bottom was bleeding and leaking green pus.
No help when Emilio vomited and could not breathe in front of the staff
When I needed help I had to repeatedly ask.
Each concern I raised was met with “no entiendo nada”
I was shouted at allowing vomit to get on the cot sheets
I was kicked awake by a tecnica while sitting on my suitcase
Conflicting medical advice given
Dietary advice given that is not in accordance with common international practices, such as WHO.
It is 5.30pm and I have been sitting on the grass at a Recoleta playground for the last 2.5 hours. It is one of those neighorhood spaces down a normal street and placed so smack-bang in front of people’s houses that residents must drive their cars through the playground to reach their driveways. There are a few exercise machines meant for the elderly but that get invariably commandeered by adventurous children. There are two swings, two slides and some trees interspersing a small grassy area. In front there is the usual corner store that Emilio will forever associate with cheap icecreams and in the near distance there are cranes building yet another apartment block.
The first tme we came here I felt nervous and more than a little obvious, mainly as Emilio and I are both fair unlike the majority around us. For another, teenagers slumped in tight circles on the grass with loose cigarettes hanging from their mouths while on the roadside groups of men lingered, immersed in clouds of marijuana smoke. Today, for example, there is heavy metal blaring from somewhere nearby while the occupants of the shadowy house beside the park are doing little but standing outside with their beatup car and their fake Nike. The ground around me is littered with poop and ciggie butts and every so often a dog will come over to me, sniff my butt and then leave after confirming that, yes, I am here.
For all of these seemingly ugly features there is something special in this park, something which draws us back day after day, for hours at a time. And that reason is the children. Right now the air is filled with the sound of laughter and squealing as Emilio plays with the neighborhood residents. One of them is about three while the other is around 7 – the latter a mother-hen type who watches her sister like a hawk, reprimands her when she is naughty and comforts her when she falls. She also looks after Emilio and plays with him, pushes them both on the swing, giggles when he does and dusts his bottom off every time he gets (very) dirty. There is a nurturing aspect to the children we have encountered here that I do not recall ever witnessing as the norm in New Zealand, or even when I take my charges to the park in other areas of Santiago. Of course, I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, I just have never noticed it to this degree. Everyone seems to be really looking out for each other, and I see this time and time again. I can’t even safely say that it’s because the girls are being shaped into the moulds of their mothers because I’ve noticed the same from the boys as well. I remember when Emilio attended the neighbour’s birthday party and decided to jump on the trampoline with the big kids. They were all so protective of the small fry amongst them that it really touched my heart, with one in particular going above and beyond to help him up every two seconds as he fell down. Alot.
These are good kids, despite some of them growing up in difficult situations. Recoleta is, after all, a barrio just like Conchali, if you will recall the encounters of Ojos Abiertos last year. Or perhaps you can remember the story of Jose, our neighbour, and his family. Some of these children will spend much of their lives sleeping in the same room as their parents, bearing witness to acts that children shouldn’t otherwise see. Some of them will go on to make bad choices, made bad friends or head off in unwise directions. Some of them may copy their parents and follow a path of crime or other unsavoury activities, while others still will strive and achieve success.
I can’t remember if I have mentioned Diego before but I have certainly meant to. He is the adopted son of Jose, of the famous empanadas, and at a guess I’d place him around twelve years old. He is tall, skinny, softly spoken and has a shiny earring in one ear. I cannot tell you where his birth parents are or how he is related to Jose, but I assume Diego has had some difficulty in his life. I admire Jose because not only has he transformed our street to have a strong sense of community, but he actually no longer lives next door to us (though he continues to work there every single day without fail). When he and his wife were expecting a baby they moved to the countryside near Batuco, taking Diego and Maria with them (another cheer for the subsidio grant!).
Not all the kids we encounter here are angels but Diego has something special. He is caring, considerate, extremely intelligent and most of all he exudes a quality of gentleness. Every time he sees Emilio he hugs him or gives him a high five, and if the other kids are around with a toy or a lollipop he encourages them to share. One of the children from next door is close in age to Emilio and about as similar to him as night and day. I will call him Daniel and his mother is one of the daughters of Luisa. Daniel is not a happy toddler, in fact every time I see him he is either crying or bashing Emilio over the head with something. His mother, Ashley, is extremely aggressive and will never make eye contact if I encounter her a few metres away from her house. I do not imagine that she has had an easy life either, and certainly she has made a few mistakes along the way. Daniel, according to Luisa, was one of them, as the whole street found out the night when her pregnancy was ever so discreetly announced. Luisa was screaming at her using every curse word and foul thing to say under the sun – right below our bedroom window – mainly because the lack of respect her pregnancy brought but also, I suspect, because the father is about as big a drug addict as you can get, does not work and therefore would not be able to contribute to the growing costs of pregnancy, birth and raising a child (even using the public system of healthcare and education). The family were already strained enough, with a good twenty people sharing the small living spaces next door. That was all two years ago now and during that time Ashley has been kicked out of a rented room down the road, moved back in with her mum and given birth to Daniel. Daniel and Diego are as different as chalk and cheese but they originally started out in the same household. What a difference the guidance of Jose has made. I really, really hope that some compassionate teacher will see the potential Diego has and single him out, hopefully providing him with further positive mentors and options for his future. If he receives that, Diego will go a long way.
Being a mother here in Santiago has come with plenty of ups and downs but the general attitude towards my son has been overwhelmingly positive. Strangers will look out for Emilio and interact with him, sometimes in the most unlikely of situations. But what I really love is how warm and caring so many of the kids are, especially when I’m sitting on the grass, five months pregnant (and therefore slow to get up) and writing a blog entry, like today. If the future is in the hands of the children then the future of this city looks bright indeed.
Very bright indeed.
Note: the featured image for this blog was drawn by one of the students of Hoda and Georgina in Conchali last year, during the volunteer Art Expression classes organized by Ojos Abiertos.
Tomorrow is Mothers Day! On my street there is a party amosphere in the air and next door Jose’s family have prepared a lavish display of bouquets and ubiquetous roses to sell to our unprepared neighbours. I have no doubt that the usual empanadas and ceviche delights will make an appearance later, or that they will sell like hot cakes.
In Santiago, any cause for celebration (and sales) are clutched at with fervour. Easter is the same, so was Dia del Nino, a holiday followed with gusto and which I’d never even heard about before coming here.
I don’t like the forced and commercial aspects of manufactured days such as Mothers Day, but I do like the idea of taking a moment to thank and honour loved ones. Particularly mothers who, thanks to ridiculous societal expectations, often feel like they do 1001 things without much notice. Men have an equal role in the household of course, but it’s safe to say that their a difference between the male and female modus operandi.
Luis avoids birthdays, dreads Christmas and shuns all other “special days”. He really doesn’t have to – saying thank you does not have to come with expensive gifts or a diminished bank balance. Although this day is dedicated to all the hardworking mamas out there (YOU!), I’m about to break protocol and say gracias to the daddy in our household. It is thanks to Luis’ business-savvy ideas and hard slogs at night in the taxi that I have been fortunate enough to work part-time over the past year and be at home with Emilio after my studies concluded. This is the same hardworking individual who has been robbed at knifepoint and threatened in front of the barrel of a gun over the years – driving a taxi is not a picnic. Thanks to Luis we own two houses and I have been able to discover areas of Chile that are rarely seen by expats, let alone tourists.
The last three months have been a time of unbearable tension in our home, and not really through any fault of ours, either. In a nutshell, we bought a car to rent out as a taxi (as we have done three other times before), of which we needed to buy the rights seperately. Thanks to Santiago’s congestion and pollution problem, there is now a limit to how many taxis can be officially on the road so it is now no longer possible to buy new taxi permission. The normal practice now is to thus buy the papers secondhand. Luis took out a bank loan to do this, of CLP$9 million. This seems like a lot, but once rented out the taxi basically pays for itself and creates quite a good income (or it did before Uber!). Luis found rights that matched our model of car , met with the owner and went with her to the notaria in San Miguel. Once there, the notary checked all the documents, said all was hunky dory and cleared Luis to pay the woman. Luis did so. But one month later the notary had gone silent and nothing had been processed. Luis was livid and concerned as that meant that nothing had been transferred into his name and so therefore the car was sitting in the yard … and still a car. The bank loan still needed to be paid. A lawyer advised us to speak to the head notary himself and demand compensation for our loss of business but, while the man admitted the mistake, he laughed at the thought of handing out money. Another months laters and Luis was positively shitting himself, especially as the police called to say that actually the ID and some of the documents were as fake as Kim Kardashians face and that he was actually number 5 on the list of taxistas previously scammed. Thanks to the ridiculous delay in transferring titles, all camera footage at the notary and the bank had been deleted and the notary worker who had authorised the documents had up and vanished. All the while this was happening the bank was hounding us to make repayments on the loan that we now couldn’t possibly afford …
Luis has since been in and out of the police, hassling them and making statements. An investigation has been launched and the police are finally taking it seriously, particularly due to the grave implications the notary’s involvement infers. Around the same time two of our cars needed to have extensive repairs done after being crashed by careless drivers, while all our other bills mounted. It’s been a time of unprecedented stress, especially as it came at the same time as 1) my recovery from last year’s attack 2) the quiet time for my work and 3) the awful sickness that my finally falling pregnant heralded (think vomiting blood every ten minutes). To add further difficulty, Luis had just started university as well.
We have fought and cried and despaired and hated the sight of each other and had long absences … but still we survive. We have been together only five years but in that time we have lived through two long distance relationships, travelled together, lived apart, lived together, and also suffered together when our son became gravely ill. We are together still because we genuinely enjoy each others company and balance the other’s faults out. There’s no-one else I want to be with and I am so thankful that he is the father of my children. I honestly respect and love him, and it breaks my heart to see him struggle.
We are not going to stay in Chile, in fact once we are able we will head out on a new adventure. But through it all and no matter what I will stand by Luis during successes and mistakes, through happiness and hardships. No importa that tomorrow is the Dia de la Mama, I would not be a mother without Luis and I am thankful for every moment that we have.
Our Miles & Smiles venture has helped enormously as we have been able to do something with the car, so I would like to take this moment to personally thank each and every customer who has booked with us, recommended us or shared our information, particularly the community of English Speaking Mum’s who have so far been our biggest client group. We have also been overwhelmed by the generosity shown by friends, Facebook acquaintances and certain family members who have reached out during this tumultous time. Another GRACIAS goes to all those English Speaking Mums (them again!) who have helped me on the job hunt, either by taking a chance on me, referring me or continuously booking my services in childcare. Much appreciated everyone!! I’d also like to point out that we are still so very, very fortunate compared to many in Santiago and, although Ojos Abiertos has not been active so far this year, any opportunities that you can think of that we can get involved with to give back please don’t be silent and we will do our bit to do our bit, even if that’s rallying the troops or blogging about a cause.
If you live in Nunoa then you are SO much luckier than I am.
No, no, no – it has nothing to do with any of those reasons you are probably conjuring up right now. It’s actually because you live in close vicinity to this place: Pasteleria Lalaleelu!!
Run by Young and Amy, a husband and wife team from South Korea and Taiwan respectively, this is a shop that knows it’s cakes and takes them seriously. The couple met in Australia while studying French Cuisine and the French’s reputation for excellence, refinery and delicious pastries are evident the moment you step inside this small but chic shop located just steps away from Metro Santa Isabel. They opened when Amy was pregnant with baby Andres with the idea that everything on offer would be suitable for children, families and pregnant women. They use no colourings and offer plenty of sugar-free and also dairy-free options for the vegans. No corners are cut either – everything is prepared from scratch on the premises using seasonal ingredients. See that Raspberry Tart? That vibrant, rocking red is all from the fruit which Young has the skills to masterfully display.
The shop itself is small and simple but one of it’s highlights is Amy and Young themselves who man the store every day. They talk to everyone and when I visit they seem to know every customer. The serving staff greet everyone with huge smiles and, to be sure, everyone leaves happy. This is a place where the atmosphere is genuine and where families are welcome, just take a deeper look at the shop name, a mix of Amy and Young’s last names and Lala, the nickname of Andres.
But the reason to visit any cake shop is surely for it’s cakes and Lalaleelu does not disappoint. Highlights for me include the Jezy Limon, Torta de Limon and the so-good-I-want-to-marry-it, Devil’s Cake. For those stuck at the counter struggling to decide between winter fruits and chocolate, why not try them all by splurging on the Cake Testing option? There are also a variety of drinks, breads and other pastries to try.
Young is a master of his craft who serves a dazzling array that places Lalaleelu at the top of their game. Nunoans you have a good reason to smile with food of this quality on your doorstep. Definately worth a special trip.
I’m writing to you from a wet and blustery Santiago day, in the heart of Chile.
It’s very rarely wet here, so the rain is cause for both celebration and relief, with a bit of horror thrown in at the potential chaos that might arise.
Santiago is not a beautiful city. To the far east it is green and spacious while the “Sanhatten” area is all modern skyscrapers and grass. The centre is chocka with historic buildings but elsewhere the outskirts are a colourful shambles, a mixture of peeling paint, potholes, graffitti and sopaipilla stands.
Sopaipilla is perhaps the only streetfood I would recommend to you. Chile does not have the gastronomic delights of say, Lima, but the sopaipilla is a fast and filling option when you get off the metro and need something cheap and hot to fill the gap. Top it with spicy sauces such as chilli or mustard, or something tame like ketchup (in the GREEN bottle!).
For shopping you won’t find many bargains unless you visit a market. La Vega is a sprawling one that extends into various buildings in the area of Patronato, where you can pick up cheap imported clothes alongside ingredients from Asia. If you want a shopping mall, head to the Costanera Centre in Providencia because it’s also beneath the city’s new lavish symbol, the phallic (aren’t they all?) Costanera Tower. For antiques and unique finds visit Avenida Italia in Nunoa, which is also the best place to drink a hot chocolate, order a REAL coffee or eat cake. I highly recommend Pasteleria Lalaleelu by metro Santa Isabel – there is even a cake tasting option.
For something a bit different, explore the General Cemetery in Recoleta. Take your camera too because this place has an energy all of its own and walking around it could take you all day as you lost yourself amongst the tombs.
For eating out you have a few options. At the high end is Bocanariz, Borago, Mestizo and Astrid y Gaston, but you can also enjoy a meal for less, such as at Tiramisu or even at one of the more budget options. Chileans swear by Fuente Alemana or one of the tiny restaurants located inside La Vega Chica. Many places serve a set menu known as a colacion for lunch, and some of these cost as little as CLP$2500.
In terms of what to see, you should not miss the highly acclaimed Museo Pre Colombino nor the historic Plaza de Armas. A visit to Barrio Concha y Toro will not disappoint either, particularly if you coincide it with dinner at Zully, set inside the restored house of Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro.
Visitors usually bypass Santiago after a few days and head further afield, to tourist sights such as Patagonia or San Pedro de Atacama, but there are things to see closer to home. Valparaiso rewards visitors willing to walk, while nearby Olmue has a wealth of national parks and outdoors adventures. The Cajon del Maipo is the holiday hotspot for day tripping Santiaguinos and it is one of the easiest places to visit the Andes. In summer, a drive along the Embalse el Yeso is unforgettable.
Pomaire is another stop worth making particularly if you want to buy souvenirs and gifts. This small town is famous for its clay artisans who you can see making Chile’s ubiquitous bowls throughout the village (cheapest places to buy are around the edges of Pomaire).
I can’t say that living in Santiago is always easy but for the traveller it makes the perfect gateway to South America. It’s easy to travel with plenty of sights within close range of each other and the food scene is improving rapidly. This is the place I have called home for three years and raised a family, and it is one of the safest and easiest destinations to travel with children. This city will reward all visitors whether for just a day or for longer stays. Viva Santiago!
For airport transfers, guided tours, chauffeur service or help settling in, please contact Helen at Miles & Smiles Santiago. Phone 56 9 91482832 or visit their Facebook page: http://www.facebook/milesandsmilessantiago/
Do you want delicious homecooked food that is also healthy? Do you also want to support a fellow English Speaking Mum? Or maybe you are looking for authentic Indian cuisine with ingredients brought all the way from the land of Ganesh?
I was lucky enough to try a meal a wee while ago and in all honesty, it was so good that I just have to blog about it! Sujithra hails from Kumbakonam (Tamil Nadu state), has lived in Chile for four years and has two children. She began this venture in order to bring the people of Santiago a taste of real Indian cooking (which we all know has been a bit lacking here!).
Sujithra brings ingredients, such as lentils and spices, to Chile and prepares her food in the exact same way she would at home. She soaks, grinds in a special grinder and ferments her dishes in order to capture the elusivity of Indian cooking that all of us miss when we leave a visit to her country. The process is so elaborate that it takes Sujithra extensive planning – particularly the fermentation – as the temperature of the weather directly affects the result. She is also particularly health conscious and prefers not to use oil or artifical colours in her cooking. The Masala Dosa, for example, is a delicious and filling tortilla-type food that Sujithra prepares by soaking lentils and rice overnight before allowing the paste to ferment naturally for 8 hours. This allows for the resulting batter to be filled with nutrients and the combination of rice with lentils allows for easier digestion in the body (which is a huge component of Ayurvedic thought). In fact, when you eat one of the meals, the order in which you eat it is highly important to ensure the full benefit of the nutrients are absorbed and then digested easily.
I think what I appreciate the most about Sujithra’s venture is that this is food from Southern India. Few people are aware of the difference in cooking across India, given that most of the Indian restaurants outside of India have a Punjabi influence and serve up the same sauce/meat/rice/naan combination. For the newbies, here are a few facts:
South Indian food generally uses more rice-based items as opposed to wheat because rice flourishes in the tropical and semi-tropical south.
Due to this rice content, food tends to absorb sauces so dishes have generally less thick sauce
Dishes made from rice and lentils include idlis, dosas, and uttapams.
Coconut is often added, for example to make chutney, and is a revered staple.
Dishes contain more seafood
Spices are generally roasted and freshly ground before cooking. They tend not to use the masala mix so many of us know, which is often prepared in advance.
Dishes tend to be more spicy than northern staples!
South India is a mixture of mountains and hilly slopes, tropical beaches and calm backwaters. This region is well known for growing spices, particularly cloves, black pepper, and cardamom.
Favourite Indian restaurant in Santiago: Saffron in Vitacura
Favourite thing to do in Santiago: Visit the Cajon del Maipo
You can order the weekly menu via the South Indian Flavours Facebook page. The menu changes each week but Sujithra can also made to order. The process starts a few days ahead of the weekend (it’s long!) and orders can be picked up from Sujithra’s place in Las Condes. Individual dishes and combination plates as well as South Indian sweets can be ordered.
The woman came at the same time every week. She was old, with hair that was still long and black despite her age, and a big smile that she gave to everyone despite the fact she was deaf in one ear. The dog saw none of this, however. It recognized her by the shuffling footsteps, the faint whiff of peppermint and the fact that she carried a bag of bones that alerted all the neighbourhood dogs. It’s tail would wag excitedly, spinning around and around, waiting for her turn as the lady dutifully passed.
It had had a childhood that other dogs only dream about: a family that cuddled her, fed her and threw her lots of balls to catch. She’d grown up in the lap of luxury that only Labradors will know, adored for her soft fur, her big brown eyes and floppy ears. Things began to change when her face filled out and grew more elongated – in other words, when she grew up. The cuddles became less and less frequent until one day they just didn’t touch her at all, and over time her bark (which was thunderous) became an annoyance that they didn’t want, but knew they needed in the depths of Huechuraba. By the time the cancer struck they had become accustomed to one another but she was an expense that they just couldn’t afford. When the time came for them to move they chose to leave the dog behind. They left her in the yard of the house and never saw her again.
She was found by the new renters some two weeks later, who were shocked at the state of her. A bag of bones with shaky legs, she had barked herself hoarse and could not walk, her body riddled by protruding tumours. Her eyes were wide and bloodshot but, despite her hardships, when she saw the new family she found the energy to shake her tail. They passed her on to their grown son who needed a guard dog for his property and who wanted to help her the moment he saw her. He nursed her back to health, took her to the vet, played with her, and soon she forgot all about how it was humans that had originally left her to die of starvation.
They lived now in Recoleta, with the man’s growing family who call her Luna. Every time someone came to take out a car from the yard Luna would trot outside and watch. She couldn’t run or walk much further away because of the cancer, but she was a happy, gentle dog who loved to watch the world from her resting place. She knew all the dogs in the neighbourhood – she’d had quite the reputation a few years ago when the smell of her drove mutts wild, and they’d queued at her gate desperate for a second with her. She knew all the in’s and out’s of the street and the residents were patient with her. She’d watch the endless stream of unknown’s as they’d rap at the window of the house opposite, with their caps pulled down and their nonchalant stances, before exchanging paper for something small and white that Luna couldn’t understand the importance of.
She was also there the night the boy was murdered, stabbed in the back by a friend who was angry at something monumental, and who was now memorialized by a grand white marker emblazoned with “Colo Colo.” She stood guard during the night while the corner swelled with lost souls who had nowhere they wanted to go to except inside their bags of white powder. She looked and she barked, and she raced excitedly with the other dogs to discover new smells that would explode in their brains every weekend as the people took to the streets with their empanadas and completos.
Most of all, Luna liked to watch the children. She liked the little toddler from next door with the beautiful, gentle eyes that would come and stare at her, and the girl who would wait for her parents while they worked in the shop. She always wanted to play with Luna but the parents didn’t like her to, disturbed by her unusual appearance and sharp teeth. Every day Luna would play with the boy with creamy skin, who didn’t care what she looked like, and who called her “Nunu.” Always there was laughter around her – noise and laughter – and she loved every second of it, despite her creaking joints.
Luna noticed the day the old woman didn’t come with the bones. The dogs on the street wondered too, and went to sleep with tummies gurgling as they’d grown accustomed to the stranger’s treat. They had no idea that the woman’s weekly highlight was her nightly stroll around the neighbourhood with the bag of bones. In fact, the dogs had no idea at all about her life, or that she too had known the pangs of hunger. She died in the hospital holding the hand of her husband who cried while remembering the difficulties of their life together, and afterwards it was the sound of her family wailing at the heavens that caused Luna and her friends to bark all night long. Luna didn’t know any of this, of course, and so she waits each Friday, on the other side of the gate that separates her from her less-lucky friends, looking for the stranger that cared for her, but never knew her.
This post is dedicated to the real Luna, who Luis rescued from starvation six years ago and who is now a beloved member of our family.
There are lot’s of dogs that are just as gentle as Luna that are looking for a home in Santiago. If you are considering a companion, why not send Suzie Beaven an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org You can find out about the wonderful work of Adopta Perro Santiago here.