Monday, March 31, 2008
Feria de Maldonado
Punta del Este, with its endless beaches, chic cafés and stores such as Louis Vuitton and Fendi, where only wealthy foreign tourists can shop, is Uruguay's pride. However, I much prefer nearby Maldonado, a quiet town with age-old landmarks - I will make sure to feature some this week on this blog.
Every Sunday, Maldonado is the stage of a feria (outdoor market) where the country's bounty is displayed.
Families walk around buying superb seasonal produce, as they munch on tortas fritas (fried cakes) and panchos (hot dogs), with their mate handy. Very much Uruguay's national beverage, caffeine-packed, super bitter mate is made with the leaves of a shrub and boiling water, and drunk in spherical, leather 'cups' with a silver straw.
Local cheese, dried herbs for infusions and seasoning as well as honey are also sold.
With the vegetables, people will make pascualina, a delicious spinach-and-egg pie, or empanadas, pastry pouches with yummy filling. As in Argentina, a significant portion of the population is of Italian descent (including my own late great-grandmother, Nonna Chinita), so at the feria you'll find everything you need to make potato-based gnocchi, fresh pasta and sauces...