Of white wine, scallop gonads and Chilean despedidas

So, my patient followers, my dearest friends, my truest joys, I must pontificate (as I am so often want to do) about my return to Santiago and my final days in the splendid country that is Chile.

I left Valparaíso early on Thursday morning to fit in a tour of the Casablanca Valley vineyards. This isn’t Chile’s primary wine-making region but they know how to make some very tasty Sauvignon Blancs. Really the purpose of my little jaunt into the valley was less the wine (though it was fine indeed) and more the chance to see a little bit more of the country. The fog on that crisp morning had yet to dissipate as we drove towards the first viña (in Argentina vineyards are referred to as bodegas–not so in Chile). At Casa del Bosque I sipped a bit and wandered a bit and got a good look at the strange post-post-post pressing which produces the juice for wine that the vintner only sells in Asia because no one anywhere else seems to have a taste for the stuff. The final detritus from this process looks like bright purple paste. Best part about Casa del Bosque, you ask? They play soft jazz for their wine when its fermenting in the barrels. All day. All night. I asked the guy why not Reggaeton and he said he figured that wine would be way too ready to party for the wine-enthusiast’s refined palate.

From there I went on to a biodynamic vineyard called Emiliana. Better wine at this second viña and, best: llamas, peacocks and chickens all help keep things sustainably running. The vineyard also makes some very tasty olive oil I had the pleasure of sampling.

A little tipsy but happy as can be I was delivered to the bus station and off I went to Santiago. I arrived at my hostel without incident but it was so freezing inside that I had to take myself out to an early dinner. I went to Liguria in the Providencia neighborhood and enjoyed the best fried fish sandwich I have ever had. Seriously.

Speaking of fish: I must pause to mention one very important difference between the Chilean and American preparation of a particular fruit of the sea, the oh-so-delicious scallop. Called ostiones in Chile, scallops are cooked with the gonad still clinging to the body of the mollusk. Why we insist on removing this delectable portion in the U.S. is beyond me, though it may have something to do with the fact that some discomfort is likely to be provoked by the term ‘gonad’ when it is spoken in reference to cuisine.

Aside from enjoying the food upon my return to Santiago, I was also offered the special treat of an invitation to a Chilean despedida. I have written of the phenomena of despedidas before, of course, but it was a pleasure to be able to partake in Santiago’s version of the ritual. I met up with my friend Maria and we made our way through the city to the home of a few young Chileans with whom she had been working during her stay. The send-off was for Maria who was winding down her final days in the city. We sipped Chilean wine and Escudo, the local beer. We talked about architecture and language and the locals in attendance made fun of me for speaking like a porteña. As the night wore on, speeches were given, toasts were made, pizza was eaten and, finally, around one in the morning we all rose up and danced and danced and danced. Oh my what a fine way to while away the hours. And because I too was leaving in the morning, for Buenos Aires, I got to share in the boisterous pre-departure party. The next morning I made my way without incident to the airport and back to B.A.

Ahhhhhhh, Chile. May I return to your sweet shores once more. May I climb your heights and traverse your vast and diverse territory. May I, oh fine country, once again come back to be warmed by your tender welcome. For now, alas, I must bid you adieu.

No te olvides de mi y te digo, Chile, que nunca me podríaolivdar de ti!

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