(SEE PART 6 HERE)
The second of the two fruit checks took place on the border of the Atacama and Coquimbo regions. The bad thing, was that it was in the middle of the night and we were woken from our sleep, but the good news was that on this occasion we weren’t forced off the bus. For whatever reason the policemen concentrated this time on examining the luggage holds and it wasn’t long before their search paid fruit or, to be more precise, onions – a bloody-great crate of prime cooking onions. Now it was the coach driver who received the wagging finger treatment as he was asked to explain the presence of the contraband Allium bulbs. Somehow it was obvious to the carabineros that he was the guilty party and the poor chap was taken away to a little booth by the side of the road where he was interrogated for the next hour or so. Eventually, evidently chastened and downcast he was returned to us and permitted to continue driving us to Santiago…
As much as were enjoying the Chilean diet, after several weeks in the country we felt the need for a change. Having spent a great deal of time in Israel we both had passion for Middle Eastern cuisine – Jewish and Arab. So one evening when we stumbled upon a Palestinian restaurant near our hotel in Santiago we thought we’d give it a go. So long as we observed Basil Fawlty’s wise dictum; not to “mention the war” – or wars in this case – we presumed that we could relax and enjoy some fine Arab cooking. However, the meal we were served up had about as much relationship to the exquisite humus and salads of Abu Shukri in Jerusalem, or the sumptuous seafood and grilled meats of the Crusaders in Caesarea as a Birmingham balti chicken has to do with real Indian street food – i.e. not very much. The two memorable things about the meal was the fact that everything presented to us was grey in colour and utterly tasteless, from the cement-like humus and baba ganush to Dido’s choice of main course – supposedly braised, whole poussin, stuffed with cracked wheat and apricots (yes, grey apricots). But the piece de resistance for awfulness was my main course. What I was thinking when I ordered stuffed sheep’s intestine is one thing, but even allowing for my foolhardyness, nobody could have expected what was placed before me that evening – including all the other diners who used their menus to screen themselves from the revolting sight of my dish. I suppose I was anticipating something along the lines of haggis or Balkan-style stuffed “kishke”, both of which I love. But this was, as depicted in the picture below, simply a steaming hot pile of sheep intestine in all its unadulterated gory, glory – somehow stuffed with rice (dried-out grey rice in keeping with the rest of the meal). Worse still was the smell; reminiscent of compost and dirty damp towels – it made Dido come close to retching. And the fact that the head waiter stood over me, oozing pride for his establishment’s signature dish, eager to see how much I liked it made this one of the most potentially awkward dining experiences of my life. But then fate smiled on us! The intestine, having the texture of tyre rubber meant that my knife couldn’t make the slightest impression on it. The waiter slapped his head as if to chastise himself for his remissness and went back to the kitchen to get me a sharper implement. At this, without needing to utter a word to each other, we stood up, slammed more than enough money on the table to cover the bill and marched full-speed to the exit…
About halfway through our stay in Chile we decided to take a few days off and visit the lake district. We booked the train for the overnight journey from Santiago to Puerto Varas and believed we had reserved a compartment. However, we were disappointed to discover on boarding that we were in a couchette with half-dozen other people. A short time out of Santiago Dido went looking for the loo. She returned in an animated state saying that the next carriage comprised only compartments, and that they were all empty. When the porter then came to clip our tickets I asked him if it was possible to upgrade to a compartment to which he shrugged, smiled and muttered under his breath ‘perhaps’… Without thinking I reached into my pocket, and pulled out about $40.00 worth of Chilean Pesos from my wallet . Then, checking his expression and seeing that he was receptive I discreetly slipped the money into his hand. ‘Twenty minutes’ he said gesturing with his head back towards the next carriage; ‘I will prepare the first compartment for you’. And good to his word, the compartment was prepared. It was beautiful: Old British rolling stock from the age of steam, like a scene from From Russia with Love or Murder on Orient Express; only slightly faded, deep green velvet drapes and furniture and shimmering mahogany paneling. The porter had immaculately turned down the crisp Egyptian cotton sheets on the two broad bunk beds, in addition to his final touch – two expertly prepared pisco sours in old-style crystal cocktail glasses placed on the little pull out table. We were in romantic heaven, and needless to say we enjoyed one of the best nights of our trip…
5 thoughts on “CHILE – OUR REAL CARTOON ADVENTURE (part 7 of 11)”
Entertaining and funny as always, but only you could ordrer sheep’s intestine and anticipate a good meal. Mazel tov.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I know it sounds crazy but I really was expecting something nice and tasty!
I’m really loving following along with your cartoon adventures 🙂
Thank you so much. It’s great that I’m able to do something useful with these old scribbles after such a long time. I suppose that it’s really quite an unusual insight into the way things were in Chile in the immediate post-Pinochet era?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ha ha – I’ve never been frisked for fruit at the border before! Also – share your pain regarding the joys of intestines…
LikeLiked by 1 person