If ever traveling outside the US, I recommend packing a small food item that may be hard to find while traveling in other parts of the world. If you’re traveling to Argentina, fill your carry-on with peanut butter and Tobasco sauce. While peanut butter can be found in the city of Buenos Aires after a little investigation and a few visits to barrio chino (china town), it will be expensive. In addition to straining my grocery budget, peanut butter has become one of my American vices that I cannot give up. And perhaps distance truly does make the heart grow fonder because I seem to love peanut butter so much that I sometimes run out when traveling outside of the city. This is why I should’ve brought a suitcase full of it, which I could’ve filled later with premium Argentine leather.
In addition to bringing the peanut butter, which they call mani here, I recommend that you eat at fine breakfast buffet/diner establishments all day, every day, the week before you come. My first two weeks here I nearly cried every morning to discover the absolutely non-American breakfast my host family had set out for me. First, let’s take a moment to remember those breakfasts your mom used to make up for you on Saturday mornings. Remember the bacon, eggs, pancakes with syrup? Remember the blueberry muffins and biscuits with gravy? Remember toast with peanut butter and orange juice? Take a picture of that grand breakfast. No, not a mental picture. Before you leave, beg or pay your mother to make that wonderful breakfast and take a framed photo of it with you! You will never see such delicious American breakfasts here in Buenos Aires, or the rest of Argentina. Instead, you will be served a cup of instant coffee and a slice of toast. I convinced my family to buy some cereal, but in general breakfast here is very small and sometimes completely obsolete from porteño life. Porteños are the people who live in the federal capital of Buenos Aires. It’s derived from the word puerto or port, which has been the purpose of this area ever since the Spanish conquistadores arrived. But, back to breakfast, I should also tell you that even the on-the-run breakfast eater will suffer, as I have not found one bagel in this city. They do sell bagel-looking breads on the street and in some panaderías or bakeries, but they are not bagels. I’m not sure anyone here even knows what a bagel is supposed to taste like.
While you’re making a list, don’t forget to add Tobasco sauce. It took about a month for me to realize Argentines do not eat spicy food. In fact, the most-used spices here are salt and oregano. But, I didn’t even realize the absence of spicy food until one of my classmates went around asking everyone if they had smuggled some hot sauce into the country so she could have it for her homemade American breakfast. The blasphemy of hot sauce on scrambled eggs aside, I began to really miss spicy food after that and began to look for some options. I still cannot find hot sauce in the city, but did find some in a grocery store in Uruguay where they seem to have all the nice luxuries porteños dream of like spicy food, ocean, and US dollars. But, even with the exchange 20 pesos uruguayos: 1 U$D, that bottle of Tobasco cost me about six bucks and it was worth it.