Buenos Aires is one of the most colourful cities to live in.
This week the political scene is particularly tense. Strikes by the garbage collectors have left bags of garbage in the streets, stinking up the city as the dreadful heatwave carries on, and potential subway strikes are highly possible.
Last night there was a cut in electricity all over the city center, affecting offices, businesses and people for more than just a few hours.
The Subway was unable to function due to the absence of electricity, buses were jammed packed as they crawled inch-by-inch in rush-hour traffic, and thousands (including myself) took to the streets in resignation to walk home from our offices – it was virtually impossible to get onto any bus or catch an unoccupied taxi. In some neighborhoods, people were stuck without electricity or water for up to 16 hours or more.
Buenos Aires was in complete chaos.
The weather was unbearably hot and humid, and people were in foul moods, with even fouler mouths. My colleagues and I joked that it felt as if we were living the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, without the Superstorm even taking place.
Tonight there will be an organized anti-government protest.
The protest has been organized by the citizens who are sick of corruption, the lack of security and inherent distrust, who will gather all over the city (and in many parts of the world including the US, Europe, Japan, Australia) with kitchen utensils in an act of opposition to the low level of living in Argentina. Named “Cacerolazo de 8N” – which stands for protests with kitchen utensils on November 8, this planned protest has been in the making for around 2 months. It has made the headlines for the past one week, and last night’s electricity cut may just encourage more people to participate in the protest, amplifying its importance and impact, not just in Argentina, but worldwide. Apparently the first protests have already started in Australia, with Argentines gathered outside the Argentine embassy, banging their pots and pans.
Why bang pots & pans?
If you’re wondering why the Argentines have chosen this particular method to protest, Wikipedia tells us that a cacerolazo, cacerolada or casserole is a form of popular protest practiced in certain Spanish-speaking countries – in particular Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Spain – and most recently English-speaking countries which consists in a group of people creating noise by banging pots, pans, and other utensils in order to call for attention. What is peculiar about this type of demonstration is that the people protest from their own homes, thus achieving a high level of support and participation.
One of the largest and most recent cacerolazos occurred in Argentina during 2001, consisting largely of protests and demonstrations by middle-class people who had seen their savings trapped in the so-called corralito (a set of restrictive economic measures that effectively froze all bank accounts, initially as a short-term fix for the massive draining of bank deposits). The first cacerolazos were spontaneous and non-partisan. While in Argentina most demonstrations against government measures are customarily organized by labour union activists and low-level political recruiters among the lower classes, and often featuring an assortment of large banners, drums and pyrotechnic devices, cacerolazos were composed mostly of spontaneously gathered middle-class workers, housewives and professionals, who used not to be involved in grassroots political action of any kind.
After a time, however, the cacerolazo became an organized phenomenon, often of a violent nature, directed against the banks. Many of these were attacked, their facades spray-painted, their windows broken, their entrances blocked by tire fires, or even their facilities occupied by force at times. In order to avoid further violence, especially with the deadly December 2001 riots still fresh in the memories of Argentines, the government decided not to use active police force against the cacerolazos unless absolutely necessary, and to restrict most police presence to barricades in critical spots, a policy that was followed also with piquetero marches of unemployed people asking for state welfare and jobs.
OK, I think that’s about enough Argentine history and politics for today.
But since today, the 8th of November will be an important day in Argentine politics, I thought we should commemorate this day with something representative of Argentina – Dulce de Leche.
As I mentioned in my previous post about Dulce de Leche, this caramelized milk is Argentina’s favorite sweet sauce, and is present in almost every type of dessert available in Argentina. And.. what better way to eat it than in the middle of a muffin, each bite oozing with this sweet mouth-watering goodness?
Yes, what a beautiful way to start the blistering hot morning, stuffing myself with dulce de leche muffins, as I prepare for a long day starting with the crowd in the Subway (which thankfully is working again).
This is battle food, nourishment for the soul on a day where everything might just go crazy, and some sweetness to keep me sane.
Did I mention it was really gratifying too? Ah, I think I might have just busted my calorie intake for the morning. But on a day where people are going to be banging pots and pans, who cares?
DULCE DE LECHE MUFFINS (Makes 16 muffins)
1) 1 cup of milk cream
2) 2 cups of sugar (or slightly less if you prefer the muffins less sweet)
3) 3 cups of self-raising flour
4) 4 eggs
5) 1 cup of dulce de leche
1) Mix sugar and cream together until sugar is dissolved
2) Sift in self-raising flour, alternating each cup of flour with an egg, and stir well to get muffin batter
3) Arrange muffin cups in muffin mould
4) Pour enough batter in each muffin cup to cover ½ the cup
5) Using a teaspoon, scoop a small amount of dulce de leche and place on top of the batter (so that it is a small circle in the middle)
6) Fill the muffin cup with muffin batter until cups are 3/4 full
7) Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg for 20 – 25 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean when poked in the side of the muffin)
Mix sugar and cream together until sugar is dissolved:
Sift in self-raising flour, alternating each cup of flour with an egg:
Stir well to get muffin batter:
Arrange muffin cups in muffin mould:
Pour enough batter in each muffin cup to cover 1/2 the cup:
Scoop a small amount of dulce de leche and place on top of the batter:
Fill the muffin cup with muffin batter until cups are 3/4 full:
Fresh out of the oven!