Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Missing Posts

As usually happens, I got busy and didn't manage to write anything blog-worthy for the past few weeks.  My silence notwithstanding, there has been a lot going on, and I will do my best to summarise.  Some things I was actively trying to delay posting about, because I wanted people to send me the photos they took so I could share them here, but that seems like it may never happen, so I will tell the stories and post the photos if and when they ever come to me.

Beer Festival
Some photos I do have are from my day at the Beer Festival with Maurizio and his lovely, English-speaking cousin, Juan Pablo.  I don't drink beer, but Maurizio loves it, so I agreed to go with him to this event at the Museo del Chico. Fortunately, it was being sponsored by Carulla, one of the fancy grocery store chains here, so we were able to purchase some cheese and good bread and salami to snack on.  This kept the boys from getting too drunk, and me from getting too bored.

The beer selection wasn't all that amazing, and there were no ciders for me (I have yet to locate any in Colombia), but outside there was a pretty lawn with bean bags on which to lounge and chat, so that's what we did for most of the afternoon. It got colder as it got later, but we stayed till it was properly dark.


Chocolate
Raymond loves his food.
Maurizio has a lot of family here in Bogotá, and many of them have helped him or us in various ways over the years. So, we decided to say "thank you" by hosting Chocolate one evening.  In England, they have tea time; in Colombia, they have Chocolate (pronounced like "choco-latte").  We went to Chocolate at his aunt and uncle's house once, and it included hot chocolate (of course) with various types of pandebono (a sort of cheesy bun) and chunks of cheese that we were meant to place in the chocolate until melty and then eat with a spoon.  It was delicious.  Of course, Maurizio wanted to impress everyone, so instead of buying bread to go with our chocolate, he decided we would travel to the north of the city to buy fresh yeast and flour so that we could make homemade bread and fougasse á la Raymond Blanc.  He also wanted to make a cheesecake and a tarte tatin, while I was to make my healthy version of a peanut butter pie, for which I needed to roast and blend some peanuts, because we were getting low on peanut butter.  The grocery shopping bill for this evening was ridiculous, as we were hosting quite a few people, but we kept telling ourselves it was worth it for such a grand gesture.

We began working on the bread around 10 a.m., and I made my pie nice and early so I could freeze it (it's made mostly with blended bananas, so it has to be chilled in order to set up, or it will be soupy).  However, with the peeling and coring of apples for the tarte and the repeated attempts at making caramel, followed by adventures in cheesecaking and a slow-rising bread dough, somehow we were still working in the kitchen at 5 p.m. when family members were due to arrive.  Fortunately, thanks to the previously-mentioned concept of Colombian Time, no one actually arrived until around 7 p.m., by which point I had had a chance to throw on a dress and a bit of make-up to pretend I hadn't been in my PJs all day.  The evening was a great success, despite the apartment being so chilly that no one took off their coats or scarves, and despite the dearth of chairs requiring three people to sit on a sofa that had been pushed up to the table, and despite the tarte tatin not wanting to flip over when it was time, resulting in a bit of a tatin mess (a terrible pun on Eton mess, which Maurizio actually made recently).  The fougasse in three flavours were amazing, the peanut butter pie was a huge hit, and my hot chocolate and sweet iced tea (the latter concocted from one of the caramel failures in an attempt to salvage ingredients) won accolades from everyone.  We had a really nice time, and I think everyone else did, too.

Rowing on Lake Tominé
We got to row! In singles!  On a huge, windy, speed-boat-filled lake!  It is a miracle we didn't fall in.  But after four thousand meters we were both feeling quite pleased with ourselves and I wanted to keep going forever.  I have mentioned before that there is almost no rowing culture in Colombia, but Maurizio managed to make friends with a man who has built some boats on his own initiative (and at his own considerable expense), and these were the ones we got to row.  They were tiny racing singles, which meant that I was terrified when first getting in, but once I had taken a few strokes and my body remembered what it was doing, I had one of the best experiences that Colombia has yet been able to offer.  The lake is massive, gorgeous, and surrounded by mountains.  It is also home to a number of nautical clubs that offer sailing, water skiing, jet skiing, and other water sports.  It is almost two hours' drive outside of Bogotá, so being there gives us a nice break from the smog and the crowds, and after the row we got to eat a delicious lunch at the clubhouse, which is quite fancy and features a big fire right in the middle to help you warm up.  My lunch was a fish stew served in a coconut (!) which I asked to bring home afterward.

Since that wonderful Sunday on the water, the local government has closed down the lake to water sports, citing forty years worth of unpaid environmental permits or some such malarky.  This has, obviously, made a number of (wealthy and important) members of the nautical clubs quite upset, and we have high hopes that the situation will be resolved in the near future.  I want to go rowing again.  In the meantime, I am working on getting the club some more boats from the US, so that we can develop a rowing programme here.  I have found five at a good price in Massachusetts, but the challenge is going to be shipping them here!  If anyone has any experience with this kind of thing, please let me know.

I'll pause there for now, as we have a busy day today and I can't sit here typing away all morning. But stay tuned for Part II of this little catch-up to come soon!

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