The grocery store in Ushuaia, Argentina, the “city al fin del mundo” as all the tourist signs call it, is not a place that would inspire one to cook. It’s more like the mystery basket on Chopped. What can you possibly make with the limited ingredients on the shelves before you? I was on a study trip trying to perfect my Spanish. I opted for the homestay, as I always do, hoping for the opportunity to practice Spanish with my host over meals. Unfortunately things didn’t turn out as planned and instead I was given kitchen privileges. It was a dismal cooking experience, with a crappy kitchen and minimal ingredients, and just as dreary of a Spanish learning environment with a teacher who liked to hear himself give grammar lessons and an uncommunicative homestay host. My spirits were saved by the amazing scenery of Patagonia and its ever changing skies. As I walked up and down the hills of Ushuaia each day, marveling at the sky and wondering what I was going to cook for dinner, I reflected back on a more pleasant experience a few years earlier in France. At the end of a month-long study program my charming hostess gave me a book on French country cooking. It was the perfect gift as I was planning on spending the next week in the hills of the Dordogne region with my husband, visiting the local markets and cooking in the little farmhouse I had rented for the week. The week couldn’t have been more fun, using the French I had acquired to decipher the recipes and to negotiate for the required ingredients in the village markets. What an enchanting way to practice language skills. So an idea was born. Stop the insanity of studying language for language’s sake and focus on the food.
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