Saturday, October 30, 2010


It was Alberto who gave us the idea.  We were at La Cachila with Alberto and Paulina when we noticed that Alberto was frequently sneaking off to the bar.  Was it for drinks?  No.  It was the fabulous complimentary melon fruit salad.

"I love eating melon," Alberto said.

You see, we were running out of ideas on what to buy our friends when we visited them.  You could get them wine, you could get them whisky - but what could you buy that would be really useful, that everyone could enjoy?

You could buy fruit.

"Why doesn't anyone give fruit anymore?" I asked Man Yung.  "I remember back in the 80's in Hong Kong, whenever we went visiting relatives or friends or whenever someone paid a visit, the visitor would bring these enormous baskets made of pink plastic coated wire - they were impossible to open - filled with apples and oranges.  Of course, I would always be disappointed.  Sugus candy would have been a bigger hit with me and my cousins. Even Quality Street - although the toffees were not a particularly nice surprise for me."

"Well, I like the Quality Street toffees.  Even before they had the wire baskets, people in Hong Kong were giving each other fruit.  They'd tie half a dozen, a dozen oranges together with red string, slap a pink paper on top - and yes, I know the kids prefer chocolates, but the adults really appreciated the fruit.  Families would sit together in the evenings peeling oranges and talking about the events of the day.  Fruit will always be eaten and would never go to waste."

"So why don't people give fruit anymore?"

"I think people don't visit each other anymore."

It's true.  Well, people do still visit.  But their hosts may allow them inside their houses - but rarely will they allow them into their homes.  We've been invited to people's houses before, here in Toronto.  Our hosts had gone to great lengths to make their houses look like the centre spread of "House Beautiful".  They would take us on a tour of the house.  "Here is the garden, here's the den, here's the master bedroom, here's the attic nook... here's the imported stainless steel appliances with moveable kitchen island with the Italian granite countertop."  Everything was pristine, you didn't dare drop anything from your plate and you couldn't even find a garbage can anywhere. It didn't look like anyone lived there, the occupants had just borrowed the space to throw a big party - and everything would turn into a pumpkin at midnight.

It's so much easier too, not to visit.  We have cellphones.  We have skype.  We have email.  We have facebook.  Anything except having to deal with the messiness of being together, face to face.

When we brought out two yellow melons from their plastic bags at Osvaldo and Coca's house and held them up chest level (a la Austin Powers one), they knew right away that Man Yung was joking about my lack, thereof.  Where did these cheeky chinese people come from?

In Argentina, like Hong Kong of yesteryear, visiting is still a daily occurrence.  Osvaldo always had his eye on the gate.  The godfather of his children, a distinguished bespectacled gentleman, came by to say hello.   A neighbour lady with a no-nonsense attitude and a wide smile came over and helped Coca check her blood pressure. 
Osvaldo and Coca, like all our Argentinian friends, let us into their homes. You came at lunch hour?  Then, please join us for lunch.  If the tablecloth is a little dirty, flip it over. In our home our children and grandchildren are always coming and going.  Our dog is fat, but fast - please make sure he doesn't sneak out of the gate!  There's the smell of tea, of cooking, of mate.

 "You must eat!" they said.  Force feeding optional.

The melons were a big hit.  "They were a little raw," Coca said, "but the kids couldn't wait.  They split open the melons right away, chopped it into little pieces, added orange juice and a little sugar...and we all ate it afterwards.  It was a very delicious fruit salad!"


Anonymous said...

Ah but we invited you to our home here in BsAs, shame you could not come. There is no ceremony here
The only fruit I like has been distilled, but Viv is quite fond of a bit now and again.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Bob and Viv,

Ah, your comment just proves that you are locals.

(Except that you took a taxi to Canning!)

Irene and Man Yung

Elizabeth Brinton said...

I just love this story, and the picture, which really illustrates the concept of "home" versus "house".
The people who ask you over to see their stuff...blah. People who open the home with an open heart...priceless. What a grand adventure you are having, and what a treat to read. I would love to meet Osvaldo and Coca! And there you are being force fed!

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Elizabeth,

Osvaldo and Coca are two of the most genuine, loving, lovely people you can find in Tango. They are incapable of speaking any untruth - and that's why every step they take when they dance is honest. They open their hearts to everyone. If you happen to be in Buenos Aires, see if you can make it to their group classes at El Tacuari on Fridays. If we don't happen to be in the class (unfortunately, we have to spend some of our time in Toronto!), tell them that Irene and Man Yung sent you. We guarantee that you will get a big warm welcome.

Irene and Man Yung

Toronto Weather

Buenos Aires Weather