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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Noche de la Nostalgia

Well last night (August 24th) was a national pastime called Noche de la Nostalgia. Apparently during the 70's it became popular to celebrate music and dance and has lasted to this day. Our local restaurant (1 block away) hosted its own celebration, joining hundreds of venues all over Uruguay. Denise signed up for it a few weeks ago, and at about 9:30 last night, we showed up for the festivities.

We were among the first to arrive. I should not have been a surprise, in a country that regularly eats dinner at 10 pm, that things really didn't get under way for another 1/2 hour or so. For a cost of 400 pesos each (about $17 US), we were treated to: 2 complementary drinks (whiskey or martini), a plate of hors douvres, beer and soda, a nice main entry (chicken stroganoff, very tasty) and a nice little desert. In addition, there was a couple of hours of live music. A couple sang songs, accompanied by pre-recorded tracks and did a very nice job.

A word about the martini. I didn't fancy a whiskey, so we selected the martini. Here is how it played out. The martini was served in a tall highball glass, with a lime wedge perched on the lip. It had ice cubes, a drinking straw and my guess is that it consisted of sweet vermouth with a splash of gin. Now the last item might not be way out of place, since this is south of the equator and many things run backwards (including sun dials). However, it did remind me of a joke that martini drinkers will enjoy and others may not appreciate.

A sophisticated New Yorker on his way through the South on business, stopped into the "Dewdrop Inn" for dinner. When the waitress came for his order, he sarcastically asked if they had ever heard of a martini. The waitress assured him that a martini was the "Speciality of the house". Impressed he ordered one. "Would you like the regular or deluxe?" she asked. "What's the difference?" he wanted to know. "Honey, the deluxe comes with grits." (......rimshot....)

OK- back to the evening. The crowd (about 30-40) was seated in a nice large area, normally occupied by a pool table and some electronic games that had been cleared out. The group was obviously from our neighborhood and with the exception of a few couples, most were in their 50's or better (present company included). We felt right at home. The drinks were served and eventually the sound system set up and the couple began singing songs. The rotating disco ball and black lights added to the scene, and anything white (including teeth) shown with a strange purple glow.

The songs were no doubt very popular Latin American songs, as most of the crowd knew the lyrics and either mouthed the words or sang along. We were probably the only ones who didn't know the songs and were not able to grasp the meanings from the Spanish lyrics. But the general tone was one of love and affection and seemed to generate a nostalgic atmosphere (hence the name of the evening). After the first couple of songs, the couples took to the dance floor and the dance floor was not empty the rest of the night. Everybody danced and some danced for hours.

After about a 1 hour set, the couple packed up and the DJ for the night spun 50's rock and roll songs (strictly American), which the crowd also knew and sang to. If you had pulled up to the joint in a '57 Chevy convertable, dressed in jeans and T-shirt and your hair slicked back with oil, you would have felt right at home (except for all of those old people dancing to the music).

Dinner was served and eventually dessert, but there was almost always some couples dancing. This went on for 5 hours, and though some left, it didn't really seem like it was slowing down a lot. At 3:00 in the morning, Denise and I felt we had "represented" well enough, eating, drinking and dancing the night away and so we finally slunk out with goodbyes and kisses for the hostess, determined to mark this on our calendar and be fully prepared for next year. Hey- with a little practice, we could be the "hot ones" on the floor.

On a different note, the other day we spied this house and it's business sign while driving through Parque del Plata (a neighboring area). The sign says that the man offers his service as a carpenter. Hmmm...any takers?


Thomas said...

Hi Wally. I like your blog. Is there an email address I can use or is this the best way to communicate?

Anyway, just saying from the states that we enjoy your blog. How's your spanish? Are you or your wife fluent? How expensive is car insurance? Did you do glass work in Washington (you're from seattle?) And finally, what's it like having seasons reversed?

I'm sure you've answered some of these questions, which I'll eventually get to reading all of the older posts.

Take care.

Wally said...

Thomas- Thanks for posting a comment. It is nice to know that someone is reading the blog. I would be happy to answer any questions you have. I think you will find many answered, already.

Send me another comment with your email address and a request not to publish it. I moderate comments and will not publish the comment, but will answer you in email.

Anonymous said...

Hi Wally,

A "Martini" in UY is really not a Martini but the Martini Bianco brand vermouth, no Gin nor Vodka whatsoever. If you really want a Martini as you know it, you may have to ask for a "Gin Martini" at an "upscale" bar and you may even have to tell them how to make it. Also, most bars do not have Martini glasses....
Take care,

Anonymous said...

very nice blog !!!

I agree with Leo, here in Uruguay, if you ask for a Martini, they will usually give you sweet white vermouth of the Martini brand (or any other brand they have, be it Cinzano or cheaper brands like Valents...)

Unless you ask for a "còctel martini", in a place where they make cocktails

Other beverage idiosincracies in Uruguay :

BITTER :if you ask for "a bitter", they will probably serve you bitter Campari, or other brand, not a beer, like in some countries "a bitter" means beer

CAÑA :Here is a strong distilled spirit, sometimes made by the government, or from a brazilian brand...unlike in Spain, were CAÑAS are tall and narrow glasses of beer

MEDIO Y MEDIO : Depending of the place, it can be a mix of CAÑA with red vermouth,or a sweet sparkling wine,like cider,sidra or a sweet champagne, the most famous is MEDIO Y MEDIO ROLDOS, a festive drink for brindis, usually drank in a champagne flute, but cheaper and sweeter

CINZANO CON CINZANO, a mix of red sweet vermouth and Amaro, both of them of the Cinzano brand

If you want to try a very typical uruguayan distilled spirit, similar to rum, try ESPINILLAR,an uruguayan invention, used to be made by the government distillery ANCAP...the same company that operates gas stations...They also made whisky, rum, grappa,caña, and Pineau liquor

VERMOUTH OYAMA : is a red sweet vermouth, cheap but good quality, made by the Martini company in Sayago,Montevideo...

GRAPPAMIEL : Unlike the strong and smelly grappa aquardent distilled drink, GRAPPAMIEL is a sweet mild liquour, made with grappa and honey