It was 9 am on a Sunday morning, and we were already hitting up the grocery store. We piled ground beef, a whole chicken, onions, hot sauce, and emapanada pastry dough into our baskets. We headed home, turned on the oven, and got to work. It was team work at its best. I put the ground beef in a pot and lit the stove; while I was chopping onions, Nick seasoned the meat. When both the onions and the beef were done, we opened up the dough, and placed it circle-by-circle onto a cookie sheet. Nick scooped the onions and beef into the middle of the dough circles, and then I folded the dough together, making sure to pinch the ends together to form traditional empanadas. We baked them until they were golden brown, and then we started on the chicken ones. 72 empanadas later, our apartment smelled like cumin, cooked meat, and toasted pastries.
While they were still hot, Nick and I lined tin after tin with rows and rows of empanadas, seperating each layer with a paper towel to soak up any grease and to keep them warm and fresh. We threw on our salesman clothes (an ancient summer dress and cargo shorts and a tshirt, respectively), and carried our cartons of empanadas down the street and to the San Telmo Sunday Antique Fair. At the beginning of Plaza Dorrego, we heard our names being called, and turned to see our friends Nick and Brenna walking towards us with their bright blue serving bowl lined with dulce de leche and banana empanadas, pastalitos, the carmel colored sweet syrup leaking out of the pinches in the dough. My mouth was watering at the sight of them.
The four of us staked out a corner in the plaza and held up Nick's handmade sign advertising our emapanadas for 2 pesos a piece. And customers actually began to come! I think we were so surprised by the first customer that they probably wondered if they should buy one of our pastries, based on our displays of over-gratitude. But the fair was so busy, and crowds kept passing us, and random passers-by would see our sign, smell our emapanadas, and hand over a two peso bill. We were absolutely cracking up that this was working, that we were actually selling empanadas!
A few minutes after we arrived, our friend Leonor arrived, Leonor our empanada sale savior. Leonor is a woman we met while student teaching for our EBC, TEFL-certification course. She was one of our students at the center, and quickly became one of our favorite students. She is one of those people who literally radiates warmth; she is always smiling, always laughing, and always inviting us everywhere with her sister, Elsa, and their friends. Yesterday, Leonor showed up in all of her glory, and led the way. She shouted out empanadas and pastalitos slogans, explaining to customers about our pastries for sale when the Spanish confused us. She took our baskets and walked through the plaza, drawing customers in along the way. She stayed out there with us for three hours, selling our empanadas and keeping us company. Needless to say, we could not have done it without her...Our empanada angel. :-)
Throughout the day we had many different kinds of customers. We had portenos frequenting the fair, Europeans vacationing in Buenos Aires, supportive friends who came to visit us and help our budding business, and American tourists. One family from Michigan was sitting outside at a nearby cafe and called us over. Why are you doing this? they asked. We explained how we are English teachers living here in Buenos Aires, and looking to make some pocket change by doing something we love: cooking! They got such a kick out of a bunch of Americans selling traditional Argentine pastries that they bought six. They made our day. What also made our day were travellers with fancy cameras taking our pictures, mistaking us for Argentines. We laughed and posed with our baked goods, trying to get them to buy one along their way.
At the end of the day, our friends Vera and Eva paid us a visit, and then paid us for 6 empanadas, topping off our day and buying the last of the empanadas. We had sold 70 empanadas, and made 120 pesos for doing something we loved. To celebrate, Nick and I, Nick and Brenna, and Leonor and her sister Elsa all went out for pitchers of beer. We sat at a cafe, half-watching a soccer game in the background, and thoroughly enjoying our cold glasses of Schneiders. We were exhausted, but excited and slightly in shock that we had just sold dozens of empanadas. We kept cracking up at the idea that our quirky idea had worked, somehow (Leonor, thank you!!)...
So, for all of you Americans out there in Buenos Aires, come buy American next Sunday at the San Telmo Antique Fair, come buy some American-made empanadas! And, for all you Argentines, come try something exotic, come buy some gringo empanadas! We will be there. :-)