Las Cuartetas — Las Violetas & La Posada
In the late 60s for 6 months I was a waiter (mozo in Argentine Spanish) in La Boca in Buenos Aires. I worked weekends at la Cantina Paquebot Priano. A band played awful cumbias (not a tango to be heard) and we as waiters were supposed to sashay with the music while carrying heavy dishes of a fixed menu. We were informed by the boss that every once in a while we were supposed to spill food so that management could provide a free bottle of cheap wine for compensation.
The job provided me with needed spending money that helped make ends meet as my military pay in the Argentine Navy (I was a conscript) was an envelope which contained two dollars a month. The rate of pay had not been changed since 1902.
I hated the job but it helped me appreciate the role of the waiter in modern life. Here I Vancouver it might be seen as a temporary job for young persons with arts degrees on their way up to artistic fame.
In my native Buenos Aires, being a waiter is being part of an honourable profession. Waiters in Buenos Aires (mostly men) take pride in what they do. You feel this and see this in their faces as they serve you with excellence and with an honest smile on their face.
Ramón Escano at the Pizzería Las Cuartetas on Calle Corrientes was extra special. He had a delightful smile and from his accent I guessed correctly he was from the province of Corrientes. We both agreed, without discussing our political views, that one act that former president Cristina Kirchner had performed most favourably was to appoint Teresa Parodi (a terrific singer of folclor correntino chamamés) as cultural minister during her time in office. Las Cuartetas was were my father took me for pizza after we went to the many movie houses on nearby Lavalle. Las Cuartetas was were I went for a slice when I was a conscript in the Navy. Las Cuartetas was the place where I sent my daughters Ale and Hilary when they were late teenagerss. They told the management of the significance of the place to their father. The manager promptly served them sopa inglesa for dessert on the house. Sopa inglesa is an Argentine version of trifle heavy with brandy. The girls left tipsy.
Las Violetas is a beautiful tea room from the 19th century. Roque Lascano was a sweet man. I told him so as he was from the province of Tucumán known for its sugar harvest.There was such pride in his face when her served Lauren her submarino (a tall cup of very hot milk with a huge bar of bitter chocolate inserted to melt). I showed him some of my racy photographs from my series Argentine Nostalgia. He was delighted and brought the man behind the bar to look at them. It was a pleasant afternoon that we spent with Jorge Wenceslao and Sarita.
In our recent trip to Buenos Aires I made sure to instruct our 14 year-old granddaughter of this fact.
It was fun to converse with our waiters and to find out where they were from. All had been at it for many years.
Gabriel Perdomo was from Uruguay. Here we hit with a most unlikely coincidence. We were having dinner with Jorge Wenceslao whose surname is de Irureta Goyena. It seems that Perdomo while living in Montevideo he was raised in a house on Irureta Goyena Street. Irureta Goyena was a noted Uruguayan politician. Perdomo seemed to anticipate what we would want and he would suggest entries from the menu that were exactly what he wanted. La Posada (the building housing the restaurnand and just half a block from our hotel, The Claridge Hotel)
In the photograph above of La Posada our hotel, The Claridge can be seen on the left (I placed two white dots!). Those metal sheets on the street covered huge drainage works holes. At night when buses and cars would cross the noise from our hotel room was deafening. It sounded like Tiger tanks on the way to a battle.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.