April 22, 2008
"La Vida No Es una Pasta Frola"
–Alba Lampon, Contemporary Argentinean Sociologist
If there was ever a quote to sum up the Argentinean perspective, this would be it. Loosely translated, it means "Life is not a piece of cake." I think anyone would agree with that statement-it’s what we do with it that matters.
Americans, eternal optimists as we are, grow up being taught that even when things are looking dismal, we should put our best face forward and act as if nothing is wrong. We’ve all heard: everything happens for a reason, there’s a silver lining, life’s a bowl of cherries…we keep smiling through the hard times, even with clenched teeth. The upside to this attitude-we believe in the possibility of our dreams, and that anything can happen. In many instances this is true!
Argentineans, in contrast, tend to see the wine glass as half empty-life has socked them many hardships, and they’ve lived to tell about it. This makes many Argentineans expert complainers-politics, the economy, money (the lack of it) the job market-Argentina is ripe fodder for a pessimist. To say it another way, they are realists. They don’t expect things to be perfect, because that’s just not the way life is. It’s hard, and that’s no secret.
On that note, Argentineans are also experts at enjoying life. They eat long lunches drinking wine and savoring their food, they take even longer naps, and surround themselves with family and friends. Argentineans slow down, they take it all in. No sense of urgency to get things done or to accomplish a task, as there is here in the US. "It" gets done when it gets done, and other things (like the aforementioned meals, naps and family) take priority.
One of the things that makes life worth living for an Argentinean is food. Delicious, soul-satisfying food, eaten while taking a nice long while to taste it. I say this from the viewpoint of someone who will admit to having scarfed down food purchased at a drive thru window while driving maniacally to get something done. Life may not be a pasta frola, so with all the arrows it shoots our way, isn’t it better to slow down and enjoy?!
Receta por Pasta Frola (de Florencia)
Recipe for Pasta Frola (from Florencia)
Pasta Frola is, like many classic Argentinean recipes, Italian in origin. In Italy, the short-bread like dough (pasta frolla) is used in a variety of cakes and cookies; in Argentina it refers specifically to a cake with this crust, filled with quince jam or quince paste. (It can also be made using sweet-potato jam or your jam of choice.) Pasta Frola can be found in upscale bakeries and in everyone’s mother’s kitchen. It’s universal, and part of it’s beauty is its absolute simplicity. It’s easy and fast, made with ingredients on hand at any time. Pardon the pun, but it’s a piece of cake to make. (This one is my mother-in-law’s recipe.)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 stick butter, softened
2-3 tablespoons of milk
quince paste or quince jam (or the jam of your choice)
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour your pan-this recipe makes enough for a small square or rectangular pan, though the photos show small ramekins, which is also fine.
Mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder. Cut the butter in, mixing between your fingers to incorporate the flour mixture and the butter. Keep mixing until it’s uniform and resembles coarse sand.
Add the egg and 2 tablespoons of the milk and mix together until you get a ball of dough that is uniform. It should not be too dry (crumbling apart) and should not be sticky.
Roll out the dough onto a floured surface. The dough should be about half an inch think. Cut the dough and put it in to the pan. It should cover the bottom and go up on the sides only a little bit. Pat the dough down around the edges with the back of your fingers.
Take a few spoonfuls of quince jam and spread it over the dough in the pan. I have found that it’s easier to mash the jam in a bowl with a fork so that it’s easier to spread. Also, if using quince paste, you may need to add some warm water to soften the paste texture.
Roll out the dough scraps and cut into strips with a pastry cutter or knife. Lay across the top of the jam and dough in a lattice (criss-cross) pattern.
Pop into the oven for a very short time-only about 20 minutes. It should be slightly browned on the top.