Thursday, 3 March 2011

There's a Dog on the table II

So, my friend K and I planned to meet up for a coffee a few days before she was to go travelling. She's a lovely girl; half English half Kenyan, with a great sense of self- deprecating humour and a very warm nature. The heart bleeds a bit that she is leaving back to the UK. Anyway, this post isn't so much about her, more about this fateful cup of coffee (otherwise my choice of title could be taken as a little insulting, don't you think?).

We met up at the designated hour in the vicinity of Bellas Artes, a corner of Santiago Centro known for it's (as the name suggests) beautiful arts, bohemian atmosphere,  museums and caf├ęs- sort of like the Soho or Camden of Santiago- without the drugs and goths. We decided on a little cafe and ordered. She ordered what I think was a cocktail of mango and coconut, which came in a beaker more than a glass. I was after something warmer and little more virgin, so I asked for a hot chocolate. Much to my confusion the waiter asked me how I wanted it. Now, if I had ordered steak, or even coffee, this question would not have stumped me with the stumping-power that it did. "umm... ¿caliente? ¿y con chocolate, por favor?"* I answered the waiter, thinking that surely my original order had already communicated to him all of the needs I had just outlined. More surprising yet was his retort: "¿Lo quiere liquido?"**. I looked at K. She looked at me. We said nothing but in the silence seemed to hang the understanding and complicity that neither of us had a clue what he was on about. I had traveled much . She had traveled much. Seemingly neither of us had ever encountered hot chocolate in any form other than liquid. I looked at the waiter, and nodded a patronizing nod; a nod would say "yes, surprisingly enough I would like my hot, liquid, chocolatey beverage to come hot, liquid and chocolatey." And off he scuttled.

I'm getting to the dog on the table bit...

So soon our handsome, and according to K, Argentine waiter returned (Although we later discovered he was that rare breed of handsome Chilean- see upcoming post for more details) with said beaker of yellow and white speckled juice for K and a medium sized mug of dark brown syrup. Apparently the concepts of both "hot" and "liquid" are highly subjective ones, as my Hot chocolate was lukewarm (which wasn't too criminal) and had the consistency of thick English custard (which I found equally surprising and of-putting). I was confused, and a little disappointed. And the cherry on the cake (or the lukewarm chocolate custard) of this sad predicament? It tasted like straight syrup- so sweet I felt the walls of my throat recoiling as it slowly journeyed down my oesophagus with the viscosity of freshly curdled yoghurt. All in all, I was not impressed.

Just then, who (or what, I should say) should appear to my aid? A german shepherd. Not a small, stuffed, chilean-jumper wearing German Shepherd, (because in all honesty if one of those had just appeared out of thin air I think I would have started somewhat more than I did). A real, full grown German Shepherd. And, instinctively, I made the 'click click' sound that any animal lover makes upon seeing an animal in their vicinity in need of some sincere petting. Needless to say the GS heard me, and mistook the three pats I proceeded to inflict on his head for an invitation to join our merry party. He leapt onto the table, licked the side of my face, and then proceeded to help himself to my chocolate, umm, beverage. A few moments of shock and awe ensued, after which our handsome, non-argentine waiter came to remove the mutt from the table. And that was that.

It may go without saying, but I will say it anyway- I did not order another.

*Hot, and chocolatey please?
** Would you like that in liquid form?


  1. In 1986, I ordered a hot chocolate from room service in my hotel in Madrid. I had the same struggle in my very broken Spanish to explain the concept of hot and chocolate. "Caliente" seemed to throw them off completely!

    I added 'copa' then after searching in my Berlitz booklet, came up with 'taza' but clearly it was a foreign concept to the hotel. Not being in my usual 5-star accommodation, I just said bring it up.

    What i received was clearly a chocolate cream dessert that had been heated up and then poured into a cup (to satisfy me)...

    Maybe you can investigate with genuine Chileans in their home what they do with cocoa poweder, water, milk and sugar and cups, And, exactly what they call this concoction.

    After all, cocoa comes from Central America, so maybe they think of it in completely different way!

  2. Nobody orders hot chocolate in Chile, it's just not part of our simple as that.

    solo pasaba =)