Montevideo, the capitol of Uruguay, is what some of my friends call “a toy city.” Although it contains over 1.5 million people, I understand this as there are not that many tall buildings, and most of those are eight story hundred+ year old office buildings downtown and around Plaza Independencia. It does give an impression of a city you could pack away into a basket and set beside the sofa when you are done playing with it. But there are some tall modern buildings down near the Rambla, which runs along the Rio de la Plata, on the south side of the city (a river so wide that we think of it as the ocean, although knowing that somewhere on the far side is Argentina).
The World Trade Center in Pocitos near the Rambla consists of four (soon to be five) very tall buildings full of modern offices, and due to some legal arrangement with the country, these are free trade zones and tend to attract some of the major international businesses which have a location in Uruguay. I teach in the WTC, and my students are accountants. I have always thought of this as a dry, dusty word, but I now know better, as these three humorous, vibrant individuals enrich my life every time I spend an hour with them.
Except now I am trembling in my boots because Valentina, my young adviser on all things Uruguayan, informed me yesterday that she was sending me back to the USA because after 15 months in her country I am unaware of something very very important: bizcochos. Finally we established that I have indeed sampled them, and have been negligently calling them “those bread things.” In order to avoid a major trauma and losing all my new friends and hard-won Spanish vocabulary, I swore I would immediately purchase some on the way home and eat them with coffee that very afternoon.
And I will never forget that according to Valentina: “In the afternoon everyone’s eating bizcochos. Bizcochos are Uruguay. They melt in your mouth.” On the way home I got four each of a selection of sugared ones, ones with cheese inside, ones with ham inside, ones with pudding inside, and an onion flavored one that the bakery man insisted I try and would not be sorry. He was right, I was not sorry.