It’s been a while, but now I have some time to write an update. For the past few weeks I have been responsible for writing and compiling a daily newsletter which was distributed at an insurance conference in Chile, and in the intense run-up to the conference I had no time for blogging. The process culminated in a trip to Chile to write live content for the newsletter. It gave me a swift but engrossing taste of life in Santiago, a lively, smoggy city full of sharp contrasts: rich and poor; mountain and valley; shiny-smart and spray-painted bohemian. Edged by the snowy Andes, it has an ethereal beauty when seen from afar. Up close it is grittier. A waiter chastised me for leaving my handbag in full view on a chair in the more upmarket part of town, and wandering the city centre streets at the end of the conference I saw wizened, leathery men with wild hair and desperate eyes begging for money.
At the other end of the spectrum is a glossy world of growing privilege and middle class confidence – the very class the insurance industry is seeking to engage, protecting new-found wealth from misfortune. One evening we were whisked up to a party in a hilltop venue with a vast roof terrace overlooking the city. Champagne flowed, polished young staff brought wave after wave of canapés and as the moon rose over the sparkling city it was hard to imagine anywhere more perfect.
On the final night of the conference we piled into coaches once again, and set off on a mostly underground drive that seemed to last an eternity. Santiago’s labyrinthine bowels are made up not only of metro tunnels but also a system of frenetically busy road tunnels and high speed underground intersections. Venture into them for too long and you start to feel a primal anxiety: you are hurtling too fast into the darkness with no hopeful light at the end of the tunnel.
When we eventually emerged we were taken to a racetrack edged by a palatial colonial building, in whose shadow we wandered from one wine tasting table to another while being plied with canapes: crumbly deep fried flatbreads with salsa; foie gras pate crostini; and morsels the most tender, juicy beef I have ever tasted.
The culinary highlight of the trip, however, was a visit to a restaurant called Peumayen, which specialises in re-visiting the food of Chile’s indigenous peoples. The ‘bread board’ alone was breathtaking: a long line of tasters ranging from sweet, puddingy loaf to deep fried potato bread; from dainty flatbread with a punchy dip to puttyish balls of what looked like raw dough, but crumbled and melted in the mouth releasing layers of salty, spicy flavours. In between courses were water-ice palate cleansers with fresh, unfamiliar tastes. Meats on offer included horse (a first for me, it was succulent and a little lighter than beef) and rabbit, which came pulled and stewed in sweet and powerful spices.
I could go on, but this is a speedy skit through the past three weeks so I will only add: if you are in Santiago, go to Peumayen: it is a delight and also an education.
Since returning from Chile I have had further adventures, including a trip to Berlin and one to London to help celebrate 65 years of The Good Food Guide. I’ve also had some great meals in Welsh restaurants I have only just discovered. I’ll tell you about those next time.