Game-Time Bondiola at River Plate Stadium

My first night in Buenos Aires found me in a crowded stadium, cheering along with River Plate fans as our boys in red and white assailed the Mendocino goal. I am almost notorious at this point for not owning a single sports fan jersey, a source of great and all-too-frequent shame to my friends at Sox games, Bruins bar-crawls, Superbowl parties. As if on purpose, I always seem to end up wearing enemy colors or something completely unrelated to sports. (I swear, it is not on purpose. I just don’t care enough to do the research.) I got lucky the night of River vs. Godoy Cruz though. I happened to slip on a red and white T-shirt and black shorts as my companion solemnly nodded “Boca colors. Good job.” My shirt also happened to say “Coca-Cola Firenze” in the brand’s signature font and was not unlike the uniforms worn by stadium cola vendors – a fact which lead to a charming picture of me selling off a tray of soda to unsuspecting Argentines.

35Goals aside, the night was highlighted by a pre-game snack from a familiar looking BA food cart. A sandwich had been promised to me hours before. I had tugged at my companion’s arm like a child in need of an ice cream cone and inquired in a desperate tone: “Will they have sketchy street meaaaaat? Will theyyyy? Can we get sommmme?” Outside the stadium we approached the first carrito that we spotted. Smoke and the sound of meat grease sizzling over charcoal wafted off the grill surrounded by hungry game-goers. I was still revieweing our options, when I heard him order. “Una bondiola, por favor.” I smiled because it was, ultimately, what I had wanted. Chori’s are better on sunny days in the park and the soggy hamburgesa “paty” doesn’t really do it for me, even when hungover. 4Bondiola goes best with beer, which the place did not sell over- or under-the table. We were only disheartened, however, until having our first bite of the sandwich: a single juicy slab of pork shoulder slathered with local Benidorm mustard and slapped into a bun slit down the side. The meat, for coming off a stadium-adjacent parrilla cart, was surprisingly un-sketchy. Large hunks of the stuff graced the grill (as they could just have easily done a restaurant kitchen prep-line); well marbled, bright red-and-white like a true River fan. Inch-thick slices were lain onto the cooking surface, allowing the fat to soften into a creamy consistency and the meat to firm up and caramelize on the edges into a crunchy, salty crust. Expecting to have to chew the thing like wartime shoe-leather in order to extract flavor, I was taken aback by how tender it actually turned out and how delicate despite its firmness. It might have had something to do with the lemon juice squeezed over the top to tenderize the thing while it cooked, though citrus flavor was not evident in the bite. Instead, the slight sweetness of pork licked with charcoal smoke dominated, with the perfect tang added by processed yellow mustard. The bread was nothing spectacular but soaked up the extra grease without falling apart a soggy mess.

After our second bite, an angel appeared in front of us in the form of a straggly street urchin selling half-liter cans of beer from the pocket of his faded hoodie. The warmth of his chest had magically not touched the pilsner, which remained frosty and fizzy and ridiculously refreshing. He might have overcharged us. I wasn’t really paying attention to the price as I reached for the can like a moody baby for its pacifier.
Bond-y-bierra at our team’s home stadium. Night #1 in Buenos Aires.
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