Thoughts of a Uruguay Fútbolista

Joe found this wonderful letter that Uruguay football player Edinson Cavani wrote to his younger self,  it is worth a read.

Dear nine-year-old Edinson, 
I am writing these lines to the boy that everyone in the neighborhood calls “Pelado”. 
When you were a baby you did not have too much hair. And it grew to you very little by little. A shit, but there was not much you could do about it. So, thanks to the creativity of your family, you were always “Pelado”.
Well, I’m happy to tell you that in the next 20 years, football will change your life in many ways. Some very good, others not so much. But football is going to help you get rid of that tedious nickname. 
There is a player named Gabriel Batistuta. You still do not know, because the only program you have the patience to sit and watch on TV is called Tom & Jerry. Your eldest brother, Nando, will be the first to be inspired by Batistuta. He will start to refuse to go to the hairdresser. And to use the conditioner for your mother’s hair. And little by little, it will begin to look like the magnificent Batigol every time. When you are running on a playground, with your long hair pulled back and held by a rubber band, it will be the best you have seen.
The time will come when it will be you who will tell your mother: “No more haircuts.” 
You live your life outside, with a ball in your feet. In the South American way. You do not know anything else. And also, what is there to do inside? Nothing funny. Nothing interesting. There is no PlayStation. There is no big TV. You do not even have to take a hot shower. There is no heating either. In winter, your heating system will be four blankets. When you need to take a bath, you will have a thermos with water that you will heat in the kitchen to kerosene. It is very important to understand how to combine cold and hot water. Standing in the bathtub, you will learn to be an alchemist.
And yet, this will be a luxury for you. Or do not you remember your first house? The one that did not have a bathroom. That house where every time you had to relieve yourself, you had no choice but to walk outside and go to the small shed! 
Can you let me tell you a secret? When I remember that image now, I do not feel bad at all. For some reason, it fills me with energy. It gives me courage. It is a beautiful memory. 
Do not worry about what you have in the house. You have to keep living your life in the sun, Pelado.
Also, what is the reason for having soccer posters stuck on the wall? Every two or three years, when you change jobs or your family can not pay the rent, you will have to move to another place. But do you know what is best? That in every new house, no matter where it is located, you will always have a little field outside. And there will also be a ball. There is no owner in the world that will be able to remove that, I guarantee it. 
What matters most in your life at this moment, if I remember correctly, is the Ice Cream Goal.
The Ice Cream Goal is something magical. I need to talk to someone from PSG about the Ice Cream Goal. It’s great. It is pure motivation. The idea was for the organizers of the Salto youth championship. How do you get motivated to a bunch of six-year-old gurises no matter how the game goes? 
Putting the rule that the boy who makes the last goal of the game takes an ice cream.
The result could be 8-1, but it did not matter. It was a race against time. Mark the last goal of the game. And the feeling when listening to the technician who blew the whistle to mark the end, when you had put the Ice Cream Goal … incredible! An immense joy. Will it be chocolate? Are you going to get one of those from Mickey Mouse? Whatever it is, throughout that day, you will be the king.
Of course you’re not a kid from the capital, Pelado. The boys of Montevideo live in a different world. A world that you do not even know exists. A world of Adidas boots, car trips and green grass. In Salto, everything is different. For some reason, everyone wants to play barefoot. Some children start the matches with shoes, but then, at halftime, all the booties are stacked on one side and everyone will be running barefoot. If I close my eyes right now, I can still feel the mud on the soles of my feet. I can still feel my heart beating, chasing the ball, dreaming of ice cream.
You will carry these feelings with you throughout your life, because you are South American. From Uruguay. Of Salto. You live football in a different way. 
The blessing and the curse for the Uruguayans is that we can never relax. It is the history of our football, it is the history of our country. When we put on the blue, we feel the pride of our history.
We have to go for all, give, give, give. And there we go. 
What are your dreams, Pelado? 
I do not even remember them exactly. Time transformed them into diffuse memories. 
Is your dream to play in Montevideo, like Nando? You’ll get it, and when you do, you’ll feel like you’re playing the Champions League. 
Is your dream to play in Europe? You will also get it, and you will make enough money to change the life of your family.
Is your dream to play for Uruguay? You will do it, and you will have experiences that will make you cry with joy and also with sadness. 
Is your dream to play a World Cup? (I’m not going to ruin the surprise, I’ll just tell you that 2010 will be El Loco). 
Your dream is to have a lot of money, drive nice cars and sleep in elegant hotels? Well, Pelado, you’ll have all those things.
But I have to tell you something. They will not necessarily make you happy. 
What you have now, with 9 years old, is something that I miss very much now. 
You do not have a hot shower. You do not have a weight in your pocket. You do not even have good hair. But you have something else. Something that has no price. You have your freedom.
As a child, you live your life with an intensity and a passion that will be impossible as an adult. We try to hold on to that feeling when we grow up, but it starts to go away. It slips through our hands. There are too many responsibilities. Too much pressure. Too much life lived in. 
Do you know what life is like now, at 31 years of age?
You go from a hotel to a bus and from there to a training camp. After the training camp to a bus and an airplane. From the plane you go to another bus. From that bus you go to a stadium. 
In many aspects, you are living in a dream. But in many others, you are also a prisoner of that dream. You can not go outside and feel the sun. You can not take off the booties and play on the ground. Things will happen that will make your life complicated. It is unavoidable.
When you are a child, you have this feeling that the most successful person is the one who has the most things. 
When you grow up, you realize that the most successful person is the one who has the wisdom to live life. 
When you achieve it in professional soccer, you will have everything you can dream of. And for this you will have to be extremely grateful. But I have to be honest with you, Pelado. There is only one place where you can have that total freedom. And it lasts 90 minutes, if you’re lucky.
When you put on your boots, no matter if you’re playing in the Salto field, in the green grass of Napoli or in front of millions of people in a World Cup … I want to remind you of your father’s words. 
What does it always tell you, every time you go to play a game? 
I know that you know it. 
He says: “The moment you cross the line of lime and enter the field, it’s just football. Nothing that happens outside that line will help you with what goes on inside. Nothing else exists. “
If you listen to those words and really believe in the spirit of what they say, then, even if the pressure is immense, even if you are playing in front of millions of people … you will go out on the court and you will feel like you are playing barefoot. 
You will feel the mud stuck on the soles of your feet.
You will feel your heart beating and you will run looking for the ball, as if it were the biggest trophy in the world. As if you were playing for ice cream. 

Yesterdays game was a very big deal for the people of Uruguay. Cavani scored both goals for Uruguay, beating Portugal and advancing to the final 8. Guess he got his ice cream.

World Cup – Uruguay Wins Against Portugal

It was a great game and the people of Uruguay go crazy for their National team.  Here is what it was like several hours after the game was over in the street outside of our apartment here in Atlantida.

It was a cold and misty evening and Joe and I were bundled up for our 2 block walk to the celebration site.

A Long Time Coming

To say that 2017 was not our favorite year would be an understatement. Making a move is always difficult but in this case it was terribly difficult as we were pretty settled in our minds that San Clemente, Ecuador would be our last home, last hometown, and we would be buried there. We felt almost betrayed that the earthquake and its many aftershocks had caused us to make the move.  Uruguay was okay but we had to start all over again, I mean from scratch, it was an emotional upheaval on many levels. But we are troopers and made the best of it, in our minds moving has always been an adventure so that is how we looked at it.

Then while Joe was having a routine physical he had a cardiac episode. This happened in April 2017 right as we were moving into a new home in Atlantida. After waiting for a medical procedure for 9 months he finally is recovering and we have our lives back.

That is my explanation for no blog posts for almost a year…. but I’m BACK!!! 

With Joe’s health improving daily we are back on track and starting to do things that were not possible the past year. So get ready….more to come!

Today’s Recipe: Ratatouille

This morning we woke to 40 degree weather with a wind of around 18 mph.  A good day for a warm and hearty stew recipe. I had all the ingredients for a wonderful Ratatouille so that is what I have made.

If you like zucchini and eggplant you will love this recipe. The cutting up of the veggies takes the most time, the cooking time is super fast and you end up with a very hearty meal.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Adobo seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 large red pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 large green pepper, sliced
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into sticks
  • 2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 zucchini, cut into long sticks
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped including leaves
  • 1/2 lb ground beef (use better quality)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish
  • Parsley chopped for garnish

Use part of the olive oil to sauté the beef with the dry herbs. Set meat aside on a plate when almost cooked.  In the same pot add the balance of the olive oil and sauté the onions, celery and peppers for 2 minutes, add the balance of the veggies and cook just a few minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point you may need to add 1/4 cup of water but the veggies will release more of their own juices making more sauce. Add the ground beef and stir, cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Check the tenderness of the veggies, they should hold their shape but be tender.  This is the time to make adjustments to the seasoning, adding salt or pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and a grating of Parmesan cheese.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

This tastes even better the next day.  You can serve over a baked potato or rice to make a more filling meal.

This recipe is from Sandy Hill who we met in South Miami years ago.  We have lost contact over the years but this recipe has lasted the test of time.  Of course I have made several additions to make it my own but the basic recipe is the same as when Sandy had Joe and I over for dinner back in the late 70’s.

La Pippona

Empanadas anyone? What we are used to is a fried empanada with more crust than filling. These empanadas from La Pippona are light and flaky baked crusts with filling galore. We have tried several of them and so far our favorites are the Mexicana which is super spicy for Uruguay and the Ham and Cheese which is filled with chunks of great ham and a rich creamy melty cheese.  I failed to tell you we did order a little pizza as well, this went into the fridge for another meal.Each empanada is marked with dots to represent what the filling inside is and is delivered to your door hot and ready to just dig in.

But we have also fallen in love with the Lebanese open-faced Lehmeyun. These thin crusted pizza like flat treats are covered with a meat and spice mixture – this is so different yet so wonderful it sparks your taste buds.  Sprinkle a little fresh lemon juice (slices provided with your meal) on top and you are transported to an even better taste experience.

And to top off an already great meal they have dessert empanadas. Yes, you heard me correct.  We have tried two of the four desserts offered and really loved them.  One is an empanada apple pie, hot from the oven excellent. Just the right amount of sugar and cinnamon, thin sliced apples, divine is the only word that can describe this dessert. Actually tastes like the pies Mom used to make. As well as the National Postre (dessert) for all of Uruguay Dulce de Leche we ordered the one with chocolate chips. Honestly not so overly sweet just right for Joe and I to share.

In our research on Uruguay we saw so many comments about the lack of food choices here.  We have not found that to be true at all. The food varieties are wonderful, you have your pastas even with a special day the 29th of each month where noquis are on the menu at almost every restaurant. You have your choice of flame cooked meats from pork, beef, lamb, chicken as well as sausages galore and if your taste runs to innards they do that as well. Our favorite restaurant so far in Atlantida is Don Vito, the food, the service, the atmosphere are just perfect for our Sunday lunch. They have seafood choices, chivitos, pasta, salads, pizzas and meats as well as a beautiful display case filled with desserts to die for.  While in Montevideo we found Tres Fuegos had similar service and food. We have found hamburger restaurants serving just hamburgers, beef or veggie like our favorite Rudy Burgers on 26 de Marzo in Montevideo’s Nuevo  Pocitos section.  You want Japanese we have found several, even in Atlantida we have Sushi Brothers (will be doing a post on them real soon). Are you into seafood? The supermarkets have several varieties of local fresh fish and in Atlantida we even have a fish monger if you really want it fresh. Montevideo has Indian restaurants even take out Indian is available.

I just don’t see an issue with the choices. What we have learned since moving from the US in 2006 is you may have to do a little work to have what you want to eat. I have learned how to make so many things from scratch and that only makes me a better cook and we have more wholesome food and eat so much better as I can control what goes into my food when I use fresh ingredients. So you like Thai make it at home you can find most ingredients at your local supermarket.  Want Thai Spring rolls, make them. Here the supermarket has spring roll wraps, sushi nori, rice noodles, tahini, soy and oyster sauce, wasabi powder…you want to make Pho they have the spices and other ingredients needed to make your own home-made version.

It’s all part of the great adventure. You need to go with it.


More Firewood (Leña)

We have gone through almost three loads of firewood so far this season and just ordered another two loads a few days ago. At 4,500 pesos or $160 US this is going to be an expensive winter season here in Uruguay.

I found out a few days ago that there are two types of wood red and white, I believe the eucalyptus is about the only wood burned here.  And that the red wood burns longer.  I had no idea, what we have received is the white. I also understand from Doug a long-term resident, that the round rolls of wood are cheaper than cut wood.

We have one fireplace and it is located in the main living area of the house. So that is where we spend most of our time now. Not a hardship as it is a big comfy room with a grand picture window, a full couch and 2 great easy chairs, a table and chairs for the computers and a writing desk. Oh yeah, and a propane stove, a few really warm throw blankets and a pass through to the kitchen. And lots of firewood!

Shopping at Tienda Inglesa – NOT

For the past few days I have had vertigo. For those that don’t know what that is, my world is spinning.  It happened several days ago when I turned in bed and then went to cough.  Something shifted in my ears and the room started to spin. Joe quickly got me in a sitting position and then I went through the exercises to shift these crystals in my ears.  Well I still don’t feel right.  And making a shopping trip was not anything I was interested in attempting to do.

Here you can go online with Tienda Inglesa and place your order. You can pay by credit card, pick your delivery time and just sit back and wait for them to deliver.Honestly when you are not feeling well this is a wonderful service. All your food and supplies delivered right to your door – actually they brought them in and set them on my kitchen counter and floor.  Kudos to Tienda Inglesa…this is a great service.  And those great steaks from the Tuesday Lunch post – they were part of the delivery.  Gotta love it.

Tuesday Lunch

I decided to make use of the fireplace and make our lunch in it today.  I know I am starting to act like Mrs. Ingals on Little House on the Prairie (or Francis Mallmann for you foodies). This house does have two parrillas but I had a perfectly good fire going in the fireplace why would I want to make more work for myself. SO I wrapped a white potato and a boniato sweet potato in tin foil and dropped them under the grate on the hot coals.Then I took a beautiful piece of Rib Eye steak called Ojo de Bife Angus here and set it up next to the wood fire just above the hot embers. Lunch is served! I made a fresh chimichurri sauce to go with the steak as I had just purchased fresh cilantro as well as fresh parsley, added some spices, olive oil, salt and fresh ground pepper and fresh lemon juice.  YUMMY It looked great. It tasted great and I would make my steak this way again. And hey, potatoes are vegetables.  And for dessert we shared an alfajor.

Creamy Potato and Leek Soup

Each week when I go to the feria (Thursday Street Market) I am looking for what fresh and wonderful things they have for sale. Then I make my decision on what I will be serving during the next week.  This week they had the most beautiful leeks so I had to have them.  I paired them up with some good-looking potatoes and some pancetta and decided on Potato and Leek Soup.

Here is my recipe:

Creamy Potato and Leek Soup

  • 2 T of Olive oil
  • 4 slices of bacon or smoked pancetta – cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary chopped fine (use fresh if you have it)
  • 1 teaspoon adobo (here it is spice mix with several herbs and spices combined)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Add everything except the bacon to a good-sized pot, cook, allowing the spices to fragrance the kitchen do not burn. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy.  Set aside a small quantity of this for a garnish.

  • 4-6 good-sized leeks (trim green stalks and clean well to remove any grit)
  • 4 or 5 large potatoes cut into cubes (I do not remove the peel – more roughage)
  • 8-10 cups of stock chicken or vegetable (I used two bouillon cubes from Knorr)
  • Pepper to taste
  • fresh thyme sprigs (extra for the garnish)

Add the veggies to the spice mixture and sauté for just a few minutes, not to brown just for more flavor.  Add your stock and cook for 30 minutes.  Check to see if the potatoes are cooked.  If not cooked through, give them another 10 minutes.  Remove 3 ladles of the mixture to a plate and set aside.  Using an immersion blender blend the remainder until it is smooth and creamy.  Most recipes call for cream I think it tastes great without using it.  After the soup has cooled a bit add back the potato mixture you set aside.  Taste for seasoning and adjust according to your palate. When serving sprinkle the top with crispy pancetta and some fresh thyme.


Being raised in the US our custom was to have our main meal of the day at dinner time, after work.  These were large heavy meals but our friend Eva suggested moving our main real to lunch making the dinner meal lighter. So that meal now consists of a bowl of hearty soup.  That is why I make so many different soup recipes.

Checking the Pinecone Inventory

Here we use pinecones to get our fires started as well as getting it going a bit hotter when we have left it a bit too long without checking.  So each week several guys come around selling big bags to help stock up our inventory.  They run from 60 pesos a bag to 80 or $2.15 to $2.85 US per bag.

Right after I took this photo our guy came by and we bought two more bags of cones so our inventory is 4 full bags and 1 partial. That should take us for a few weeks when the weather turns cold again.  The past several days it has been up into the high 60’s even got up into the low 70’s so we have not had a fire going.