Friday, April 4, 2008

Powdered (or boxed) victory.

Lucho and I were waiting for our food when the juices arrived. Oh, divino, delicious juices. I told Lucho that strawberry drinks (thick and sweet tart with chucks of berry) are one of my favorite things about Venezuela. Here, I rest assured that even a filet mignon will always be accompanied by frosty strawberry juice, if I so choose.

When I told him I can’t get this glorious drink in the U.S. unless I order the crappier imitation—a virgin daiquiri—Lucho looked at me like I’d actually said “Houses in the US don’t have doors—just spaces on the ground, where you get beamed inside.”

Lucho nervously ran his hands over the table in an attempt to regain a sense of reality.

He then asked for a confirmation of my outlandish statement before resigning to the fact that his next visit to the U.S. would be devoid of fresh jugo de fresa.

I further explained that the only juices you can easily get in the U.S. are boring: grape, orange, apple, and cranberry.

“I bet they’re not even freshly made,” he ventured, shaking his head in disbelief.

“Nope—from a bottle,” I confirmed.

In spite of our fresh juice deficiency, Venezuelans are in no place to judge the U.S. on the basis of its liquid consumables. There is no fresh milk in Caracas. If you’re lucky, you can get your hands on that boxed stuff that lasts longer than any animal product should, or the powdered kind, which I have trouble classifying as milk.

Going to the grocery store on a day when there’s boxed or powdered milk is to be avoided at all costs. When this happens, the grocer yells HAY LECHE!!!! at which point people dash for the back as if a tsunami were on the horizon: arms, bodies, and carts flail in all directions.

Having hoarded sufficient amounts for their families, customers proudly resume their shopping. The game doesn’t end there, though. Competition is so fierce that if you take your eyes away from your cart for even a second, you can kiss that pasteurized prize goodbye.
Worth fighting for.

If you do manage to make it to the front of the store with this precious commodity in hand, there is a special line for you and the other victors. In this line, people brag and congratulate themselves on their brave feat, eying how many boxes the person in front of them grabbed; and loudly fantasizing about the creamy stews, flans, and dulce de leches that now loom in their milk-laden horizons.

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