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An Empanada Interlude

May 13, 2007: Rosa, my bikini waxer from the northwestern province of Tucumán, is trying to distract me as she rips my hair from unspeakable places.

“You really write about food?” she says.

“Yes,” I gasp, holding still as she attacks some stubborn strands with tweezers, “Right now I’m obsessed with empanadas.”

She laughs and keeps up her merciless work, “Did you know that Famaillá is Argentina’s national capital of the empanada?”

Famaillá, it turns out, is just half an hour from where Rosa was born.

“In fact,” she says, continuing her tweezer assault, “I think they even have an empanada festival there.”

I am amused and intrigued and in so much pain I forget to investigate further.

May 20, 2007: A taxista whose name I cannot catch brings me to La Aguada, a 10-table restaurant in Palermo specializing in dishes from Tucumán. While at La Aguada, I taste empanadas so good that I am inspired to chase them to their source.

The bikini waxer’s words come back to me. After my taxi adventure, I start poking around for information about Famaillá and the empanada festival.

Sure enough, thanks the Argentine Tourism Board’s cryptic but comprehensive web list of festivals around the country, I discover that Rosa is right: the twenty-eighth annual National Empanada Festival in Famaillá is scheduled for September.

At said festival, there will be folklore bands, there will be regional foods, and (most exciting of all) there will be an election of an Empanada Queen – not a beauty contest, but a culinary battle for the finest tasting empanada in the land.

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