It is as though I have stepped into a magazine article. I ask Susana, in my limited castellano (Argentine Spanish, Castilian), and I learn that none has been written. Immediately I have permission to use my camera. I’ve kept thirty-four photos and could have taken many more. (The blog story will continue below these photos.)
Susana is artistic (an understatement) and the home she has built with Jorge is Rusticana. First they built a quincho, meant to be a small house behind a larger one. Susan’s father had helped to clear the lot, with a big saw which now hangs behind their outdoor “porch” table.
Perhaps it was Susan’s decorating (and building) skills that had her & Jorge fall in love with this one-bedroom house. They decided to stay here.
Reclaimed wood is used for cupboards, doors, counters, kitchen bar, tables and triangular foot stools with stretched (goat?) hides. An old treadle sewing machine has become the base for the bathroom sink. The kitchen has several different ovens and a fireplace. Her pottery and tile work appear here and there. Wooden fruit boxes hold books above and around the computer, while four people could sit on the large dark wooden trunks. Susan did all of this in five years.
In the centre of the living room is a huge square table with two chairs on each side. Twelve people could be seated here.
So many photos and still I don’t have the railway tie used for a doorsill, the clock made from a burl, the indoor glass shower, the outdoor shower (which, yes, also has hot water), and the interior of the tool shed. I got a peek at the latter – it was amazingly well-organized. Susana’s “office”, no doubt.
In front of this adorable cottage (after the outdoor shower and the tool shed) we find an outdoor kitchen on a long porch, complete with a sink with running water, a high bar with stools, two stoves, a stereo and a dining table with chairs. One of the stoves is a small antique functioning wood stove complete with a reservoir for heating water. I expect that this oven had just been used to bake our “black sugar” cookies.
We’ve all heard about Susana’s latest project – el horno, the oven – an outdoor wood-burning oven. A friend built the walls and Susana applied the clay covering. It uses gas as well, when more heat is needed to finish the cooking process. A thermometer gauge is imbedded in the front wall. They got the plan off the internet. (I thought that maybe Jorge had built the walls, but my partner assures me that Jorge “couldn’t hammer a nail”. Jorge is absolutely charming and I was pleased to learn that he watches a movie every day on Netflix. This was his reply, when I said I was going to one movie a week in La Plata.)
So with this fabulous wood-burning oven that had just been built, I expected that the amazing aromas were coming from pizza. We were presented with plates full of roast beef, stuffed with ham and cheese and laiden with herbs fresh from their garden. There were roasted red peppers with regular and sweet potatoes, drizzled with a cheese (and some green veggie) salsa. Rosemary and garlic predominated. When my plate arrived, I exclaimed “Yo estoy muerte y en cielo”, meaning (I hoped) “I have died and am in heaven”. As usual, Susana seemed to understand what I said and was pleased.
We had beer and wine, and more available on the outdoor bar. Also on the table and from their garden were preserved eggplant (which we enjoy as table service at Portofino Restobar, our regular hangout near our apartment in La Plata), and long yellow peppers. (The latter were too hot for me.)
Later, along with the homemade black sugar cookies, we enjoyed masas finas (small sweet pastries) which Natalina had purchased that morning. Susan provided a fine herb tea (again from their plants) in a beautiful glass tea pot with an infuser.
The afternoon was a celebration for another Susana, who was leaving for Australia the next day. There she is spending April with her daughter and family. “The Two Susanas” are a bit famous around Villa Elisa. Susana One, the artist, was Enrique’s first wife. (Their daughter is Natalia.) Susana Two, the traveler, is Enrique’s partner now. With Jorge, they are frequently partying together. We had met them at bar-b-qs at Enrique’s. Just the week before this glorious Saturday afternoon, Susana and Jorge had brought whole wheat miga sandwiches to a pizza dinner at Natalina’s. (Natalina is Enrique’s mother and my partner José’s sister. Natalia is Natalina’s granddaughter.) Sadly, I’ve missed a photo of Ruben, Susana One’s handsome brother, who left early.
If fairies do exist, I’m sure some of them have chosen to live in this enchanted garden near City Bell, in the province of Buenos Aires in Argentina.