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Here in Chile we like to play a little game. It goes like this: See this thing on the menu? Well, I’d like to order it. You can’t order it. Hmmm, what about this other thing? Nope, that either.

Alternatively, you can order something that’s on the menu, be told that you can have it, and then when it arrives, more than half of the ingredients are missing. You may order a sandwich with bean sprouts, goat cheese, arugula and avocado, and find that it comes with quesillo (like solid cottage cheese, no relation to goat cheese), no sprouts, lettuce and measly amounts of avocado, in a country where avocados actually do grow on trees.

This is confusing and annoying, but also humorous. So much so that when I was out with a friend the other day, the ex of an ex (which by the way, I heartily recommend to you that you become good friends with your exes exes, and not so that you can pelarlos (lit: peel them, but in Chile means to make fun of), but because if he/she had good enough taste to date you, then chances are that the other exes are equally shmabulous, and this one totally is), we could do nothing but laugh when I asked for something at a café and was told that they were out of said item.

Specifically, we were at the Crepe Cafe at Drugstore in Providencia (map here), which is a place to which I will happily never return, as their prices are self-importantly high ($3800 CLP for a crepe which is more of a tidbit than a meal), and the food is not even as good as Crepes and Waffles, that Colombian chain with locations around town and at Parque Arauco and which saved a certain six-year-old’s dinner on a few occasions when I was in Cartagena (Colombia, not Chile, and those of us in Chile will know why I am quick to point this out, Cartagena being a beach town that everyone likes to pelar (see above!)). And the first crepe I tried to order at the Crepe Cafe was salmon, even though I try not to eat salmon in Chile because it is all farmed and OH NO, the poor fishies, and the lakes and the bacteria and the antibiotics and some green dye they put in it to make it look redder, and man is it toxic (says this article)

So. No salmon for me.

And my friend and I laughed, and talked about how menus in Chile are not really about what they have on offer now, so much as what was, at one point available. “Ya no trabajamos con eso” (we no longer have that) is a common response to a restaurant request. You’d think that with the popularity of corrector (white-out), they could fix the menu situation, since often it is an item that’s been on the menu for years, and that they haven’t had since the menu was printed. Like the “bagel” sanwich at Gatsby, which comes on a baguette, but still appears on the menu as a bagel, which reminds me very much of a time when someone I know was served a spinach salad that was comprised of lettuce. When she complained, she was told it was spinach lettuce. You know, like the famous bagel baguette. Or the invisible salmon crepe.

This conversation about menus offering things that are not available got us to thinking, and me to making analogies (surprise!). The next time I have an party in my cuchutríl (hovel), and you ask me who is coming over, I will tell you the name of every person who has ever been in my apartment, regardless of whether or not I am still in touch with this person, whether they were invited, and how likely I think it is that they will come. I will also name people that I’d like to come, but who I don’t know, or live too far away. If we can imagine sandwich fillings, certainly we can imagine a tiny apartment stuffed to bursting with humanity.

Which is my way of telling you that, much like the delicious food I sought on Friday, and was later denied (though somewhat redeemed by a really good coffee at Sebastián, one of the best ice cream places in Santiago), my apartment search is turning up a lot of duds.