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Old San Antone provides peaceful place for palavers

Just got back from a meeting about International Trade in San Antonio and thought a few observations would be in order. (A more detailed analysis will appear in a subsequent issue.)

Observation number one: San Antonio has about the best margaritas I've ever tested. The enchiladas aren't half bad either. And there's a little Italian restaurant right on the Riverwalk that makes a dessert that rivals most anything I've ever tried outside my wife and my mother's kitchens.

The dessert is called tres leche and means something like three milk cake. My Spanish is limited to hola and dos cervesas por favor (Not certain of the spelling of cervesas, so, back in a minute. OK, based on research in my refrigerator, I think cervezas may be the correct spelling). It's amazing how much one can accomplish with just a few thoughtful words.

Back to the cake. It's moist, sweet and just about melts in your mouth and can be found at Pasanas.

Observation number two (if you count all those above as only one general observation on food and libation): The month of May is a better time to holiday in San Antonio than August or late January. The first time I visited this remarkable and beautiful city was in early winter, back in 1989 (I think.). I got there just in time to take part in the worst freeze the region had enjoyed in about 100 years. The semi-tropical foliage objected to the insult and turned a semi-brown color overnight.

I also spent about half the night with a co-worker and his spouse looking for a famous Mexican restaurant. We finally gave up, after walking in semi-arctic temperatures for an hour or so, and went back to the Riverwalk, where it's relatively easy to find a restaurant.

I've also been in San Antonio in August, a time when the semi-tropical climate changes to semi- Saharan. But it's a dry heat. It quit raining about six months previously and didn't start back up again until six months later.

Fortunately, the hotel where I was staying was only a few miles away from the convention center, and in early morning the temperature was still a temperate 100. The walk back and forth was not enough to break a sweat; course if anyone attempted to perspire, the arid air wisked away the moisture before a bead could pop up on your brow.

December is the second best month to visit San Antonio. I never realized you could decorate a river, but they do in San Antonio and do it very well. The reflection of thousands of colored lights on the water creates a festive holiday atmosphere, and watching Santa Claus raft up and down the river accompanied by a Mariachi band playing “Ay viene Santa Claus!” defies description.

But May is okay. Temperatures are moderate, a friendly breeze rustles the leaves, and it's just warm enough to make one appreciate the cooling effect of a well-made margarita or an icy cerveca. (Did I mention how good the margaritas are?)

Finally, an observation on the reason I was there in the first place. The meeting was thought provoking. Agricultural trade experts from Ireland, Australia, Nigeria, Peru, Mexico, Canada and a number of other nations participated. And we had a good contingent of USDA, Farm Bureau, Extension and other U.S. agricultural entities represented.

It's a bit odd how folks from outside the United States are considerably less enthusiastic about the new farm law than are U.S. farmers. It's also odd that nations find it relatively easy to poke holes in another country's ag laws, claiming trade distortion and unfair subsidization as protectionist policies that make swapping goods difficult for all concerned. Kinda reminds you of a playground debate: “He did it first. No, he did. Did not. Did too.” Someone commented to me over a margarita that he found it odd that the European Union representative had the nerve to complain about the United States subsidizing farmers.

On a global scale, such discussions have the potential to create an international incident, which would have made a good story, but civilized behavior won out, no doubt because of the ambience and tranquility of Old San Antonio.

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