Buen Provecho: A Vegetarian’s Nightmare

23 Mar

Hola amigos,

First off, sorry for the delay in updating- Life these last two weeks has been insane! Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin.  I suppose I can start with the main reason I couldn’t post last weekend: my travels to Montevideo.  Thursday night a few friends and I decided to take a spur-of-the moment trip across the “Rio de la Plata” to Uruguay.  With only a slight notion of a few hostels in the area, we bought a combined ferry/bus ticket for a little under eighty American dollars and left at midnight.  While I was expecting something a bit more comfortable than an airplane, the Buquebus (ferry) was one of the most exquisite vessels I have ever been on: think Titanic-style, but quite a bit smaller and much more open.  Anyway, the entire trip on both water and land took about 8 hours, and upon arriving at our hostel we decided to take advantage of the beach, which was novel for us because Buenos Aires, though a port-city, has none!   Now here’s a little background info for those who don’t know me well: I cannot sleep when I travel. Applying that to the fact that I had slept very little the entire week, what does one boldly infer happened after I spread out my towel and laid down on my stomach?? Yup, I passed out for over 4 hours with no sunblock on, and my back received the worst sunburn of my life, from which I am still recovering a week later. While the pain from my burn (and stupidity) was agonizing, with a constant supply of Advil I was able to bear it and enjoy the rest of my stay, which included checking out the city, eating a bunch, and relaxing.  Honestly, from what I saw, Montevideo is just a “less extreme” Buenos Aires in that it is much more quaint, a bit safer, but considerably more boring.  All in all, we had a fun get-a-away, but I probably won’t be going back any time soon.

Aside from that trip, the rest of my life has been consumed my classes, or rather, the scheduling of them.  I am going to dedicate an entire post to this subject in the future once I know more, but in a nutshell, this system is beyond disorganized.  Everyone tells me that I just have to be patient, and tolerate it because “all the Argentines” go through it and manage to survive.  Correct me if this seems inappropriate, but I’m going to cite the “jumping off a bridge” quote we’ve all been told a million times; just because everyone has dealt with this process for years doesn’t make it any less terrible. Overall, I’m a very open person to change and differences, but not when it comes to this aspect of the academic system. It sucks and should be fixed. Period. While I sound a bit negative, that is really the only serious complaint I have right now.  I’m four weeks in and enjoying life here more everyday:  I adore my family; I have a close group of IFSA friends that are great; and I have learned a bunch from the few portenos I have been able to spend time with.

I now want to focus the rest of this post on a topic we all love: food.  The only word you need to know here is M-E-A-T.  As I just learned yesterday, on average Argentines consume over 68 kilograms (~150 pounds) of it a year.  And of course, when I say meat, I mean beef.  As far as this culture is concerned, all other varieties are secondary.  Being one of the largest producers of cattle, I am not tremendously surprised, except that Buenos Aires is a port city, and I’m sure could offer amazing fish and shell-fish.  However, that’s just not the way it is done here.  I have spoken to quite a few portenos on that matter, and I believe the people view fish as being below them, or something along those lines. Anyway, the beef here is delicious and rather inexpensive.  Actually, it’s very inexpensive compared to what we’re used to. Last night my family and I went out to a restaurant for my host mom’s birthday, and I got the biggest, most delicious steak of my life ( probably about 10 in x 4 in x 3 in) for 37 pesos, the equivalent of less than ten dollars.  And I was feeling pretty good about finishing it all until my host brother pointed out that my steak was only about half as big as the largest one the restaurant offered! !  Now aside from meat, the second staple of the Argentine diet is carbohydrates-what better to accompany protein, no?!  And right there I have summarized for you 90% of my meals here….pasta and beef, rice and beef, pizza with meat, ravioli with meat, etc. I am not joking when I say I have probably eaten a total of 10 servings of vegetables to date (thank goodness for the vitamins I brought from home).  Now I’m sure a lot of that has to do with price, but you can’t tell me the culture doesn’t play its part- remember that Argentines are essentially a mix of Italians and Spaniards. Also, interesting enough, fruit is placed on the back-burner, but it is relatively cheap and extremely flavorful. Other observations about the food here: blandness/lack of spices (which because of my trip to Spain I was not surprised about); the little variety in the diet; the influence of the Arabic dishes combining meat and carbs (one of the most famous and cheap meals we Americans have come to love are empanadas- basically just dough filled with meat). After all this, I bet you can see why I named my post the way I did- vegetarians don’t exist in Argentina!  However, one of my good friends here has held out so far; kudos to her and her will-power, but I don’t think she’ll last (and furthermore, why would you want to?!)  😉

With that, I bid all of you a very good night.  Well actually, it’s 11 pm here right now, and my night won’t begin for another 2 hours, but I’m referring to your..errrr..our culture haha.  Hard to believe I’ve finally accustomed myself to staying out until the wee hours of the morning! Oh yea, and one more thing. When I said nothing else was wrong, I lied- my inability to follow March Madness on T.V. has been killing me.  Good thing I still have the internet to watch my bracket fall apart…

Saludos!

P.S. While I still have a million ideas to write about, list any topics you guys are really interested in, and I’ll do my best to cover them!

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