Photo by Flickr user CristianGs. As you can see by that watermark.

Last night Sol, our tour guide from a couple of weeks back, invited us out to her dad’s swank house just north of the city to eat asado. Asado is Argentine barbecue, a ritualized feast of a variety of God’s grilled creatures that puts our sad North American hamburger and hot-dog endeavors to total shame. Chorizo, pork chop, two kinds of beef and an exquisitely marinated chicken were all consumed in the same belly-expanding meal. Before last night, I would never have believed this was physically possible.

It was a fabulously Argentine affair, gabbing over Fernet with Cola about the Argentine economy (key word: INFLATION!) with J, Sol and two of her friends, Sabrina and (I think?) Natalia, whom she lovingly referred to as “las pendejas” (which in this situation roughly translates to “my bitches.” Argentines swear a lot more than Canadians do, and it’s usually pretty endearing). Anyway, I’ve eaten so much meat in the past three weeks that I feel the chemistry of my body has actually changed. I’m starting to smell like a bouillon cube.

Argentina is well known for its earth-shattering, grass-fed Pampas beef, but the truth is all meat in Argentina is cheap, plentiful, and of exceptional quality. Sol said that it’s actually rare to encounter bad meat, a legitimate challenge. For this reason, Argentines eat an absurd amount of flesh; fresh produce, though also abundant, is very much an afterthought. In fact, the very word used to describe salad items at many Buenos Aires restaurants translates literally to “garnish.” Go figure.

Sol sent us home with leftovers from the asado. “A doggie bag,” she joked, a concept she must have picked up in her dealings with foreigners as a tour guide. While no longer as unthinkably gauche as it once was, the practice of bringing home leftovers from restaurants and the like remains decisively outside the norm. I’m not sure her Argentine galpals caught the reference.

Argentines have had a rough go of it over the past several decades, between military dictatorship and, more recently, total economic collapse. But throughout it all, they’ve maintained a healthy appetite. While leafy greens might not be a national staple, even the most run-of-the-mill street food here is worthy of marvel. Lonely Planet did a roundup not too long ago of 10 non-steak edibles to eat in Buenos Aires, and I’d say they were right on the money with their mention of ice cream (also, the best I’ve ever had in my life), pizza (ditto), and dulce de leche. Apart from some horrible American tourists we encountered while waiting in line to eat at B.A.’s ancient and famous Cafe Tortoni (“Empana-what? Looked like Hot Pockets to me!”), all the foreigners we’ve encountered have been impressed by the offerings here–and rightfully so. But, even more impressive is that the locals know better than to take it for granted.

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