Friday, April 6, 2007

Having a cow

Ojo de bife al grill con papas rotas,
mini provoleta de cabra y chimichurri

I don't see any way I couldn't have eaten meat on April 6, given that it was both my 30th birthday and Good Friday. I was a longtime but increasingly half-assed vegetarian who had spent two years in a country revered for and singularly obsessed with its meat.

It was only a matter of time.

About 3pm, I sat down in the enclosed back patio of Bar Uriarte. The restaurant is minimalist, full of dark wood and clean lines. The service is not at all stuffy, but meticulous. I remember noticing on one of my first visits that when people finished their meals and left the table, the staff came by and measured the distance from the chair to the table, and from one table to another. Everything had to be just so.

The patio was beautiful. The bread basket came, as it always does, with a small pale-green pool of rosemary-infused olive oil. Staring into the oil, you could see the trees overhead reflected.

When I ordered my steak, I thought I heard a slight catch in the waitress' voice as she repeated the order back to me. Was she astonished that I was squandering 10 years of half-assed vegetarianism? That I was ordering meat on Good Friday? That I could order a steak in such flawless, lilting Spanish?

At a table a few yards away, a Portuguese-speaking couple went over the menu practically line by line with the waitress, trying to figure out what wasn't meat. ("The mollejas?" "No, those are the glands of a cow.")

At another table, two French women babbled quietly in silky tones.

A table of 10 sat down. It was half Spaniards (with their "tiós" and "¡hombres!") and half Argentines (with their "si vos pensás").

I had a few sips of Flecha de los Andes Malbec. It was rich, all inky and concentrated.

When the plate came, I ate a potato and cut the steak in half to see what I was dealing with. I stared at it a moment, grabbed my knife and went to town.

I'm guessing both of you reading this have eaten a steak before. So what else is there to say? Especially on a blog ostensibly about Argentina and not about, say, my eating quirks and proclivities.

I will say in all seriousness that the meal has made me feel slightly more connected. Food is important to understanding a place and its people, and extraordinarily important to me besides.

I don't really see myself eating a lot of meat in the near future. But I'm glad I ate this steak.


Doug said...

I'm glad to see that as a dedicated foodie-half-ass-vegetarian you stayed true to the local roots and ordered your steak medium rare. I thought for sure I was going to see a charred ball of coal on the plate.

Today, I ate Big Mac with a Supersized fries and Coke. I have to say that I've never felt more connected to this country.

Nicholas said...

Until we see a photo of THE DEAD COW IN YOUR MOUTH, we would like to register our polite skepticism.