Meat for Lunch

cimg5645-320.jpgIt’s no secret that the people of Argentina and Chile adore their meat. It is available everywhere, on every menu, in several different forms, served day and night, and almost always grilled to well done. I wouldn’t want to be an animal in South America as it’s only a matter of time before you end up on a menu.
At a grocery store in Mendoza on a Saturday, a riot* of people had gathered around a meat counter that was struggling to keep up with the orders being shouted to the back. Meat is serious business and a good butcher, we’re told, is highly coveted and his address is held close to the chest. In Argentina, I thought I had reached the limit of my carnivorous consumption, but I was dead wrong; that was just the beginning.

Today’s lunch in the pretty Bellavista neighbourhood of Santiago consisted almost entirely of meat. We ordered the parrilla special for 2 and what landed on our table would’ve easily served six. Imagine a 9×9” square casserole dish filled to heaping with 2 big, grilled pork chops, 1 large, grilled steak, 2 blood sausages, 1 spicy chorizo sausage, 2 huge, grilled chicken breasts, and 2 large, boiled potatoes. That was lunch. There was some thyme on the chicken, and there was a salt shaker on the table, but that was all the seasoning that appeared. Luckily, a stray dog sleeping the shade of the next table was only too happy to eat most of what remained on my plate while the waiter wasn’t looking.

*Speaking of riots, it turns out that there was some serious rioting in Santiago the day we arrived. It was the annual Day of The Young Commbatents riot/protest staged in memory of the 1985 student riots during which many students were killed. This year’s anniversary protest was aggravated, we’re told, by some discontent with recent public transportation changes. At any rate, our afternoon arrival at the bus station, metro ride and walk through part of the downtown area was entirely uneventful; we didn’t sense the slightest whiff of unease. When we arrived at our hostel, one of the guys staying there asked, “What are the streets like out there- is it madness?” Of course we didn’t know what he was talking about and it was then that the hostel worker said that yes, there were riots, and that perhaps we should stay in the hostel that evening. The next morning, the news showed this. Santiago makes two cities now that we have visited while riots were in progress and we didn’t even know it. (The other was Budapest in September.) Stupid foreigners.

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