Bring on the Beef

Uruguay and Brazil are about as different as the rural South is from New York City. Montevideo is high energy, efficient, and prosperous. Other than the capital, there are 17 other cities, all agricultural centers devoted to raising cattle. Most of the residents here are not churchgoers, unlike the bulk of Latin America, which is heavily Catholic. If the country has a religion, it is Futbol and BBQ. My walking tour guide said that Uruguay is beyond liberal. Gay marriage has been legal for a long time. Abortion can be had for the asking up to 12 weeks, and pot is legal – if you can find it. Located on the Rio de Plata, across from Buenos Aires, Montevideo has lots of seafood but the locals do not really bother with it. Beef rules!

The featured image shows a giant wood fired grill that is the centerpiece of every restaurant. All parts of the cow are eaten, the more unsightly segments ground up and stuffed into sausages. And, the portion size is gargantuan. The national dish is a sandwich known as Chivito. Ingredients include: grilled tender cut of steak, mozzarella cheese, lettuce, tomato, green and black olives, mayonnaise, bacon, ham and a fried egg. Stack these items inside a burger bun that has been slathered with butter, cut in half and eat. Makes a Whopper or Big Mac look like diet food. I have tried to google how many calories are in this concoction but come up blank. Anthony Bourdain loves the Chivito, if that is any comfort. As yet, I have refrained from ordering one. It’s intimidating.

It is a comfort to find generally good food here in Uruguay. Beautiful salads and vegetables, delicious fish and pretty good bread. My hotel is perfectly situated in the town center, a block from the historic district and across from a lovely park. There is a noticeable absence of coffee shops. I am back in a country where mate tea rules. Rather than seeing workers walking down the street with a vente Starbucks in hand, they carry their special mate gourd with a thermos of hot water tucked under the arm.

The weather is perfect. Daytime temperature is 76 degrees. No humidity. Sunny skies. Afternoon breeze blows up from the river.