By Bobby Neal Winters
I write this as I am just half past my second full day of my current Paraguayan trip. My second full day but only now am I truly in Paraguay. Why do I only now consider myself to be truly arrived? Did I just pass through passport check? Did I just clear customs?
No, I am only now fully in Paraguay because I’ve just had my first lomito.
What ask ye is a lomito? Can I explain color to the blind or music to the deaf? I might as well try as to explain to the uninitiated the joy of the lomito. I will try to lay out the rough design of the thing, but this cannot capture the reality. Take a hamburger and remove the patty. Now replace the patty with a very thin (very, very thin) piece of fried beef. Now put a fried egg on it. There is the physical description of the lomito but one might as well describe a horse as a big dog. The thing is simply the thing itself and our words are but our poor means to try to capture it.
It is the audacity of the fried egg that makes the thing. The United States as a whole is no longer capable of this level of genius.
The Paraguayans do not end their genius with the lomito. No they do not. There are other dishes such as the Milanesa a caballo. To those who know a little Spanish, this dish is an opportunity for misplaced culture shock because caballo, of course, means horse. Milanesa describes a manner of breading a frying a selection of meat. You can have Milanesa de carne which can be described as chicken fried steak. They are not exactly the same but if you would eat one you would eat the other. Milanesa de pollo would correspond to chicken fried chicken breast. Milanesa a caballo is not chicken fried horse. It is a Milanesa de carne smothered with fried onions and topped with two fried eggs.
Why a caballo?
I’d thought it was perhaps because the fried eggs looked like the saddle on top of a horse. Others believe that because this is enough food for a horse. A hungry and presumably carnivorous horse. Perhaps that is more frightening than the concept of chicken fried horse. I leave it to the noble reader to decide.
It is more important, however, that I make the gentle culinary genius of the Paraguayan people better known to the rest of the world. If everyone like this, I am convinced world peace would follow. I world peace among carnivores no less. (Hitler was a vegetarian, you know.) Even if the urge to kill one’s neighbor survived the joy of the lomito, the armies of the world would be too busy napping to fight.One finds the best lomitos on street carts, scary looking street carts. The scarier the street cart, the better the lomito. Today, however, I was forced to forgo the street cart and ate a lomito made by a chain: Lomitolandia. (This makes me think of the series Portlandia and wonder what such a Paraguayan series would be like, but I digress.) It was a serviceable lomito, enough to get me into the country, but I must at some point seek out a truly terrifying street cart to be satisfied.