Saturday, July 25, 2009

No Country for Vegetarians

While we've been here, the staff El Rinconcita, always wanting to make the guests happy, have enabled us to stay on our usual eating schedule. This is with breakfast in the morning as we each dribble down from our rooms, lunch at noon, and dinner at 6:30 or 7.

Traditionally, Paraguayans do not eat that way. They do have lunch at noon, but they eat the evening meal much later, at 8 or 9. The noon meal is much heavier in order to accommodate the late supper.

Yesterday, as we were eating out with the PSU students who've been visiting under the guidence of Dr. Steve Harmon, we dined on Paraguayan time.

We dined at Paulista, which is an Argentinian restaurant, arrived at the front door precisely at 9pm, and were seated with the group.

I will say that there was a buffet and you could return to it as many times as you desired, and, indeed, you could make a whole meal out on it, if that's your bag, but the buffet was mainly for side dishes. The main attraction is the meat, and you don't see the beef a the buffet, and you don't order it from a menu. They bring it by your table on skewers.

The drill is as follows. A young man with a chef's hat approaches the table with a skewer sporting a big hunk of meat in one hand and a very sharp knife in the other. They ask if you want some. The answer is usually yes. They then slice you off a hunk or two and go on to the next person.

Each of these hunks of meat has a special name, and none of it, as far as I could tell, corresponds to the American way of chopping up a cow. We were presented with portions of meat there is no word in English to denote, but we do have an adjective to describe: Delicious.

There was a good 2006 Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon present at the table. I am a white Zinfidel man myself, but one wine connoisseur at the table referred to it at "headache juice." The Cabernet had been aged in oak and was delightfully smooth, but the best part was how the waiters kept refilling the glasses even when you'd only drank a sip or two. I've no idea how much I drank of it. I did sleep past nine this morning, but with no hangover I can discern. Really.

After having achieved some depth in drinking the wine, Steve Harmon and I began devising a plan on how we need to accompany the president of PSU down here on a tour. Steve could serve as translator and I volunteered to be the food taster. Steve seemed to be amenable to this notion as you always have to have the translator present at a restaurant.

After having achieved a somewhat greater depth, I began thinking of bringing a group of meat smokers down to learn the Argentinian-style of doing things. I am short on the details now of how to make this happen, but somehow I think maybe a little wine will help to recover them.

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