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The culinary bottom line

August 21, 2016
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A funny thing happened today – I walked into a greek restaurant in Guatemala City. Why? I’m homesick for Europe, easy. And as those of you who are aware of my illegal sausage importing practices to the US know, my homesickness manifests itself in the longing for certain tastes. Among other things.

So when I bit into this gyros kebab today, I almost cried. I haven’t eaten a real gyros in years. It could have been more burnt, to replicate the street food flavor I am used to, but other than that it was heartwarmingly authentic, came in a paper wrap, with tzatziki and a greek salad. No fries.

For me, Latin America is the next best thing to home in the culinary sense. European foods are less americanized here. Pizzas are thin, beer and coffee good, the meat delicious, there is fresh lemonade. Not to speak of local specialities, non-europeanized. And I think I’ve really sampled the best of the best during three and a half years of IDB business travel.

It all started in a peruvian fusion restaurant in Lima, where starters were raw fish on top of small mashed potato piles in four different colors, with some kind of spicy radish salsa, served nigiri style. Wow. Drinks were a purple corn juice, chicha morada.

With my favorite colleague Mr. D the eating was mainly about amounts, at least as far as I remember and judging from the pics. Ecuador was brutal:

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So was Honduras:

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Not to speak of Brazil:

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People usually praise Mexico for its food and I certainly ate well there. Eating is a ceremony. Tortillas are hand made, at least where I went, and every single meal seems to start with a little bit of guacamole, taco chips, salsa and lime.

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But the trip that topped it all for me in terms of food (and also in orher terms, like mental exhaustion, but that’s a different story) – was Uruguay. On day one I decided I was going to eat a milanesa every day and I did it. You just can’t get that stuff in the US: a thinly sliced, huge veal schnitzel at a decent price. In Latin America it is considered a lower quality cut and is therefore cheap.

Anyways, I digress. So in Uruguay I basically ate a milanesa for lunch and a steak for dinner, every day – and these were just the main dishes. Culture shock arrived on the last night in the form of a sweet blood sausage as starter. That was too much, even for a Hungarian.

My beef overkill ended two years later (earlier this year) in Colombia, when I decided to stop eating cows for good. Due to quality and price I didn’t eat beef in the US anyways, but my treehugger heart forced me to go all the way now. Extensive cattle ranching is the tragedy of Latin America and I don’t want to further contribute to it, as much as it hurts.

Adiós, filet mignon!

I will still try everything I get offered, no matter what it is, especially in rural places. Sometimes there are no options, either. This was the case in Bocas del Toro, Panama, where usually I was starving by the time we got to lunch. Everything was tasty at that point.

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It’s a mystery why I haven’t gained weight after all this. But I guess I just don’t eat so much in the US, ha.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    August 23, 2016 08:30

    Costa Rica, El Salvador, Argentina?
    Edinburgh-ben nem ettél igazi skót reggelit? De az ír is nagyon hasonló, a tányér közepén egy szépen fejlett véres hurka darabbal!!! 🙂

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