It took a long time for us to find a suitable food challenge for Justin in Argentina. This mostly has to do with the fact that just about everything we’ve come across here is delicious! Argentina has a lovely mix of Spanish and Italian heritage, and as a result you get some great pasta, pastries, and meat. All of these we love, so you can see the dilemma.
In Argentina, people eat a lot of meat. A lot. Parillas (place that cook meat on a grill) are a dime-a-dozen, it’s an Atkins diet dream come true.
One thing we discovered in our quest to get better at reading menus is that people here eat every part of the cow. Seriously. Every part.
It is not uncommon to find sweetbreads or other organ meats on the menu. Lonely Planet even lists ‘ubre’ (udder) in the food glossary, which mean you must be able to find that in at least a few establishments. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would simply have to find a place that could grill up some good thymus gland and that would suffice for Justin’s challenge, despite the fact that it’s really not all that unusual.
That was before we met our couchsurf host.
We had the pleasure of staying with a fantastic family for most of our time in Buenos Aires, and we shared the concept of the Moving Box Bet with them in the hopes that they could point us towards a reputable place for Justin to complete the challenge. Much to my delight, our host exclaimed that there were way more unique parts of the cow that could be cooked and eaten. Parts that she in fact knew how to cook. Parts like the brain.
Until this point I was totally unaware that you could waltz into a butcher and just ask for a brain, but apparently you can. Our first few attempts at locating this precious item were unsuccessful and we had resigned ourselves once again to the thymus. On our second to last night we were heading out to dinner with some friends of our host’s daughter and we happened to pass a butcher. We popped in and low and behold, the man had not one, but TWO brains available for us to choose from! Jackpot!
The brain was frozen, which was ideal since we were on our way to dinner and didn’t have time to run back to the apartment before we were due to meet the rest of our party. Our host’s daughter simply had them double bag it, and she casually popped it into her purse as if it was no big thing to be carrying a frozen brain on your way to a restaurant. I was giddy over the whole situation and kept bursting into laughter at the thought of the brain just chilling in her purse during dinner.
Tragically this was the ONLY NIGHT we have ever forgotten our camera in the last 4 months. Go figure. I could not get over our luck at finding the thing, and our sheer stupidity for not having the camera to document the moment.
The next day, true to her word, our host expertly cooked the brain (just a tip, you have to soak it in vinegar for about 15 minutes, remove some sort of filmy outer membrane, and then you can boil it) and had it ready to go for dinner that night. There is a long history of people eating brain in different parts of the world. In Italy they used to chop it up and use it as filling for ravioli. You can also slice it thinly, bread it, and fry it, like Milanese. The possibilities are endless. For the purpose of the challenge, I requested that it remain whole, you know, so Justin could see it for exactly what it was before he ate it.
We actually shared a lovely full meal with the family that evening, and brain wasn’t the only thing on the menu. We had decided that since we’d only be in Uruguay for a short time, and since the menu is very similar, that Justin would eat TWO things that night and one of them would count for Uruguay. If Lonely Planet can lump them together into one guidebook, then we can lump them together into one challenge. We decided on something you can find easily at every parilla in Argentina and Uruguay – morcilla, or blood sausage, to round out the evening. In all, I consider it a spectacular success.