How To Be Veghead in Beefville

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

As many of you know, I famously came out of the vegetarian closet onmy first visit to Argentina with my then future-husband.,

I later wrote about it for the National Post, with a giant photo showcasing my father-in-law’s indoor grill.

After 12 years of veggie living – instigated by a semester living with a vegetarian family in Berlin in 1990 – my timing was perfect, obviously. It seems every important moment in Argentina, and even some simply unimportant but still worth noting moments, are marked with an asado. And so the return of the prodigal son (Max) after a few years hanging with me in Central and North America meant plenty of notable moments – and plenty of asados.

I never got ill or had any regrets. In fact, I’d conveniently started to crave beef about 48 hours before our plane touched down at Ezeiza. It may have been that I knew that Argentine beef (at least back then) was from happy, grass-eating, free-roaming cows, and we’d be eating as much of the animal as was humanly possible, hoof-to-tail style. It would be slow-cooked with attention, care and heaps of effort. On top of all that ethical stuff, it just tasted soooo good! I was a total convert and am now a keen carnivore.
But many folks aren’t so quick to pick up the steak knife.

So is it possible to be a vegetarian in this beef-worshipping country? Heck yeah! From pastas and pizza to tartas and empanadas, there are options.

Healthy, veggie restos are a bit of trend in Buenos Aires these days, and there are enough ethnic options from places like Thailand there to keep non-carnivores happy. It’s a bit more difficult as you stray from the ‘Capital of the Universe’ (aka BA), though.

In our neck of the woods, the better vegetarian restaurants worth mentioning are Covita (which has relatively fusion-ish food for these parts) and the timeless El Vegetariano in Bariloche. There’s Pura Vida and Viva la Pepa in El Calafate and Prana Bar in El Chalten.

In Mendoza, a haven for fresh produce, there are a few veggie buffets, including Naturata and nearby Azahares. Arrope is next to the Sheraton in downtown Mendoza. Vegetarians at the end of the world can find some meat-free options in the buffet at Ushuaia’s El Bambu.

And I happen to call an influential Argentine vegetarian my sister-in-law. She’s a chef, teacher, caterer and all-around guru for healthy, meat-free living. For those of you who can understand a bit of Spanish, you can find a good list of Buenos Aires’ best veg-head restos here.

Above photo by Max Schoffel.

 

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