I have been in Uruguay for over 4 months now and I have yet to comment on the food. To be honest I am not all that impressed. Blessed with a talented chef for a mother and having lived with college flatmates of Indian/Afghan, Thai and Moroccan backgrounds, I grew accustomed to a variety of scents, flavours, and most importantly species. I was definitely spoiled when it came to my gastronomic palate. So it’s not surprise that I’ve become somewhat critical of foods I encounter.
So about food in Uruguay, my gross generalization: beef, beef, more beef occasionally some vegetables on the side (probably some form of potatoes). That pretty much describes the asado of Uruguayan bbq, which consists of lots of meat usually beef and sometimes lamb with roasted red peppers. The national palate here is heavily influenced by the influx of Italian immigrants. So you can find pizza and pastas in just about every supermarket or restaurant you go to. Many might think well great how can you go wrong with a great slab of steak (Uruguay and Argentina produce the best beef in the world) or maybe even some pasta of some sort of pie/tart. Well here are my reasons:
- I grew up in household full of vegetarians. With a sister and dad who renounced meat early on in my childhood and in order to appease them my mother often cooked meatless dishes. As a result I wasn’t all too fond of red meat to begin with. Chicken is the only reason keeping me from crossing over to the other side; It’s just too good. Plus try explaining your a vegetarian to someone in Sudan- good luck with that. My sister tries and fails every year. It’s difficult for them to comprehend a meal without meat.
- The whole ordeal of halal/non-halal meat
- Where are the species? The food here at times seems flavorless. That’s why I opt to cook at home most of the time
- One can only take so much pasta
So as you can guess, I don’t go out to restaurants all that often. Cooking at home has been a challenge in a country where regular black pepper is considered a potent spice. I scoured several supermarkets and was able to add some curry, chili pepper and cumin to my collection. Sadly that is the extend of what I could find. The on going joke with my flatmate is to add cilantro y comino (cumin) to everything.
Although exploring and getting to know Uruguay has been a great experience, the culinary aspect of it hasn’t really been up to par. I´m craving some Sudanese/Middle Eastern food or some butter chicken(Indian) or maybe even a bowl of tom yam (Thai).
To be fair though, desserts here make up for it. Each local Panaderia has an astonishing number of baked goods, most contain dulce de leche. For more info on this gooey goodness, wikipedia describes it best:
People here can eat dulce de leche for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s pretty good but a little too sweet. I usually have to follow it up with some kind of drink to dilute the sweetness.
I guess it’s all part of the experience.