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Argentina without the beef

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Of all the places for a committed vegetarian to travel, Argentina probably makes the least sense.

Alongside tango and football, the South American country is world-renowned for its beef, which is both devoured in large quantities at home and exported to all the corners of the globe.

Faced with such a reputation, it was with some trepidation that I set off for a week-long break in Buenos Aries, expecting to encounter a culinary attitude similar to that of 1960s Europe or modern-day Australia, especially as I was pretty sure my travel insurance wouldn't compensate me for having to eat nothing but salad for a few days.

Such fears, however, proved to be largely unmerited, largely thanks to the fact that the city truly lived up to - and even exceeded - its label of 'the Paris of South America'.

Indeed, strolling aimlessly through the city-centre boulevards and looking up at the skyscrapers while getting in the way of workers in a hurry, I was reminded more of downtown Manhattan that the capital of a country which is supposed to be still developing.

So far, so impressive, though for me, the true mark of how well Argentina had embraced the 21st century and cosmopolitan cuisine would come with a night out at one of its thousands of eating establishments.

Simply meandering through the vast city in the hope of stumbling across a vegetarian gem would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, I figured, and so I purchased the local listings guide and used my bad Spanish to find a place to feed me for the evening.

Much to my pleasant surprise, I was spoilt for choice, managing to find a well-recommended place in between my hotel and the tango club I was later to make a fool of myself in.

While the beef being barbecued across the road was certainly tempting, so too was my fugazza.

A pizza by any other name, the fugazza was to serve me well during my time in the city, being both cheap, quick and, perhaps most importantly given the amount of site-seeing I did, filling.

After just one day in Buenos Aires I figured that, just as the natives have a seemingly insatiable appetite for beef in all of its forms, they always make sure they leave enough room to satisfy their collective sweet tooth.

Ice creams, alfajores – little cookies sandwiches filled with cream or ice cream – and cakes of all types, it seemed a wonder to me that Argentineans manage to pry themselves away from their seats and onto the dance floor, let alone execute the tango with a skill and passion we Europeans can only dream about.

Of course, it's probably a different matter once you leave the bright lights of the capital behind, though as my budget can't stretch to a return trip anytime soon, hopefully even rural Argentina will soon embrace the vegetarian revolution.

 

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