Paradilla please

It is a vegetarian’s nightmare. It’s a place where cows outnumber humans 3 to 1. A place where sheep outnumber cows two to one. A place where more beef is consumed per capita than any other country in the world and you can’t walk two feet without hitting a steak house or barbeque pit. Yes, Montevideo is truly a unique city in South America. Where Christmas is called “family day” and the national drink is tea, Montevideo is quite unlike the hulking countries of Brazil and Argentina which surround it.

Today we went to do what everyone does when in Montevideo; no, we didn’t go shopping for leather goods, we went to eat barbeque beef and drink sangria. Of course it makes sense that in a country where cows outnumber people leather would be plentiful and cheap, but we were not in the market for that particular bovine byproduct.

You are never disappointed with the beef in Uruguay, and the barbeque pits have been barbequing beef in the traditional open flame wood barbeques for centuries. A good piece of meat, a hot fire with good wood (and of course a handful of rock salt) and viola! A meat feast fit for a meat loving king. Wash it all down with a pitcher of sangria and watch the tourists and locals walk by in the avenue. No afternoon could be better.

Of course, you’re going to have to deal with the drummers. You see, unlike Argentina which has little black history, Uruguay has been home to African Uruguayans for hundreds of years. Freed slaves from Brazil immigrated into Uruguay and became part of the culture. So now, wherever you go in a tourist area, you are destined to hear the energetic sounds of the candombe. Candombe ( which means "place and dance of africans") is the drum beat developed by the musically inclined descendants of the freed Brazilian slaves, and it does not seem to be in any danger of fading away. This means that while you sit with your friends at a steakhouse or barbeque enjoying your sangria and massive slab of beef, your conversation will be periodically drowned out while a wandering group of colorfully dressed candombe musicians stops and hammers out a rhythm or two for you. This instantly reduces any conversation to pantomime and sends sound wave ripples through your glass of sangria. I can’t say I am a huge fan of the wandering drummers, but others seemed to enjoy them and the musicians made a fair dollar from the tourists. A little tip; Make eye contact, raise a camera or give a smile and the wandering drummers will stay and entertain you even longer. This might be handy if you’re vacationing with your mother in law or having lunch with your boss.

Of course carrying the name “The oriental republic” it is not surprising that Uruguayans have a small obsession with tea. Everywhere you look, like the hooka in a Turkish café, you see tea cups with silver straws. Uruguayans love it so much many of them carry tea cups and straws with them wherever they go. Yerba Mate is the tea of choice, and not being a tea lover myself I have never really gotten into the swing, but if you find yourself in Montevideo, you might want to try the national drink obsession while you’re swaying to the rhythms of the candombe… After you have had your beef and sangria of course.
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