Cuisine: "Cocina Cultura: A Land of Beef and Wine"

By: Jack Griswold, Gail Hall, and Ryan Bollar


On the cusp of our visit to Buenos Aires, we are bubbling with excitement and physically preparing for the extensive amount of food that we are going to enjoy.  Argentina’s culture is as unique as the foods that it is famous for, and we have engaged in extensive research to assure that we do not miss anything.  We have discovered that a large portion of diets in Argentina are made up of meat, whether it is beef or lamb. Meat is so popular due to vast grazing land and warm weather in rural Argentina , which allow for leaner and better tasting meat.  Whether it is beef or lamb, it is then specially cured using a technique called “asado” where the meat is lightly smoked and sealed to lock in the flavor.  The cooked meat is often served straight up or in a pastry pocket called an “empanada,” a famous snack food.  Just as globally renowned as the food, the specialty drinks in Argentina are not to miss.  

Like its cuisine, Argentina is also very well known for the traditional herbal tea-like drink called “mate”which is sipped from a hollow gourd through a metal filtering straw called a “bombilla.” Known for it’s bitter earthiness and strong caffeine punch, mate is rich in tradition and process as it is brewed multiple times with boiling water and passed around a circle of friends.  As we researched Argentina, mate emerged as a perfect example to help understand the meaning of the culinary experience in the country. It can be distilled to the notion that a meal is a time to appreciate everyone around the table as much as the food. 

Mendoza-Map.jpeg Much like mate, Argentina is famous for it’s wine which contributes to the lively happiness that basks the culinary experience. As the largest producer of malbec in the world, Argentina’s Mendoza region produces nearly 1.53 billion liters of wine each year.  It is not the vast production, but the delicious fruity quality that makes Argentine malbec so popular.  The high-altitude, semi-arid region fosters predictable production that has driven the industry since the grape was introduced in 1556 by a Spanish missionary named father Juan Cedrón. Argentina has grown to be the tenth largest consumer of wine in the world, and bottles of malbec are often paired with dinner. The extensive enjoyment of wine and late night dinners has contributed to long meals that are very different from those that Americans enjoy. Meals in Argentina are known to be an unhurried and a sit down affair. The Sunday family dinner is considered the most significant meal of the week. During our time in Buenos Aires we expect to spend a lot of time conversing, learning, and enjoying long meals while consuming some of the best traditions that Argentina has to offer. This too transitions into business dinners as well. While business dinners are common, lunch meetings are not. When conjoining business and a meal, Argentinians are very unique in how they conduct the meeting. Business in Argentina is relationship-driven, and it is very important to build networks and connections. Argentinians typically only do business with people they know and trust, which stresses the importance of relationships built around a meal.

Dinner meetings are perfect for establishing this type of relationship. Before speaking about business, the majority of the meeting comprise of small talk about one’s family and past experiences. When dessert is served, the opportunity to converse about business matters opens up. One should expect the meeting to run long, and possibly not to come to any consensus. It is common to have several meetings before making any business decisions. This pleasant, leisurely style of dining is something that we expect to immerse ourselves in, no matter where we go out to eat. From the upscale, more touristy restaurants that we visit with the group, to the more homey, traditional cafes that the locals frequent, we expect to relax, enjoy the atmosphere, and take or time, contrary to the American experience, where speed and turnover are the main goals. In addition to the difference in the pace of eating, the timing of meals also varies from the U.S standard. Mostly starting off eating at a 1:00pm lunch (as breakfast is commonly skipped or very light), all of the Argentine meals are pushed back. A light meal or snack around 5:00pm or 6:00pm is meant to hold residents over until dinner, which ranges from anywhere from 9 on the weekdays to 11:00 pm on the weekends! Relationships with the waiters and waitresses are common, so we also expect to learn the best, most common dishes served at each establishment, maximizing our food and beverage experiences at every place that we visit. With Buenos Aires belonging to the Central Region, we will be sure to experience both traditional, indigenous foods as well as the more Argentine-influenced European dishes, such as pasta, pizza, and crepes. Overall, we anticipate to experience the whole scale and variety of culture that Argentina has to offer through the rich history and differences of cuisine. From the asado-style beef and lamb, to the completely original mate, including the incredible amounts and variety of wine, Argentina truly holds a unique flavor of the world ripe for the tasting. As we approach our departure to the Land of Beef and Wine on May 8, we are becoming increasingly excited about the culinary journey that we are about to embark on.  

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