R.I.P. Vegetarianism

There are a number of standard questions that, as a traveler, you always expect to be asked. Where are you from? What are doing here? How long are you traveling for? In Bolivia, however, people seem to focus on one fundamental question: do you eat meat?

Hmm…. Do I eat meat? Are they asking or hoping, I’ve often wondered.

If someone had asked me a year ago, I would have stumbled over an ambiguous response sounding sort of like, “well, kind of, I used to, but not really anymore, unless it’s white, and local…or smoked turkey, but I try not to.” Ask me now, after three months in Cochabamba, and there’s not even a hint of hesitation in my, “oh God, yes!!!”

Needless to say, I’ve been eating an extraordinary amount of meat here. And let me tell you, every bite has been AMAZING. I can’t believe I’ve spent years of my life avoiding such delicious, tender, juicy hunks of meat. Even while living in Vermont, home to some of the most local, organic, plump livestock in the USA, I was able to resist the Lamb Burger at the Farmhouse, but not here.

Then again, nowhere in Vermont will you be served skewers of cow heart, so smooth they melt like butter in your mouth, freshly grilled and smothered in spicy peanut sauce.

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Nor will you find half a duck on the menu for $9.
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And what about an entire pressure-cooked spicy tongue? Ever seen that at home?
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Has your waiter ever carried a personal sized charcoal grill to your table with a heaping pile of meat still sizzling? And was there a live mariachi band serenading you in the background?
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I don’t think so!

Jeez. There’s something about the meat here that’s got me all excited. Maybe it’s how ridiculously cheap it is. Maybe it’s because giant slabs of meat are the only food here, besides saltenas, that I like. Maybe it’s the thrill of a new cultural indulgence. Whatever it is, I haven’t been able to get enough of it this week. It’s as if I’ve been reborn, senses and taste buds working anew.

Thank you, Bolivia, for the revelation. From here on out, this girl is saying good-bye vegetarianism, and hello Lamb Burger!

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