The wind starts to pick up off the water. The little tip of the city center in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, is just about 6 blocks wide. Walking in the middle, you can see the water on both sides. My raincoat zipped fully, I put up my hood, as the rain starts to trickle down from the cloud covered sky. I put my hands in my pockets to try and give them some warmth.
We keep walking in search of a market, which we were told had some food for lunch. Without opening up a map, we stumble around the streets, keeping our eyes pealed for something that might be what we were looking for.
Arriving at 2pm on a Saturday, I had expected there to be people out and about – shopping, drinking, eating, walking the streets, kissing on benches. But rather, all the store and shop owners were closing down for the day. An afternoon siesta, perhaps? Could be.
Like a ghost town, abandoned and eerily quiet. Walking, listening to the silence of the city. I felt uneasy, as if everyone had left the city because of a storm warning, and I didn’t get the memo. The buildings each told a story, whether it was one of abandonment, one of a great politician who once lived there, or a writer who lived by the water for inspiration. I strolled around creating stories in my mind, of what might have happened in this place.
And then, upon turning the corner, we stumbled upon the market. And there were people! Lots of people, tourists, locals, kids, couples. Everyone seemed to be here…
Upon entering the market building, the smell of the smoke from the grill permeated through my tiny nostrils, like a fire tearing its way through a burning building. My mouth started to water, like a dog waiting to be given a bone.
Little narrow pathways, backless bar stools, and restaurants with a central, open grill. The seats circling the grill, and waiters spinning and serving cows like a spinning tilt-a-whirl ride. There was no music, just the sound of cooking, knifes chopping meet, people talking loudly, waiters shuffling around, the sound of silverware hitting plates, and the groans of those who ate one bite too much.
My eyes were buggy, as I had never seen such a quantity of meat!!! Were those intestines? Ewwww, I thought, I didn’t want to try that.
My nostrils filled with the smell of cooking meat, and I pondered that as animals, we all had arrived at this locale to eat other animals, in particular the cow. I felt a twinge of sorrow in my heart for the vegetarian, who could not enjoy this aspect of being a human animal, which is not that different than how a lion would enjoy eating a zebra. We think we are so great, but at the end of the day, we are just animals.
There were about 10 of these little restaurants, each with a grill full of various meats. I began crunching some numbers, that if each restaurant had about 15 people every hour (as they had very quick service), and each person ate some part of the cow, and if it took 8 people to eat most of the cow, that would make for about 2 cows per restaurant per hour, or 20 cows per hour for the whole of the market. Basically, a whole farm of say 60-100 cows per day. Now, I don’t know if my math is correct here, but the idea is that a lot of cows are eaten at this one place!
We finally pick a spot after bobbing and weaving through all the masses, enjoying or waiting for their piece of cow. We took our seats, ordered a $5 bottle of wine, and ordered a chorizo, a steak and fries to share. We thought this was a reasonable order, however, when the steak came out, it appeared as if it could have feed a 4 person family.
Nevertheless, we weren’t hungry for dinner, or even the next morning for that matter. But no problem ,by noon the next day, we were ready to eat another steak and enjoy more cows Uruguay has to offer.
Next stop, Porto Alegre, Brazil (in the south of the country)!
Closing my eyes in this little country of Uruguay to wake up tomorrow on a bus on a new adventure in one of the largest, culturally rich countries in the world, Brazil!