Meat, especially beef, is deeply embedded in Argentina’s culture. Argentines consume more beef per capita than residents of any other country.
Family gatherings revolve around “asados,” which most Americans would call a barbecue. Sporting events, protests and everyday lunch breaks give locals a chance to try a variety of meats, often grilled at makeshift stands.
The country’s top eatery is a steakhouse called Don Julio Parilla. It’s ranked No. 34 by William Reed’s list of the world’s best restaurants. Traditional Argentine dishes include a schnitzel-like breaded meat cutlet, heavy cuts of steak, meat-stuffed empanadas and a chorizo sandwich fondly known as “choripan.”
Vegan and vegetarian diets have been growing in popularity across the world, but Argentina has been relatively intolerant of them, until now. Meat consumption in Argentina was at an all-time low in 2019. Vegans and vegetarians still face ridicule from meat-loving traditionalists, but they have an increasing array of options. Buenos Aires, the capital city, now has over 60 vegan or vegetarian restaurants.
The dip in meat consumption is explained by a variety of reasons. The rising popularity of vegetable-heavy or -only diets, more visible animal rights activism and the nation’s struggling economy all likely contributed. In this video, we go to the source and ask Porteños — as the people of Buenos Aires are called — about the cultural shift.
Photo at top: A plate of steak at Don Julio Parrilla in Buenos Aires is served up on a Tuesday afternoon at the world-famous steakhouse. (Colin Boyle/MEDILL)
BUENOS AIRES — After visiting parts of Argentina that were full of pollution, Jesica Pullo, a designer based in Buenos Aires, decided to combine her passions for fashion and the environment to create Project Biotico, a sustainable fashion company. Pullo uses recyclable materials — like potato chip and cookie bags — to make clothes, purses and other fashion accessories.
BUENOS AIRES — Fifteen years ago, Nestor Pichelli decided to change careers and found himself helping preserve a mainstay of life in this capital city: the café notable, or historic coffee shop. “The coffee culture in Argentina is a lifestyle,” he said, as he sat among tables full of patrons at Café Tortoni, one of the city’s oldest “cafés notables,” and a magnet for tourists. “It is a mode of how people interact and talk about life.”
The ornately decorated Café Tortoni — with dozens of artifacts hanging on its walls — has a history going back more than 160 years. Before it became a destination for international tourists, it had long been a social meeting place for artists, writers and politicians in Argentina.
Café El Banderín is another of the city’s classic neighborhood coffee bars. Its history is told through the wall of pennants and pictures from soccer teams given to owner Mario Riesco over many decades.
Riesco isn’t betting his bar on the lure of its history. He is seeking a younger clientele, with original and novel drinks and specials. He hired Agustina Sarni to help bring in a more diverse, neighborhood crowd, many of whom have become regulars at this cozy coffee bar.
Photo at top: In the afternoon, almost every café is full of customers. They come here to unite, to chat about things that have been going on, or just relax and enjoy the coffee. (Yilin Xie & Xinyi Zhang/MEDILL)
Ten hours after I arrived in Buenos Aires with my friends, I jumped onto the carnival bus not knowing where it was taking us.
It might be the happiest bus ride I’ve ever experienced. Men and women were singing and laughing aloud, drinking from the same pail of wine, clapping and flapping the bus ceiling for drumbeats.
Musicians took out their harmonicas and saxophones to accompany the chorus. And then everybody started to wave, dance and whistle to greet the little kids on streets who were greeting them back in the same way.