For nearly a year before my move to Bolivia I was vegetarian. I quit for two reasons: I wanted to eat one last time both Popeye's chicken and Bún chả from Lucky Dragon and secondly I knew being a vegetarian anywhere in South America, especially Bolivia, would be difficult. But I have to say after this past weekend I'm strongly considering being vegetarian once again. Here's what happened....
I went with some friends of mine to the town of Oruro, which is near the border with Chile. It has extremely cheap electronics and we went to buy portable dvd players to help with the volunteer work we do with the deaf community here in Sucre. We also wanted to enjoy some of the regional dishes Oruro is famous for. Just to be clear I had no idea what any of them were.
On Friday we enjoyed Charki-khan. It was a plate of Llama meat that had first been dry-cured over several days then fried. It's accompanied by mote (something similar to hominy), boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, and cheese. Not forgetting the hot sauce or llajua. To be honest, I enjoyed the simple combination. I enjoy food you are supposed to eat with your hands and we ate it with a cold beer. mmmmm
The next day was filled with more shopping, I scorred an awesome wok for $5 and a coat for $2. Then in the evening we were in search of another gastronomical adventure. Generally I'm very adventurous. I had a fried fish head in Haiti, guinea pig in Ecuador, even chicken feet (tho I didn't really enjoy them). But this next adventure has nearly put me over the edge as far as becoming a vegetarian once again.
We were in search of Rostro Asado. I felt as tho I were a guest host of the Andrew Zimmerman show. On the corner of a downtown street there was a lady with a huge plastic bag sitting inside of a tiny shack. 'Rostro Asado?' she asked us. 'Ummmm sí' was the tentative reply that launched us down the path to the carnivoric atrocity to follow. Reaching deep into the bag she pulled out the specimen to show us what we were buying. Minutes later we were in my friend Teresa's house, sitting around the table and contemplating the monstrosity in front of us. Some of us took it better than others.
Having come this far I couldn't back out. If I had it would have just confirmed to the Bolivians we foreigners are weak-bellied cowards.
So I partook of his cheek, which wasn't that bad, and finally of the ceso (brains) which had the same 'coat your throat' effect of pure cream that makes me gag. That was the last straw. My eyes were opened and I realized what I had just ate. As soon as my stove/oven gets back into working order and I can cook at home I will begin my path back to veggi-dom.