Driving for Steak in Rural Argentina

There's not much driving to do in rural Argentina in the days of high summer. Until you realize you've run out of steak. Then it's time to fire up the vintage Renault and go hunting for a butcher.

All you need to know about steak culture in Argentina is covered in Maciej Cegłowski’s wonderful 2006 essay “Argentina On Two Steaks A Day”. Beef is a

Driving for Steak in Rural Argentina

national enterprise here, a democratic force which unites this strange nation across giant, bandsawed slabs of sirloin and offal.

My host Fernando has a thing for vintage iron. He drives what is apparently the only Renault 4 in the town of Río Ceballos—a suburb of the central Argentine city of Córdoba—a car which dates back to the days of the Kennedy Presidency and which has an air of being simple enough to run and fix pretty much anywhere. What the little Renault lacks in modern amenities is more than made up by its ability to transport copious amounts of raw beef.

It’s a bit surreal to go for a drive in rural Argentina, and not only for the supreme weirdness of wearing shorts and sandals while your iPhone insists on it being January. Take seatbelts, for instance. They are strips of ballistic nylon which are attached to a car’s interior and which may be draped across one’s lapel but which are not meant to be attached to any sort of retaining device, becoming in essence decorative bits of black fabric.

Driving for Steak in Rural Argentina

In a similar manner, gas stations strongly resemble places of business which serve refined petroleum products in other parts of the world, but in rural Argentina, they

Driving for Steak in Rural Argentina

do no such thing. You stop there to give your dog a breath of stationary air then drive on.

The placid summer driving, with or without a supply of gasoline, is suddenly endowed with sense when you arrive at a butcher shop. The variety and quality of cuts is breathtaking, even if you don’t take into account the separate counter devoted to various delicious internal organs which I’ve deliberately excluded for the squeamish amongst you. Your average Argentine makes off with a dozen pounds or so of meat, meandering lazily home in a vintage car of choice.

Driving for Steak in Rural Argentina

All you need to look out for is a dog taking command of your driving position. Fernando’s dog Camila has a thing for stick shift.