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Disappearing Gauchos

I have to admit that like most people, I’ve always had a romantic view of the gaucho’s life in the Argentinian plains.  Naturally, I was very interested in this article by Juan Forero, “Day of the Gaucho Waning in Argentina”, for the Washington Post, about how traditional grass fed beef was giving way to U.S.-style feedlots.  I was surprised at how pragmatic the people interviewed were about the changes:

Edgardo Zaldibar, 49, has worked at Liniers since he was 16, helping round up cattle on horseback. His father, 72, has worked in the market for 60 years, and his grandfather worked there, too. Zaldibar called himself a man of tradition but said he has no problem with the new trend — he eats beef every day and likes the feedlot variety.

“This is modernity, I suppose,” he said, taking a break from herding. “But I don’t think that this is bad — it’s modernity, and you have to adapt yourself.”

I’ll always be city-mouse squeamish about the realities of food production.  Even this week’s New York Times article, “Raising Steaks”, about the cattle Judith Jones is raising on her Vermont farm, Bryn Teg, made me a little woozy:

“The only time I had a little twinge was the other day and the cows licked our hands,” Jones said, recounting when she was hosting the food writer Joan Nathan, who was there to work on her next Jewish cookbook. “You get that rough texture of the tongue. And the next day, we were peeling it off!” she said with a shuddering laugh. The brisket proved less troubling.

I envy Ms. Jones practicality despite her momentary twinge.  For myself, if a cow licks my hand, we’re friends for life.  Perhaps that’s yet another symptom of modernity.  Expecting beyond all reason, from anyone and everything, both an idyllic past and delicious present.

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