|Asados should replace our traditional American BBQ|
When was the last time you went to a BBQ? Well, if you’re sane -or not from Michigan- then the last time must have been sometime last summer or early fall. Do you remember it? Do you remember the food? Were there sports -maybe a UFC- on TV? Chances are you had a few beers or some cocktails, chitchatted, watched some TV that was probably not very memorable, and that was the last you recall of that event. Why is that?
Our BBQs are just not long enough and not intimate enough to really become the go to event. I know reading that sounds crazy since we are a nation of weekend barbecuers (BBQers?), but those BBQs turn out to be letdowns when it comes to taking advantage of the social interaction that they provide.
A typical BBQ will last, at the most, a handful of hours and then everyone goes their merry way. I’ve changed the way I conduct my BBQs. They are essentially all day events made to really connect with friends and bring new ones into the fold. It reminds me of an Argentinian Asado. Having Latin roots dictates that everything we do is more intimate and involved, so whether its an Argentinian Asado, Brazilian churrasco, or a Venezuelan (my birthplace and a country I love) Parrilla, our barbecues will be loud, long and memorable.
What would be considered a staple food in Argentina? Just like in the U.S., it seems that Argentinians are fond of meat and pasta. Of course, Argentinian meat has world renown and many people visit Argentina just to get a taste of Argentinian steak, which is usually eaten in asados. An asado is essentially Argentina’s version of an American barbecue. And yes, Argentinians basically eat meat just about 365 days of the year in one form or another. The asado in Argentina is almost like a ritual and much more intimate than an American BBQ. Some of the basics are similar – gathering with family and friends- but in Argentina, the asado is a more intimate and festive event.
An asado is by far the most important social event of the week in Argentina. It is a family gathering, an occasion to celebrate with friends, or just an excuse to get together and eat. While it is possible to stop at any restaurant and order some Argentine steak, it is better enjoyed in the environment that is the asado. Before you ask, no, eating at a restaurant is not even remotely close to the experience of an asado, where you have the opportunity to BBQ from scratch. It is an all inclusive experience in which you visit the butcher’s in the early morning for your choice cuts of meat with, what may seem like an entourage of your family and friends. Once the preparation starts, there is a very distinct division of labor where the men are clearly in charge of the grilling, while the women prepare the salads and chop the vegetables. It is a very old fashioned and almost endearing way of going about the preparation, though it can also be seen as a way to perpetuate stereotypes. Regardless of where you fall on that discussion, neither group seems to be too enthused to change the current status quo when it comes to division of labor in an asado.
Futbol (Soccer), Politics, and the Proper Way to Host a BBQ
|Is that enough meat for ya?!|
Argentina has many Spanish and Italian influences. One of those influences seems to be their propensity for good wine. It seems that I am not the only Latin American to have the urge to speak with his hands and exaggerated body language; Argentines seem to fall in this category as well and we probably have the Italians to thank for this influence. Along with wine and steak, another staple of Argentinian asados is a drink known as Fernet. Fernet is of Italian origin, but in Argentina it is not consumed in its intended manner.
Where as in Italy you may drink Fernet before a meal, in Argentina you will consume this throughout the meal and usually more than one glass. It can be described as a dark, thick substance and it is most often mixed with Coke in order to cut down on its bitter taste. As attendants of an asado begin to socialize, their conversations usually tend to shift to the two topics that most Argentines know and love: Futbol (soccer) and politics. I read your mind; we are not big soccer fans in the US, so substitute your favorite sport. What is also discernible is that as the conversations progress, they become more heated. As in many other Latin American countries, heated arguments seem to be part of the fabric in Argentina. Though they hardly break out into brawls -think a bar fight- they can become quite intense.
Wine, Beer, and Steak Grilled to Perfection
|Nothing like a Summer time BBQ|
While Argentina has gone through an economic shift -just as have many of its Latin American neighbors- the country was able to cope with the dramatic rise of food price inflation at the turn of the century because of its major role as a producer and exporter of meat and soy. While food prices have risen in recent years, Argentina has been able to weather the storm better than many of its neighbors, though its economy is still one of the very worst in the world and defaulting on its national debt just last year doesn’t help matters much.
Every society has its own culture, especially when it involves food. Many times, this food culture is intricately woven into a society. In the U.S., while we seem to try and sit down for dinner together, socialization is not usually encouraged, regardless of what may be portrayed on television. Take the time to really think about it and you may realize that the only occasion it is truly acceptable to speak at the dinner table is during a holiday meal when you may have extended family and friends visiting during that special time of year. We are fortunate in this country that our economic situation is not as dire as it is in Argentina. I understand that America also has a great divide between the poorest of the poor, the middle class, and the elite, but we also have the means to impart change. I guess when it boils down to it, if you have friends and good food, sometimes that is enough to help you pass the time no matter what the economic climate may be.