CulturallyOurs Exploring Argentinian Asado Food Culture The Art Of Grilling In Argentina Gauchos On The Road

Understanding Traditional Argentinian Asado Culture And Food

CulturallyOurs Exploring Argentinian Asado Food Culture The Art Of Grilling In Argentina Gauchos On The Road

It comes as no suprise that food is one the best ways to truly experience a place, her people and more importantly the local culture. When Sara Jane Armstrong, a travel blogger, reached out with a story about the Asado from the Pampas region in Argentina, we knew we just had to share. From dramatic Patagonia to the art culture of Buenos Aris, there is so much rich heritage in Argentina. And now you can add Asado – the art of Argentinian grilling to that list.

From SJ,

Grilling in Argentina isn’t just about the food. It is a ritual, it is a ceremony ~Francis Mallmann

Dust clouds flourish underfoot as you traipse the gaucho trails of the Pampas in Argentina. Traveling at the break of dawn, the harsh heats have yet to swell. Asados start early, finish late, and keep you gorging the whole way through. Asado is about patience. Savouring. Savour, too, the sites you’ll see along the country roads. Sauntering gauchos, donned in spurs and Stetsons, epitomise the folksy fantasy of the wild American west. Corralling cattle and wrangling wild horses, the mestizo manifestation of the American dream has become an iconic figure in Argentine culture. It was the indigenous communities of the Pampas, and the mestizos they became, that developed the Argentine attitude towards meat.CulturallyOurs Exploring Argentinian Asado Food Culture The Art Of Grilling In Argentina Pamas LandscapesArriving early at the barbecue, I held no expectations. I didn’t anticipate the fresh slaughter of supper. I learnt quickly that great significance is placed on the killing of the animal. It is crucial that those who are sitting down to feast are viscerally aware of the sacrifice that was made for their dinner. Respecting the life, respecting the process, and respecting the opportunity. Given that such weight is given to the importance and ritualism surrounding the slaughter, Argentinian asados are about cooking and eating every last piece of the animal, in tribute to the life taken. Beyond the classic slabs of steak, many local delicacies are born from these innards, typically discarded and disregarded by the mass consumer market. Tripe, sweetbread, offal- more pleasant words for organs- are cooked as delicately and deliberately as any other cut, given as much care and attention. Some asadorseven grill up the testicles. Nothing is wasted when the weight of the animal’s sacrifice is made the focal point of the day. Other cultures make a pointed effort to make guests look their dinner in the eye, Hungarian pig-sticking, for example, fully revolving around the ritualistic slaughter of the pig. However, none can match the Argentines for culinary quality.CulturallyOurs Exploring Argentinian Asado Food Culture The Art Of Grilling In ArgentinaAt an asado, you sit in the sleepy sunshine, sip local wines, trade life stories. Everyone is invited. I was brought along by a boy I had met a few days before, insistent that a day at a Sunday asado was the best way for me to truly experience the people and the culture of Argentina. The old and the weather-worn laugh with the freshest faced, old gauchos telling tales of wild Patagonian horses, young Porteños debating political radicalism. Men will recite tales about the history of Argentina, the history of the Pampas, and the environment in which their culture blossomed. All will indulge in, justified, boasts about the wealth’s and wines of the Argentinian countryside.CulturallyOurs Exploring Argentinian Asado Food Culture The Art Of Grilling In Argentina Pampas LandscapesRich and fertile lands in the Latin lowlands have attracted immigrants from across the world, the Spanish bringing their sturdy cattle, both Spaniards and Italians bringing their advanced culinary techniques. This intermixed with the indigenous understanding of the land, and their intimate knowledge of cooking over open flame. The mestizo identity manifests itself in this cuisine. The art of cooking over an open fire is associated with Indians, and the earliest of the gaucho communities. Restricted in the availability of utensils or access to man-made appliances, the cowboys roaming the lowlands had access to what they could kill, and what fire they could muster. Traditionally cooked on wood fire grills, aided by hot coals, the subtle flavours ingrained in the ashes is developed by the chef. Each asadorhas a preferred combination of timber, selected to bring out soft sabores in each cut of meat.

The notion of grilling over a gas fire in insulting in the Pampas.

The ritualistic aspect of asado begins with the asador, the one in charge. Typically male, the asadors carry on techniques their fathers taught them, that their grandfathers taught their fathers. It is an honoured and coveted role, one that takes years to perfect. At some point in the hours of intense meat consumption, someone will pause the conversation to cry out ‘en aplauso para el asador’. Take a moment to applaud the skill, the devotion and the capacity to cook over an open flame all day long.

The food at an asado does seem never ending. Dish after dish, each better than the last, are produced over the many hours you spend talking. Let the day while away, let the array of steaks, sausages and slabs of meat soak up your rich Mendozan wines. Never in my life have I been so full, and simultaneously so unwilling to stop eating. There is little access to apparently unnecessary plate fillers like salads or carbs, bar the occasional empanada. This is Argentina, after all.

In the esteemed restaurants of Buenos Aires, world-class chefs are attempting to recreate the classic Sunday asado in local parrillas. Try ‘Steaks by Luis’, a restaurant in Palermo that attempts to recreate the communal experience of an asado, seating all guests around one table. As you meet new people and hear new stories at the weekly asado, as you will in this restaurants intimate environment. That, and astonishing food. Other famous Buenos Aires eateries, like ‘Don Julio’ or ‘Gran Parrilla del Plata’, have brought the wonders of Pampas cuisine to the city masses. By respecting the ceremony, and the ritualistic aspect of the meal, chefs allow us a brief glimpse into Argentina’s rich culture and history through their exquisite food.CulturallyOurs Exploring Argentinian Asado Food Culture The Art Of Grilling In ArgentinaAt its core, though, asado isn’t about steak.

It isn’t about meat.

It is about companionship and community.

Respect for the land and the country you live off.

It is about Argentina, her land and her people. Indulge in the opportunity to experience her yourself.

Thank you SJ for a glimpse into this incredible food culture of Argentina. When food is less about eating and more about the experience and a way to connect with others, it becomes a memorable adventure unlike any other. SJ Armstrong is a lifelong traveller and a fledgling travel blogger. Starting backpacking at a few months old, she was raised across the world, uncovering cultural nuances along the way.

{Words and Images from Sara-Jane Armstrong, Website: Listen To The Wild, Instagram: @listento.thewild }

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