I have gone to two big Asados in the last two weeks, and I realized I haven’t written anything about them! First, I traveled up to Lago Puelo for Gaby’s birthday, and then we had the asado before the day of rock climbing. So: Here’s how an Argentinean Asado goes, from my experience.
Around 9:00, it gets dark here, and the preparations for the asado begin. Some people take the trip downtown to buy meat and whatever else will go on the parilla, and the rest gather wood to start the fire. For an asado, nobody messes with building a triangle, or a log cabin, to start the fire slowly and most efficiently. The men generally just throw as many small branches and pieces of paper together as they can with a couple of big logs in the middle, and set it all alight. It works pretty well, too… in a couple minutes, they have a raging fire, and then they throw charcoal in the middle of it all and wait for the flames to die down a bit. They rake the embers over to one side and put the grill over the embers, while keeping the main fire stoked to provide more embers.
Now, the slow process of cooking the meat begins. Usually, there’s some sort of cordero (lamb) or beef, and chorizo. In the most recent asado, one of the other climbers was also a vegetarian, so we filled all the additional space on the grill with onions, peppers, potatoes, and squash. My favorite vegetarian thing to asado is a half of a pepper filled with an egg, and the grill fries the egg nicely, or a half of a pepper filled with cheese and herbs. We joked that the most recent asado looked like a battle between the veggies and the meat… and with the beautiful color of the veggies and the way they surrounded the meat, the veggies won. Everyone sits around either drinking and chatting or preparing salads until the meat is ready, usually around midnight.
An asado uses no plates and very few dishes. Instead, there are about six forks circulating, and people take turns stabbing and eating things directly off the grill. The chorizo turns into a choripan with a piece of bread on either side, and everyone pretty much eats the meat as is. My peppers at the most recent barbeque were delicious, and disappeared much faster than the meat did. Even the salads are in communal bowls with forks shared by everyone. The liberty with which the Argentineans share germs is just another way that they build community more than we do in the United States. Not only does everyone drink mate out of the same bombilla, but everyone even eats off the same forks in an Asado.
People keep showing up at the asado until about one or two in the morning, and usually there’s enough meat left to feed everyone happily. At both Gaby’s asado and the rock climbing one, hardly anyone knew each other. The asado hosts tend to invite whoever they happen to think of or happen to see in the days leading up to the asado (just as Gaby invited me after we had known each other for only an hour!), so it turns into a big, random group that somehow gets along wonderfully. Even when the early morning hours make people too tired to talk much, everyone is content to just sit there together watching the fire, the meat, or the stars. Both asados lasted well past three in the morning, until everyone had drank enough wine and eaten enough meat to fall asleep immediately upon reaching their beds or sleeping bags.