After the first night’s delicious bbq, I felt inspired to share an Argentine barbeque with the farm and its guest. The asado would require cuts of meat and vegetables that weren’t readily available on the farm, so off to town we went!
In Gayndah we had two Butcher shops to choose from. Naturally we went to the one with the friendliest slogan. I don’t remember the exact slogan but it was something like “we sell you the best cuts of meat and save the worst for us!” It was one of those slogans than make you feel good about your decision though they require a strong willing suspension of disbelief. Inside we went! I was dismayed to learn that our opportunity of purchasing beef ribs had come and gone 15 minutes before we arrived. We settled on pork ribs and flank steak. The flank steak had to be driven in so we spent half an hour scouring the town for bread. Yes, folks, a loaf of French bread proved impossible to find! In fact the only bread in town that wasn’t sliced was a half-priced cheese and bacon bread that looked as though the baker had a bad day on the fateful day of its creation… Meat in hand, we journeyed back to Rohan’s farm.
The Set Up
Fast forward to the ceremonial lighting of the fire! The venue for the Argentine Asado was a potpourri of three parrillas (grills), some of which were propped off the ground by rusty tin cans. No worries I thought to myself, a true asador (grill master) can prepare the asado on any surface, in any element, as long as le pone onda (he puts spirit into it). I lit the fire and added scrap wood from around the farm and brought the fire to a steady blaze. Inside the kitchen I salted the meats and realized that I may have gotten a little excited when purchasing the meat, having bought over a kilo of meat per person (per precise Argentine calculation, usually allow .5kg/person).
I returned outside and raked a few coals under the grill – it was time! As I strategically laid the meats and vegetables on the grill, my mouth watered and I felt the giddy that I always do when preparing such a feast! It takes me back to my time in Argentina where all clocks are paused, and friends and family gather to enjoy the spirit of the asado. The spirit of the asado is much more than just mouthwatering cuisine, it entails sharing in conversation, laughter and priceless moments with those who matter most, or perhaps even new friends. The asado is a timeless tradition. What I mean by “timeless” is twofold. First, a todos les chupa un huevo (nobody cares) what time it is. You arrive when it feels “right”, the meat is served when it is just “right” and everyone continues enjoying the ambiance, which can’t be described in words, only felt, until the time is “right” to return to reality. Secondly, the asado is timeless because it is enjoyed today as it was enjoyed 100 years ago as it will be enjoyed 100 years from today. The asado requires three main ingredients: fire, meat and the human spirit. Nothing else is needed, and the asado is best experienced without any other ingredients.
El Perro Diablo
I returned inside to wash my hands and grab a few eggs to break inside the bell peppers, or capsicum, as my Australian friends refer to them as. As I headed outside, I was stopped dead in my tracks…. What I saw nearly brought a tear to my eye… While I was inside, one of the farm pooches had snagged the flank steak off the grill and was about to devour it! I charged the pup, snatched up the meat and sprinted to the kitchen to wash and salvage the meat while Ry stood guard at the grill. Luckily, I was able to return the meat to its allocated position on the grill and all was well again.
“Is it time yet?”
Over the next hour the asado progressed as it should, slowly. However, some of the guests that had been working on the farm were getting anxious, similar to the pup who stole the meat! I was left nonplussed: I didn’t want to burn the meat (a cardinal sin in Argentina) but I also knew that folks were getting hungry and couldn’t wait any longer for the asado. I gave in and made some additional fire and sped up the asado, but just a tad. I tangoed with the asado for the next twenty minutes, countering every move of the additional heat from the fire, ensuring that nothing was burnt. Shure enough, a few minutes later the meat was ready for delectable consumption!
“Ahora sí, es hora de comer.”
“Now yes, it’s time to eat.”
The asado participants, which hailed from four different countries, enjoyed the surfeit of savory meats. Again I was lost in the spirit of the asado. Though everyone was from completely different backgrounds and countries , we were able to share and appreciate a tradition from a fifth country: Argentina. I love sharing this little piece of Argentine culture with as many people as I possibly can. I think we can all benefit and learn from the “back to basics” principles of the asado. No clocks, no meat thermometer, no fancy spices or sauces, save chimichurri… the focus is on the food and good company, as it should be.