14 August 2009

More than just a meal

Hi! Elizabeth from my political exile here. Two things up front, no I am not really in political exile. When I started to write my blog, my exile was metaphorical. Lets just say I am a San Francisco girl born and bred. Before our move to Argentina my husband and I were growing a family in Fairfield County, Connecticut. And while there was a whole lot of feeling misplaced both politically and culturally for me, political exile is definitely hyperbole. And I am happy to report I am feeling a lot less in exile these days. Secondly, and probably obviously at this point, I am not the author of a design blog. Unlike Paul, I am not a highly skilled professional with exquisite taste. I am simply a lurker, addicted to house porn who today is sharing some observations about living the lifestyle of an expat.

My husband and I planned this move abroad, unlike most of what happened in our married life (including some of the children). Early in our marriage we wrote down "move to a foreign country for 2 years when kids are in school" as one of many goals we had. In 2004, after four kids and several business iterations later, we made our move to Argentina. We actually built a matrix to determine where in the world we would move. While Vancouver Canada, Spain and New Zealand were finalists, Argentina won! It had a fabulous family life, great weather, skiing, fishing and our kids (and maybe us) would become fluent in Spanish.

Fast forward more than 5 years. We are still here and what keeps us here is the fabulous family life. While there are other elements of life here that you could call unreliable, chaotic, or plain crazy, the trade off is a really mellow, close and sharing family life. The weekends are restful and relaxing and full of good food. Even the most A-type working people make room for a family life on the weekends.

The asado epitomises the Argentine way of looking at life. Asado means basically barbecue in Spanish. But an asado is so much more.

Its about 1:30 in the afternoon in a Buenos Aires suburb. It's a Sunday and there is a slew of family and good friends in the backyard. Lots of kids, boys mostly kicking a futbol (soccer) and the girls doing what girls do. There are babies for everyone to fawn over, women, men and even other teenagers here celebrate the baby as a true blessing. Grandma and Grandpa are the most special. They have the place of honor at the table.

The women are in the kitchen (typical!) helping prepare all the side dishes: roasted vegetables, potatoes, and fresh salads while the asador directs the other men to drink lots of red wine while he manages the meat on the parilla which is a real grill with real wood fueling the fire, no sissy Webers found here. There is a lot of meat. Some things look a little weird and its better not to ask what they are, but they are delicious. There is melted provoleta cheese bubbling in a cast iron dish on the fire.

The choripan is ready. Choripan is one of the best combinations made with bread and meat . Little pieces of crusty french bread (the pan) envelops a juicy(or is it simply fat?)chorizo sausage. It is so good. The kids love choripan. They all stop what they are doing and rush to the parilla for their choripan fresh off the grill. Now it is time to sit down. More red wine all around. Morcilla and mojellas are served first. Morcilla is a blood sausage and they can come is all sorts of shapes and sizes and flavors. Mojellas are the equivalent of sweetbreads. They have been butterflied and cooked until crunchy.

About one hour into the meal the big guns start coming off the grill. First its the matambrito de cerdo (pork). Its the rib meat without the rib. A great cut especially with a simple honey marinade.
Then the cow parade starts: asado de tira, which are short ribs that have been cut in a funny way, they have a ton of flavorful meat, colita de cuadril is like a tri-tip, then a tapa de asado, which despite the fact it is rib cap (??), is quite delicious, ojo de bife is the rib eye cut. If you are still hungry you can have some of the lomo (tenderloin) that is being cooked for sandwiches for tomorrow. There are a lot of sides, creamed spinach, french fries, roasted vegetables and fresh salads but none of that can even begin to compete with the meat. Needless to say there is more wine.

There is dessert. A guest will always bring a gooey cream infused pie or cake. The gooey part is the dulce de leche, milk reduced to sugar goo. But the centerpiece is the ice cream. The ice cream has been just delivered by the family's ice cream store of choice. Figure 1 kilo for every 6 people. This ice cream is creamy and comes in a multitude of flavors. If you are hosting Argentines you have to offer dulce de leche ice cream along with favorites Chocolate Africano (dark chocolate, not very PC), Crema Americana ( more or less vanilla but very creamy) and Frambuesa. There is strong coffee and more wine.

Its taken you 4 or 5 hours to eat and drink all of that. Its a marathon of eating but at the pace of a turtle. It's so comfortable, relaxing, family centered and so Argentine. Unless of course there is a futbol game to watch, because there is nothing relaxing about that.

Before I go, many thanks to AsadoArgentina.com for use of its images of all that wonderful meat and its a great blog to visit if you want to learn more about the asado. And thanks to Paul for the opportunity to talk to the readers of his blog.


  1. Hi Elizabeth!

    I very much enjoyed your post - I've always heard that Argentina is a wonderful place and it's nice to see your impressions too. That's a long 2 years but I bet it doesn't feel like it! ;)

  2. Elizabeth: thank you for granting me and my readers a glimpse into your life in Argentina. Expatriate life has called to me since I was a kid and your post has me kicking myself for ignoring that none too subtle tap on my shoulder.

  3. Loved this post - loved it loved it loved it

  4. Yum!!!! Too bad I missed this post when Elizabeth wrote it back in August -- I could have been drooling over all this awesome Argentine food weeks ago!!

    Seeing and reading about such a fantastic meal really makes you wonder what the appeal is to fast food. Food shouldn't be rushed -- it should be enjoyed and savoured!!


  5. Boy Kelly, you are catching up on your reading! Read Elizabeth's blog if you like her take on food. She's forever sharing great recipes peppered with he commentary on life as an ex-pat.


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