I’d never even been in a village as small as Los Sauces even in Australia, so it was very new to be introduced to a place in which after a couple of days you recognise almost everyone you pass in the streets. My host Alejandro is known for bringing foreigners to the village (well, he will be – I was number two) who in turn are so rarely seen that giving them a spot on the radio station for the nearest few towns is a cinch. So this is where I found myself on the first morning, chatting to Sergio about what (the hell!) I was doing in Los Sauces, why Chile, how were the Chileans, could a marriage be expected anytime soon etc.
From radio stations to huge piles of barbequed meat, that night I experienced my first Chilean asado – where an old drum once holding who knows what is halved, stood upon wheels, given a grill and turned into a giant pit of smelting coals ready to roast great chunks of carcass into oblivion. You can make a barril para asados quite easily (non-Spanish speakers, an equivalent English site is being searched for).
At this point in the trip, I’d well given up on the vegetarianism (weaaaaaak!) and was ready to receive. I’m not sure what we were eating, in all honesty. Here in the south of Argentina, many weeks later, they’ve told me that one can be served beaver, otter and penguin…but I think my having even written that down is more a testament to my gullibility than any truth in the matter!
This asado was a great introduction to the tradition. All men become that little bit more caveman like when handed fire and meat, but South Americans seem to keep a touch of the latino about them while brandishing their barbequing forks. Ready to dance a cueca (traditional dance of Chile) or whip out a pick up line or ten, they constantly are. Pisco is always flowing (Malpaso, me tienes loca!) and in direct contrast to the manliness of the barbeque itself and the quantity of meat available, it isn’t handed out in chunks to each person, but rather cut into delicate little strips and left near the coals to be taken when you’re ready for more.
Asado as a cultural concept: 10/10
My cueca skills: 3/10