It all starts with an invitation: come to an asado (asado means barbecue in Spanish – but this is a rough translation) this Saturday at a friend’s house. The invitation says “a partir de las 12 hs” which means “sometime after 12 noon”. This sometime after can mean that you should show up anywhere between 1pm and 2pm.
Fortunately, there is never a shortage of food at these things.
It starts with the picada. Picada comes from the word picar which most directly means “to pick” so a picada is like finger foods or something that you pick at. It almost always consists of salamis and cheeses that you would recognize and can also include “liver” (liverwurst), mortadela (no idea what this translates as, but tastes like bologna), peanuts, chips, olives, crackers, baguette, spreads and so on and so forth.
The key to the picada phase: don’t get too full!!! OMG, how many times have I gorged myself on picada and not had much room for the lovely lovely meat that comes after! You have been warned!
To note: there is usually an abundance of either wine or beer or fernet at these things and while Argentines are not heavy drinkers they will continuously drink for the entire day.
Phase 2: the achuras. Achuras is the offal or the organ meats of the animals (usually the cow). This period starts whenever the achuras and salads are ready. For us last Saturday, this was about 3pm. Typical achuras are rinon (kidney), chichulin (intestine or “chitlin”), chorizo (sausage), morcilla (blood sausage) and molleja (sweatbreads). My favorite is molleja, by far, as a well cooked molleja (crunchy on the outside) with lemon and salt is to die for… and maybe even to kill for. I have recently become less a fan of chorizo, although this is the staple and I have become more a fan of morcilla, especially morcilla basca (basque blood sausage). Rinon has never agreed with my palate and chichulin only when crunchy.
Phase 3: the meats. Typically the asador will bring out the meat as it gets done. The most typical cuts are vacio (flank steak) and asado (short ribs) but you can also get colita de cuadril, entrana, matambre, bondiola de cerdo and many many other cuts. Almost all will be tougher and more flavorful than anything you get in the USA.
Phase 4: la sobremesa. This is when you sit and chat for a hour after you finish eating.
Phase 5: dessert. The best is ice cream. See my other rants on how amazing Argentine ice cream is and how awful the rest of the world’s ice cream becomes after tasting the Argentine version.
Now here comes the hard part… at this point you should leave. It would be about 6pm or so and you would be ready for a nap and maybe a bypass or two. But sometimes there are MANY more phases to come. Here are the possible subsequent phases that occur especially if you have been invited to a “quinta” (summer home) for an asado that happens outside the city.
Phase 6: Mate and facturas. Ok, the mate I can understand. It helps you digest, wakes you up and stimulates the bowels. All great stuff for how you are feeling at this point. But facturas? Are you kidding me? The last thing I need is sweet rolls! (Not that I wouldn’t eat them).
Phase 7: Order pizza. Keep in mind that now it would be 9pm or 10pm and it would be dinner time. But really, you have already eaten at least enough for a person twice your size and you do not need this at all. But somehow the Argentines justify this. They have a word which is “sarpado” which means totally over the limit or way over the line. This day is totalmente sarpado. But also totalmente lindo. 🙂
By the way, see BA Cast’s Laws of Asado for how to do your own asado.