The history of the Argentinian asado
Very few Argentines do not think that roast is our national food. As you can imagine, being such a rustic method (which basically consists of throwing a piece of meat into the fire), we did not invent it ourselves. But it is indisputable that we gave it a special touch. But what’s the story of the roast?
Historians more or less agree that man learned to handle fire about 500 thousand years ago. Most likely, fifteen minutes later, some advance thought to throw a bug at him. I’d love to have the time machine to see his face when he tried it. There was still no salt or chimichurri, but it was certainly a Copernican turn on the palate : that’s where the roast started .
Jumping so much in time, we are already on the earth that years later would be known by the name of Argentina. Here we must add a fundamental fact: the species “Bos taurus primigenius” (the ancestor of the cow) is native to Asia, there are domesticated specimens 7000 years ago. The species “Bos taurus”, to which cows as we know them today belong, is European. That is, the first specimens came with the Spanish invasion. This is how in 1556, the first cow landed in our country and was taken to what is today Santa Fe. In 1580, the time of the second foundation of Buenos Aires, there were already thousands of specimens scattered throughout the pampa, which offered the ideal natural conditions for the customs and needs of the species. It is estimated that at the end of the 18th century there were already 40 million copies.
When the roast was everybody’s and nobody’s.
And here is another fundamental historical fact to understand the popularity of roast: the cows were still nobody’s property. Anyone could hunt them on one condition: do not kill more than 12,000 heads (go check it out, right?). But the point is, if there was hunger, you could get your hands on the cows that were wandering around. Alonso Carrió de la Vandera wrote at the end of 1700: “Many times come together from these —he refers to what would later be understood as “gaucho” − four, five and sometimes more on the pretext of going to the field to have fun, carrying no more prevention for its maintenance than the bow, balls and a knife. They arrange a day to eat the bite of a cow or bull; they bind it, knock it down and cut it down with feet and hands, they take out, almost alive, the whole rump with its leather, and making a few bites on the side of the meat, they roast it badly and half raw, they eat it, with no more dressing than a little salt, if they take it by contingency.”
The gauchos were basically looking for leathers and bait, which was what had commercial value. Meat was not sold, so it was constantly wasted. It would be necessary to wait until 1890 for Juana Manuela Gorriti, an extraordinary writer, to publish the book called “Eclectic Cuisine”, in which she included the roast, explaining how to chop, spice and cook it. At the beginning of the 20th century, the gauchos changed their way of life and had to integrate into the country’s productive and commercial matrix, so they moved to the cities. And with them, of course, they carried their culinary secret. The asado was already the protagonist of the great Argentine cities. Finally, around the decade of the
Hipólito Azema nació en Buenos Aires, en los comienzos de la década del 80. No se sabe desde cuándo, porque esas cosas son difíciles de determinar, le gusta contar historias, pero más le gusta que se las cuenten: quizás por eso transitó los inefables pasillos de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad de Buenos Aires. Una vez escuchó que donde existe una necesidad nace un derecho y se lo creyó.
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