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Day 48 – Asado Makes Argentina Delicious

November 27, 2010

Location: Country club outside Buenos Aires

Date: Saturday, November 27, 2010

I came to Buenos Aires in large part to make it to today’s asado. An asado is an Argentinian version of a barbeque, which basically means it’s like any charred meat-fest except they speak Spanish and use parts of animals you only thought went into hotdogs. Interestingly, this describes nearly all the differences in international cuisine.

I got more than I bargained for. This was supposed to be a goodbye barbeque for a friend, with me as her tagalong, out-of-town guest. That part worked out. What I didn’t expect was to be having it at a family weekend home of one of her friends. I also didn’t expect to be the only guy.

In the end it was me, mounds of barbequed meat, and five beautiful women. It was like Muslim heaven but with pork.

Now, a few caveats. My Spanish is bad, but it’s getting better. I do not, however, speak Porteño, the Buenos Aires version of Spanish. Porteño is to Spanish what Picasso is to real life—unless you know what you’re looking at, it just looks messed up. Here “Ys” and “LLs” are pronounced like as “shz” and there’s a lot of slang. Bottom line is, while I could hang in Peru, I’m totally lost here.

Add to that, this wasn’t my party. I didn’t know anyone but the guest of honor.

Put it all together and I couldn’t bring myself to be the weird foreigner who pulls out his camera and snaps close ups of meat, then asks for group pictures of people he doesn’t know. The end result is I have little visual evidence to prove this happened at all. In that regard, it is a lot like the afterlife—some people are positive it exists but for some reason can’t produce proof. You’ll have to take my word, on faith.

So what did I eat? Meat. Lots of meat. The oddest of them all was the mollejas which I’m told here are the cow’s thalamus gland. (It can apparently range from salivary glands to a cover term for all sweetbreads.) Whatever it was it was yellowish, soft, and tasted like buttery cow. Not a bad way to spend an afterlife.

The family cook came out with platter after platter of chorizo, lomo, vacio, and other cuts which I don’t know the Spanish name for. All six of us had at least four rounds of flesh. The tiny salad to start thumbed its nose at the food pyramid. Afterwards, we lounged around on the lawn whereupon I napped because I couldn’t engage in conversation. Later, we warded off meat heat by wandering around the gated community, past private parks, a golf course, and rows of houses of Buenos Aires’s wealthy. As pleasant an afternoon as I’ve ever had while traveling.

One more note. Here, the beso is extremely important. It’s the Argentine version of a handshake, but instead of impersonally grabbing palms you kiss each other on the cheek. This often occurs between men, but always happens between female-female and female-male. It’s so important that on formal business e-mails, it’s common to sign off with “beso” instead of a Spanish equivalent of “regards” or “sincerely.”

All’s to say that, because of my new favorite custom, I got to the American equivalent of first base with every one of these meat-loving women about 5 seconds after learning their names.

What’s not to love about Argentina? Unless you hate women and pork.

GALLERY: No bonus pics today because Mervyn did not want to come off as any creepier than he normally does.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2010 7:43 pm

    Don’t miss El Tigre, Mervyn….which we toured in a boat. Viewing all these elaborate and magnificent mansions across immense and carefully manicured lawns that ran down to the river.

    Boathouses, big wooden inboard motor boats, etc. That part may not be the same – in fact, none of it may be the same….but ask about El Tigre, at least. It was a fabulous afternoon……you would love it, if it’s anything close to what it was in 1970.

    I’ll second your observations about Porteno Spanish….our only salvation was that we’d spent nine months learning our Spanish at the Bolivian school in Vinto with a principal who’d learned HIS Spanish in B.A.!


    • January 6, 2011 7:16 am

      I missed out on Tigre, but I may be back in BA next month and may take another shot at it then. It’s a lot closer to the city than I realized, but it just didn’t work out the day that I tried to go.

      Learning Spanish while constantly switching countries is not ideal. Everyone’s got different pronunciations and slang. I may have to find a place to park myself for a while to learn if I’m serious about getting better.

  2. December 15, 2010 8:47 am

    You are a scream! I love lurking here on your site and have read your entire saga with much pleasure. Of course, the parts that I relate to the most are about the places I’ve also visited, but your perspective is refreshing and hilarious. Can you not make travel writing into a full time job? Then you’d never have to come home and I could have a good laugh every morning.

    • January 6, 2011 7:18 am

      Thanks, Gail. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site. If I had my druthers, I’d love to be paid to travel and write. Any interest in being a benefactor? Short of winning the life lottery, I’ll have to just do this in my free time. Not a bad thing.

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