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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Power of Man's Red Flower

Food and Flames.  I have only good memories of campfires at French Creek Bible Conference: flames, sparks, singing, marshmallows and hotdogs on sticks over burning coals.  I wondered why this kind of excitement couldn't be part of daily life in Wildwood, New Jersey.  My family never owned a grill and didn't go camping, so I had to be content with a once a year campfire.

I never imagined that one day my pyro dreams would come true.  The way we BBQ in Uruguay is glorified primitive cooking. It's not considered "extra work" or "extra time" to start with seasoned firewood instead of charcoal.  That's just the way it's done.  They patiently wait until there are coals, scrape them under the grill work, and then start cooking the juicy chunks of meat. 

The meat is tender and flavorful, and they don't want to ruin it.  Instead of lighter fluid, vegetable oil and a fan kick up the flames sufficiently.

Many houses and apartments include a parillero, or elevated brick fireplace, located outside or on the roof.  One of the tiny little apartments we looked at included the prized parillero in an outdoor patio of 50 square feet while the washing machine was squeezed into the bathroom shower.

The combination of fire and meat should never be complicated.  I used to cringe when Mark asked if we could have friends over for a BBQ.  I was scared to turn on the grill and blow up the back yard.  In time, I started to prefer the grill and grew accostomed to turning it on whenever I wanted to cook up chicken or burgers. 

In Uruguay the cooking process is intentionally simplified.  I tried to explain to a Uruguayan friend how I would use a gas grill at my house in the United States, and she looked at me with a question in her eyes, "Why did you put your stove outside?" 

Construction workers throw a metal grate, a slab of beef, and their mate in the back of the truck and they're off to work.  A couple hours before their lunch break, they scrounge up some firewood or buy some from a fruit market, stack it on the side of the street, light it up, and throw their meat on the grate.  I'm sure it's much tastier than a cold sandwich.  Truthfully, I'm not sure how common this is, but I've seen it (and smelled it)!

For the record, I witnessed a woman handle a parillero quite efficiently.  I thought someone's house was on fire when the smoke drifted past our window, so I went up to our roof and looked down into a neighbor's yard.  A woman was starting a blazing fire to generate some coals.

On New Year's Eve we hosted our first asado.  Since we wanted to eat the meat on the same day it was cooked, we asked Pastor Mauricio to sweat it out in front of the fire all night.  He lit the fire around 8:30 and the meat was ready at 11:30, just as the fireworks started.

The parillero at the church

ready to grill

asado at our house New Year's Eve

Hanging out near the parillero
Parillero: the elevated fire place
parrilla: the grate
parrillada: restaurant with grilled meat
Asado - the meat (beef, chicken or sausage) cooked over the fire OR the social event
Azotea - the rooftop where some parilleros are located
Chorizo - pork sausage

If you want to see how a parillero is made:
How to make a Uruguayan parillero

1 comment:

  1. Oy! Me estomago esta ruido ahora. Gracias! :) Thanks for sharing - please correct as needed. :-)