Food And Cooking In Argentina: Setting A Few Things Straight

One of my main objectives with this site is to explain to those who are interested, Argentinean cuisine at the household level. The recipes or methods of cooking one might not experience or view on their visit to Argentina or in some form of media. Sure I tend to stray at times or come off as a hypocritical ass, but I try to stick to that objective as much as possible. The cuisine, ingredients, and cooking styles may vary from region to region or from town to city but I try to find the common similarities and present a general picture of Argentina and its cuisine. Since most of what I write about relates to the asado, that is a much easier task to accomplish than say covering empanadas, casseroles, stews, or humitas. In addition to talking to the people around me, I dig through news archives, menus, books, ingredient lists on products, and information given by organizations or government entities. If I give out wrong information I hope that someone will correct me.

Up north, summer is just around the corner and for the past few months numerous grillers have been dusting off their gear to cook steaks, BBQ, hamburgers, chicken, and many other delicious smokey food. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t get the ritual. Is it because most lack the criadillas to grill out in the cold while others follow some local food mantra that states they must eat butternut squash soup and braised cabbage simply because those are the only foods grown locally? As if when ramps start sprouting out of the ground do they finally have permission to drag the grill out onto the open from its dark recess and light the fire.

So, during this time of year receives a slight increase in traffic and information requests for anything related to grilling or cooking in Argentina. Also, the number of Google alerts that pop into my inbox, filled with snippets of articles or blogs containing such keywords related to the topic, double or triple. Usually they notify me of interesting upcoming events I can tweet about, hosted by various associations tied to Argentina in some way or businesses offering classes, seminars, and tastings such as the recent Passport to Argentina thrown by H-E-B’s Central Market. Other notices point to blog posts filled with joyful expressions and beautiful photographs by home chefs making their first chimichurri or trying to recreate a meal they had on their last trip to Argentina. The majority of those blog posts are fascinating reads where one can witness the pleasure of someone trying their hand at recreating the cuisine of a different culture but some, on the other hand, simply pass on poor information. In most cases the blame should not fall on them, their information probably came from a friend who traveled to Argentina for a week, a celebrity chef on TV, or some well known food blogger but others like to knowingly mix things around and still try to pass it off as something traditional. I feel like it is time to set a few things straight.

In the next few posts I’m going to cover a few subjects that have been bothering me over the years due to their ever increasing presence in various forms of media. I do not want them to come off as self-righteous garbage with me saying someone is cooking something wrong and they should never cook that way. Nor do I want to give the impression that food should not evolve and how people currently cook in Argentina should stay that way forever. The point is to merely show what might be displayed in media is different than how people do it in Argentina. If someone wants to grill their flank steak to rare, slice it thin, and pour a cup of chimichurri on top before serving it on big platter for their friends and family, I have no problem. What bothers me is when some opinion leader (celebrity chef, authority food blogger, etc) labels the dish as Argentinean Flank Steak with Chimichurri. When that happens, sooner or later those who are not really familiar with the cuisine start to believe that that is how it is done in Argentina. They then go on to create their own blog posts or news articles and, well, you know where that leads. Fajitas are are popular in Mexico and chop suey is a favorite in China. Flank steak with chimichurri, served in the manner I mentioned, is approaching that level and so are a few other subjects. I want to clear up a few of those things.

1. The Gaucho Steak

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5 Comment(s)

  1. Hey Jeremy, I know where you’re coming from.

    Argentina has long benefitted from its distance from the US, which has helped preserve its cuisine and traditions. That same distance has made it so that it is only recently that Argentine cooking is starting to come into the mainstream in the US.

    Speaking as someone who has lived in Mexico for most of his life, I’m appalled at what passes for Mexican food in the US, and the “lowest common denominator” way that “Mexican” cooking has been adopted into the day-to-day cooking culture. It is perhaps inevitable that people will reduce the immense diversity of the cuisine to a few rules of thumb.

    Thanks for raising a flag to this sort, and standing on your soapbox to try and defend true Argentine cooking.

    Fred | May 24, 2010 | Reply

  2. I agree. In the UK there are a few big chains of pub type restaurants serving a poor version of grilled meats and I couldn’t believe it when I ordered chimmichurri as a side dip, only to find it was a bowl of oil with a bit of parsley, maybe some oregano and garlic, as runny as the oil itself. I was disgusted, it shouldn’t be allowed!!!

    Lita | Jun 9, 2010 | Reply

  3. i want this kbecause this is for a project

    quanethia | Dec 2, 2010 | Reply

  4. Re your comment on Mexican food in the US, I’d have to agree (although I note a fair number of excellent Mexican food establishment there too). But the same is true the world over. I’ve lived and traveled around the world and can say that 95% of the “American” food you find out there is poorly conceived, misunderstood, and poorly prepared.

    Aaron | Sep 14, 2011 | Reply

  5. Goint to an Asado tomorrow. I recall having squash along with all the meats. Anyone know how to prepare/cook it with the Asado?
    I know it’s kinda late, but an ASAP reply sure would be appreciated!

    David Widmer | Sep 24, 2011 | Reply

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