From The Past: Asados and the Peon Way of Eating Meat

Quite some time has passed since my last “From The Past” post, so I decided to jump back into the news archives at Google for any interesting articles that may have been missed or added since. With this latest search I found that Argentinean asados might have been a somewhat popular topic back in the early 1960s. I have no concrete proof of this of course, but due to the number of articles found, asados were at least a novel curiosity at the time. The interesting topic to note are the repeated descriptions of how peons-a term still used to this day in Argentina in regards to those who work on estancias, consume their roasted meat by biting and slicing off morsels of meat. The tradition dates back to the era of the gauchos and how they roasted and ate freshly slaughtered cattle with nothing more than their trusty facónes, or gaucho knives. For the journalists who witnessed this act during their journey to Argentina, it must have been quite the spectacle at the time.

From the “Questions And Answers” section of The Owosso Argus-Press – Jun 21, 1960

Q – How is an asado, or barbecue eaten in Argentina?

A – The traditional way to eat an asado, or barbecue – perhaps dating back to the days when china and cutlery were scarce – is to hold the meat in the teeth and cut a portion away.

“When 10 Argentine couples gather at the old quinta for an asado, a barbecue at the weekend house in the country, the menu is something like this: Four and one-half pounds of beef ribs; four and one-half pounds of flank beef; a little more than two pounds of matambre, which is a strip of meat cut off the ribs and rolled; three pounds of sweetbreads; three cow kidneys with fat; two pounds of chitlings or intestines; two pounds of blood pudding, and 20 sausages made of beef, pork, and seasoning.

“When the cook was ready, the gauchos pulled their daggers, pushed them in and out of the ground to clean the blades, sharpened them a bit with their honing on the rope sole of their shoes and whacked off a slice of meat.

One end of the meat went into the mouth. The dagger sliced it off close to but, with luck, not including the tip of the nose.”The Milwaukee Journal – Aug 26, 1965 You can also find recipes for chimichurri and salsa criolla in the article

“The Hispanic Society has arranged an Argentine Asado at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. Evans Croydon, on February 19th….

…The cooking time is at least three hours. When the meat is ready the peons come along with their big knives, slice off a chunk and eat it with their hands….

…We will not have the peons, of course, but we will keep it as authentic as possible – providing it is not a day of acute fire danger…”The Age – Feb 3, 1961

“In both Chile and Argentina, the asado – barbecue – is a feature of the fiesta life. Slow-roasted on spits over open flames, the meat doesn’t taste much like ours. The Argentines stick a hunk between two chunks of bread and their teeth, and slice it off with a knife. The technique is not recommended for novices who need their noses and lips.”Ottawa Citizen – Feb 25, 1961

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