Sunday, 16 August 2009

Barbecue Big Ones

On the whole, most of the Argentinian men I know don’t really cook. Instead, it tends to be either the wives or maids who prepare incredible Argentinian classics such as empanadas (similar to pasties, but lighter and tastier) and milanesas (thin cuts of steak or chicken fried in breadcrumbs). There is one exception however, and this is the Argentinian barbecue, known as the “asado”. No matter the season, if the weather is good, the smell of asado permeates through the air. Unlike the English barbecue, which tends to be a case of buying whatever looks good at the supermarket and chucking it over some coals, the Argentinian asado is a far more ritualised process of cooking. It involves the "asador" preparing a fire and allowing the coals to form, before lowering a "parilla" (grill) over the fire. Once this is done, the meats are generally cooked in a specific order, starting with Argentinian chorizo, black pudding, and chinchulines (intestines). Once these have started cooking, the beef cuts are added, usually including "costillas" (ribs) and "vacío" (flank steak). These are then served to an awaiting group of hungry guests.

Bahía Blanca is not a particularly well known city to foreigners, and with good reason. It takes 9 hours to get there by coach from the capital (even though it is still in the same province) and has very little to see and do for the average Joe tourist. The reason we go practically every time we come to Argentina, is to visit one of my mums friends who own a "block" of land, and always accept us with open arms. This year was no exception, and we arrived at 7am on a Friday after having travelled overnight in a "coche cama", a coach used for overnight journeys with seats that practically turn into beds. Even though the level of comfort is much higher than a standard coach or aeroplane, we still arrived feeling rather sluggish, and I ended up having a nap until 2 in the afternoon (aren't naps brilliant?). That night, Lucy and I were treated by my mums friends kids (not really kids, as they're 22 and 25) and their girlfriends to our first night on the town.

Now I should explain that in Argentina, things are done a little differently to the UK when having "the Big Ones". In the UK, we eat around 8, meet up at 9 either in a pub or at someone's house, and then head out to a club around 11 to return home no later than 4am. When going out here, people meet up to eat "la picada" (buffet style snaking) together at 10 or 11, don't even think about heading to a club until 4am, and stay out dancing well past 8am - meaning the following day is an absolute write-off, regardless of whether you are hungover or not. Generally, the best nights to go out in Argentina are Thursdays and Saturdays, and as it was a Friday, it was decided that we would take it relatively easy that night and go for the real Big Ones on Saturday. Saying that, we still stayed out until 5am dancing in a pretty trendy pub/bar thingamajig, drinking Warsteiner, and generally having a good time.

The following day, we were treated to our first asado, and suffice to say, it was radstock. I'm not much of a fan of morcilla (black pudding), and I tried the chinchulines finding them edible, but slightly intense in flavour. Aside from that, the rest was incredible, and I gorged myself well and truly. So much so, that the rest of the afternoon I did very little until 6pm, when I was invited to play a game of basketball with the guys and a few of their friends. I proved to be pretty crap in comparison to the rest, until I realised that my height gave me a distinct advantage if I stood under the net, as no one was able to reach the ball, giving me enough chances to shoot until I scored. I love being tall. Anyway, at 11pm we started "la picada" and ended up heading put to the club at 2am, but that proved to be too early and the place wasn't even open yet. We then headed to the pub/bar of the previous night and returned to the club at half 3 to find the place pretty banging. The music they played was a bit of a random mix of electronica, soul beats, Reggaetón (some beaty Latin music which all seemed to sound the same) and pop classics in both Spanish and English. I didn't think I was going to last until 7am (when the club closed), but we spent a lot of time chilling, illing and dancing, and before I knew it, they had announced that it would be the last song (lady gaga).

The last day was indeed a write-off, and I didn't leave the house until the eveing when we attended one of the girlfriend's birthday parties. We ended up leaving half way through as we had to get the 10pm coach back to Buenos Aires. Even so, it proved to be a great trip, and I had a rad time.

We got back on Tuesday morning, and since then I've been taking it relatively easy. Lucy and I were invited out to eat by a friend (the sister of the guys in Bahía Blanca who's studying in Buenos Aires)and her boyfriend on Tuesday night. They took us to some pretty swish restaurtant called "Kansas" which served amazing steaks and pastas. The with Thursday being Lucy's last night, some of our cousins decided to take us for a night out and we ended up going to an Irish bar/pub called Kilkenny's which proved to be no more Irish than Diego Maradona, but still ended up being a whale of a time.

Aside from the usual friends and family visits which we tend to do on a daily basis, that's been pretty much it. Yesterday the temperature reached 28 degrees - which is actually a joke even for here. It has since returned to what it should be, and it's only 14 degrees today, a change clearly highlighted by the freak rainstorm we had all of this morning. I also definitely think the vast amounts of food I have been eating are taking their toll on my body, but I figure I can always hit the gym when I get back to the UK and in Japan to work off the gut. The main problem is that aside from all the foods that I've told you about, the Argentinians are also very good at doing Italian dishes (as many Argentinians are descendants of Italian immigrants). This means that particularly the pastas, pizzas and ice creams here are amazing.

Tomorrow morning, my mum and I are off on a 2 hour flight to Mendoza, the heart of Argentina's wine country for 5 days. That should be pretty hells, but as its more or less in the Andes, it's supposed to be pretty nippy.

Anyway folks, that's enough for now. Bit of a beasty post, I know, but I hadn't posted for a while, and figured I owed you all a Big One ;).

Sweet drift.

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