Charles Darwin, the evolutionist, wrote in an 1833 letter to his sister that he had become “a total gaucho”: “I drink my mate and smoke my cigar, and then I go to bed and sleep really well, with the sky for a canopy, as though in a featherbed. It’s such a healthy life, all day on horseback, eating only beef and sleeping with a fresh breeze, you wake up fresh as a lark”.
From the times when nomad gauchos unsheathed their knives by the open fire at mealtime watching the beef grill up to our days, the asado has turned into a ritual that runs through the geography and all of Argentine and Uruguayan society.
Nowadays, the ceremony of the asado doesn’t begin when you sit down at the table. As soon as the fire is lit and the participants start to gather, the ritual starts. A bottle of good red wine is opened, and there is some cheese, salami and very good conversation.
Many of the participants, loyal to the old tradition, will unsheathe their own knives. Each with his personal style, some have their initials on the sheath or the hilt. These pieces that were rustic a few centuries ago have today become exquisite pieces of artisanry, many of them collection pieces.
The grill warms up with the first smoldering charcoal and different cuts of beef, innards, sausages, and even some vegetables are placed on it. It is essential the diners wait for the asado before sitting at the table.
First some chorizos, blood sausages and then the innards, and finally wait for the delicious cuts of beef with well sharpened knives. A good asador is judged for supplying each diner with the beef at the exact degree of doneness he likes.
The asado can be shared with the family or with friends and in either case, it turns into a four or five hour affair to celebrate friendship, family ties and good gastronomy.