Travel Deeper: Argentine Asado with a Local Family

Traveling to another country means different things to different people. Some like to check off items on their “must see” list, some want to visit as many sights as they can in a short period of time, and some seek unique experiences such as volunteering or immersing themselves in local culture, learning how to cook meals and speak the language.

Analia and I began Eureka Travel in 2006, helping visitors from around the world get to know Analia’s native Argentina. Ten years later, our passion for matching the right experience to an individual traveler’s needs has only grown.

Autumn at Lake Gutierrez near Bariloche, Argentina.

Autumn at Lake Gutierrez near Bariloche, Argentina. In addition to an office in Bariloche, Eureka Travel operates out of Los Angeles, CA. Photo © Ksenia Ragozina/123rf.

Each time we travel to South America—to visit relatives or to explore new restaurants or tango shows to add to our tours—we personally like to experience something more unique than just snapping a photo of a famous place. Instagram has a hashtag for just this type of experience: #traveldeeper.

During a trip to Brazil in 2010, Analia and I found ourselves spending an evening with a local woman in her home, first preparing a meal and then enjoying it while talking late into the night. Getting to know each other in such a way was a highlight of that trip, and a new way for us to travel deeper. There’s little more intimate, revealing, and eye-opening to a different culture than a few hours of unscheduled and unscripted time enjoying home-made food and conversation with your hosts.

Based on that wonderful night in Manaus, we decided to give something similar to our clients–of course with an Argentine flavor. We began offering asado–a typical Argentine BBQ–in the home of Analia’s sister, Cecilia, four years ago and it’s been a runaway hit. Argentina is famous for its beef and how it’s prepared: slowly cooked over wood fire and hot embers. Asado is a feast and a ritual at the same time, done for special occasions and family gatherings. When we have a bigger group, we like to offer the special treat of a lamb on a cross.

Inside an Argentine family home, preparing sausages and meats in a wood-fire grill.

Cecilia’s husband Ernesto serves as asador, making sure everything is grilled to perfection as he prepares their guests’ home-cooked meal on the parilla. Photo © Eureka Travel.

Cooking a selection of local meat outdoors over a wood fire in Bariloche.

Cooking a selection of local meat outdoors over hot coals from a wood fire in Bariloche. Photo © Eureka Travel.

Preparing lamb on the cross for a larger group.

At his and Cecilia’s home, Ernesto skillfully prepares lamb on the cross for a larger group. Photo © Eureka Travel.

Our clients are typically picked up from their hotel by a private driver and dropped off in Cecilia’s house at about 6pm. There they can watch the asado being slowly cooked on a custom-built parilla (a wood burning grill) and help out with the preparations if they wish. The feast typically starts with an appetizer of two types of sausages, followed by different cuts of meat cooked to desired tenderness.

Meanwhile, as red wine flows and the ice breaks, the conversation can turn from casual to more philosophical or even political. You can never tell how the evening will go. Sometimes friends drop in, adding to the conversation; at other times someone picks up the guitar and the guests start singing–as has happened with a Chinese tourist group. That particular evening the feast went on until midnight with spontaneous and truly magical musical entertainment for all.

Even though not all might speak fluent English, everyone is nonetheless able to communicate. It’s a lovely opportunity for our guests to travel deeper, practicing their Spanish in a friendly setting, helping to prepare and then enjoy a fantastic meal, and intimately get to know how the locals live.

A group of travelers ready to eat!

Analia’s sister Cecilia and their mother welcome a group of travelers ready to eat Argentine asado! Photo © Eureka Travel.

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