When someone cooks meat over live coals, time seems to function differently, patience and calm are key ingredients for a good result. Managing the hot coals, getting the heat just right and the height of the grill are all very important elements.
Mollycoddling the meat when salting it and the right temperature are also important matters for a perfectly cooked “asado”.
Nevertheless the perfect “asado” does not exist if the chosen cuts are not tender enough or of the very best quality. I now turn to this subject.
Unfortunately this globalised and impersonal world has made matters even more difficult when choosing meat for an “asado”, since most mortals have to buy their meat in supermarkets. The refrigerators don’t greet us with a smile, neither do they observe our friendly face, in fact if they could observe our face they would feel pity at our obvious despair, doubt and confusion. Nobody helps us, so we have to depend on luck and our “knowledgeable eye” to choose the cut that will bring enjoyment or suffering to our table…although we won’t know this until the first bite.
However many of us are fortunate enough to still enjoy the benefits of a TRADITIONAL BUTCHER, the sort that has his own shop and manages it in a homely and friendly manner, entering into conversations on the most varied subjects, with his clientele. These will range from the weather to the meaning of life, touching on different ways of cooking, politics and fashion. We can give our opinions and even differ with our friendly butcher on all these topics.
However there is one subject which is best left un-broached: FOOTBALL. If circumstances force you to get into this thorny matter, before opening your mouth look at the walls of the butcher’s shop and observe what posters and football shirts adorn the premises. Any opinion that goes against his beloved team will affect the quality and tenderness of the meat he will sell us and we will only become aware of his vengeance when it is too late!!
So, my advice is that we should have an intimate, affectionate, trouble free relationship with this all-important man, ensuring that the best meat reaches our table. On the contrary a cold and distant relationship will guarantee a disappointing gastronomic experience.
Halfway between the traditional butcher and the impersonal supermarket gondola is the supermarket butcher’s shop, which is manned by different employees on a rota system, and who, because of their workload do not get involved in any kind of chit chat. They have the possibility of selling us an excellent piece of meat but one is always left with the question: Did the best cut go to the person who was attended to before me or will he keep it for the next customer?
In this place and situation, while we wait for our number to be called, another dilemma confronts us: What sort of face should we put on when we are attended to?
If we put on the face of someone who knows everything there is to know about meat, we run the risk of seeming arrogant know-alls and he may give us the worst cut he has. If, on the other hand we look as though we know nothing, hoping he will have compassion on us, we might just obtain the same result as in the first case.
So… my advice is to practice in front of the mirror before leaving home and present the person attending us with the best POKER face we can produce and perhaps we may be lucky and win the game.
Going back to the sad reality of our carnal relationship with the supermarket fridges I mustn’t forget to talk about POLISTIRENE TRAYS: They are stacked next to and on top of each other, generally ordered according to cut and animal. In general they are white or pink and the meat lies on a little towel; we can see the meat through a transparent plastic window covered in stickers describing the product, which sometimes doesn’t let us see what is inside.
The method we use to choose the meat is nearly always the same, we stand in front of the sector which interests us and begin to analyse which will be the best tray to take. We pick it up so as to get a closer look, turn it sideways to see, unsuccessfully, if the meat is the same underneath or if they are trying to hide something from us. We repeat this with all the trays of the cut we want to buy, but our doubts are not dispelled.
Many people who still believe in the innate goodness of man, look around seeking a second opinion or if some knowledgeable soul nearby can help. Others, either due to pride or shyness, don’t ask anyone and leave with the chosen tray trusting to luck.
So we conclude that the MEAT DILEMMA leaves us with statements that have more to do with our interpersonal relationships.
- – Supermarket meat trays have no feelings, they don’t speak but they do hide secrets, so it is always better to go with a friend or relative who can counsel us in making the purchase.
- – The good quality and tenderness of the meat is in direct proportion to the quality of the relationship we have with the person selling it.
- – The satisfaction and gastronomic happiness of our family, friends or guests depend more on time and effort than money.
For those of us who like meat this is a real issue, but it is also an issue for vegetarians who have to examine their “raw” wares when buying and choosing. My solidarity goes out to them.