On what is known in the United States as Super Bowl Sunday we happened upon our second Patagonian festival in just as many weekends. We headed across the border from Chile Chico, Chile to Los Antiguos, Argentina where they happened to be celebrating the birthday of the village. They had a parade followed by a huge asado, which I imagined must have been the world’s largest Super Bowl barbeque that day – even if it wasn’t at all related to the actual Super Bowl, which does not merit too much interest in futball mad Argentina. An asado is a Patagonian tradition in which the carcass of a sheep or cow is hung crucifix-style from a metal cross called a palo and slowly cooked by the heat emitted from the coals and embers of a large, smoldering fire.
At this particular asado, palos of sheep carcasses were arranged in a rather large oval shape around the smoldering wood that slowly cooked the meat. It was a very big oval with very many sheep. We are not exactly sure how many sheep they cooked at the asado but I have no doubt that it was close to 100. We overheard one Argentinean youth who gave up counting the number of animals in the oval after he reached 50. Apparently, Super Bowl Sunday is not a good day to be a sheep in Los Antiguos, Argentina. The dogs in town must have been going crazy. Luckily the asado was protected from them by quite a fence. Here is a photo that shows only about one half the length of one side of the oval. Based upon this photo, you can judge for yourself how many sheep ended up being eaten on Super Bowl Sunday in Los Antiguos, Argentina.
Bon Appetit! (your knife or mine?)
All the meat one could eat was free to locals and tourists alike as well as fruit and rolls of bread to accompany your meat. There was plenty of beer and boxed red wine being drunk as well. Many brought their own wineskins which seemed to fuel many friendly competitions to see who could drink for the longest and have their libations shoot out the farthest from the wineskins into their eager mouths. The locals in the know showed up with knives and cutting boards and would go around carving their favorite pieces of meat from the selection of sheep scattered about the fairgrounds.
The asado chefs would bring out huge metal trays, which required two people to carry them, filled with large hunks of meat just carved off the sheep carcasses. These trays were placed randomly about tables and grassy spots whereupon everybody would come and pick out their favorite meat. Much of the meat was already taken from the trays before they reached their final resting spots in the fairground, since they were always being pursued by a swarm of knife-wielding and meat-stabbing Argentinean locals who were stumbling over each other to get the biggest and best piece of meat attached to their large knives before anybody else. It was not uncommon to see a mother with a large knife in one hand, a child in tow in the other hand, running after a tray of meat. It was fortunate that there were not any visits from the ambulances that had just been in the parade earlier in the day.
Some of the sheep were brought out still crucifix style on the palos, allowing anybody with a knife to come up and carve off their choice of meat. It was not uncommon to see folks walking around carrying entire legs or ribcages that they proudly carved themselves. I think that everybody but us had some sort of large knife tucked into their pants. It was something to be at a meat-eating frenzy with a bunch of half-drunk, large-knife-wielding Argentineans with red meat and red wine often dripping from their full mouths. It was quite an experience that we were lucky enough to enjoy.