In anticipation of the barbecues to come this weekend, I thought I’d post Connie McCabe’s Saveur piece, The Capital of Beef about the Argentine Pampa. Watching guachos Vicente Monte and José María Gallardo prepare a roast, she writes:
When the fire is nothing but glowing ash, Monte retrieves his saddlebag and pulls out a plastic bag of salt and three loosely wrapped pieces of beef. Placing one thick steak and two narrow strips of meaty ribs on the burnished leather, he seasons the flesh with salt, threads it all onto the skewer,and perches it on the supports near the heat. Read more
I’ve always been drawn to stories about difficult food so I really enjoyed Sally Schneider’s story, Saffron Fields of Spain from Saveur. Noting its introduction to Spain by the Moors in the tenth century, Schneider describes the very particular way the flower will allow itself to be harvested. Witness to the pre-dawn ritual in northeastern Spain, she writes:
A handsome and somewhat fierce-looking woman in her seventies, dressed entirely in black, talked tenderly to her teenage granddaughter as she worked. With one hand, she picked up a flower and separated the petals; with the other, she stripped the threads from the yellow style to which they were attached. (She took care not to include the styles themselves, which would diminish the saffron’s value.) The threads were then tossed onto a tin plate, and the spent flower dropped to the floor. The old woman stripped each blossom in less than four seconds. An experienced picker, she could strip about 1,100 flowers in an hour, producing about a quarter of an ounce of saffron; a day’s work would yield two to three ounces of the spice, an amount worth as much as $850 on the retail market. Read more
Photo by by buckaroo kid
Mariachis at a special family party are what Santa Claus is to kids on Christmas Eve, no less thrilling for being completely expected. When the appetizers have been passed, food served, and toasts made they seemingly fall from the sky. In a moment, everyone is joining in a loud, emotional chorus of Cielito Lindo or El Rey. Then just as quickly they move on to the next quince or wedding anniversary as the evening winds down. The highpoint of any gathering yet they never stay long, and never eat. So naturally I was fascinated by this Jonathan Kendall article from Saveur:
While their usual schedule is from dusk to midnight, they’re often called out of bed on short notice to sing amends beneath the balconies of peeved wives and girlfriends at dawn.
Like most mariachis, Barrón and Trujillo neither eat nor drink during work hours—but they agree that their favorite food is birria. No two versions of birria are alike—even the basic form may vary, from shredded meat to be eaten with a soupy sauce to a thick soupy stew with meat and sauce combined—and if a chef gains a reputation for his birria, his recipe will remain a closely guarded secret.
It makes sense that they would keep superhero hours, but it was the description of the off duty mariachis that I found riveting.