My grandmother recently celebrated a very significant birthday (that’s a 99 on her tiara), and since she’s getting on in years, our family has decided that every birthday is a VERY SPECIAL OCCASION, which means we all get together and party. As one of my cousins said to her during the festivities, “It’s as much for us as it is for you, but you’re an awfully good excuse to have a good time and celebrate family.” She’s doing very well, and we’re lucky that so many people are able to make it to these yearly festivities. Since what we do is fairly unique, let me walk you through it.
The event we had is called an Asado, which is a traditional South American barbecue. If you’ve ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse and marveled at the assortment of meats, it’s kind of like that, only we do it ourselves. We have family connections in South America, and relatives traveled from the Southern Hemisphere (among other locations) for the party. My cousin and his son played “asador” – or grill-master. We all gathered in the late afternoon in one of the driveways, and set to work cooking, drinking, and catching up with family members we hadn’t seen in a long time.
So, here’s the setup. You can see that there’s a big grill (the parilla) with a lot of the meat, and a small grill sitting on another box-thing. They are both wood/charcoal grills, and it takes a lot of tending to make sure that there are enough coals at the right temperature. Hilariously, this photo was taken about 15 minutes after there was a small incident which prompted the following tweet:
I survived the great sausage explosion of 2016! #birthdayparty
— Maggie (@darastar) January 30, 2016
Yep – there was a small explosion at the party, and I was standing right in the spot where that photo was taken when it happened (very nearly on top of it). My cousin had used a concrete planter as a makeshift grill, flipping it upside down and placing hot coals on the top, and then a grate from a small grill on top of them so that the sausages were as close to the coals as possible. Unfortunately, there was a vacuum-eque environment happening under the planter where the air was heated, and expanded, and eventually it got so warm under there compared to the outside air (remember that it was so cold we were able to use snow to cool beers), that the top/bottom of the concrete planter shattered, mostly dropping straight down, but also sending a few pieces of concrete flying, along with a whole mess of sausages. There was also a decently loud boom that we were surprised didn’t get the neighbors calling the cops on us. This was what it looked like afterwards:
So that was exciting! Literally sausages everywhere within a 5 foot radius. Thank goodness it was just dirt, and they hadn’t finished cooking, so we were able to brush them off and then cook them until done, which means no germs. Just a little dirt, but that’s flavor, dontchaknow?
Everyone stood around talking, drinking, playing with babies who had set up camp in the bed of a pickup truck parked the in driveway. There were cheese crackers, hummus and pita chips, cured meats (yum prosciutto!), and more cheese. Eventually the sausages finished cooking, and we ate choripan (which is a spanish-language portmanteau of “chorizo y pan” or sausage and bread, which is sausage in a piece of crusty bread) with the yummy chimichurri. We waited a while longer, and when the main meat cuts were ready, we piled our plates, and left a little room for salad. I ate so much, and at the same time, not enough.
It was at this point that a few of us moved inside in order to escape the cold. We watched tennis on TV (it was on in the background), chatted, snuggled babies, basically had a good time. A little while later, we all gathered in the dining room and lit a giant candle on the cake that I made (recipe tomorrow!) and sang happy birthday. I know how special it was for me to see all my family and loved ones gathered around to celebrate that special lady, but being able to contribute in the form of cake was pretty great too.
And then everyone left.
Haha – just kidding! We run late into the evening with our family parties, so quite a few of the young adults (all over 24!) made our way to the garage where the table which had previously held food was converted into beer pong table, with water in the target cups for hygiene. I played a couple rounds myself (and was not great, but c’est la vie), but was better at proving a distraction for my cousins by dancing behind the cups while they made their shots.
The boy and I went home at 11, because I had to be at church the next morning, and we were both feeling ok – hadn’t had too much to drink, had also eaten lots of food – but some of the cousins stayed up LATE and found themselves hurting the next day. Which involved another party-thing in the evening. Because we just don’t stop.