This afternoon I called the boy and he was in the carniceria picking up meat for an asado tonight. It reminded me of a funny incident that happened about a year ago, when I was living in BA, sharing an apartment with two Argentine women. The boy rang the bell one evening, thinking I was alone in the house, and when one of my roommates answered and asked who it was, he thought it was me and said it was the “carnicero.” My roommate cracked up, the boy walked in looking red and mortified, and I was totally confused about what was going on. So basically, it’s a sexual innuendo — the “meatman” brings the “meat” for his girlfriend….I hope I don’t need to go into detail about what the “meat” is.
I guess every culture has their words for joking around about this stuff — but it got me thinking about the connection between Argentine men’s sexuality and the national obsession with meat. The quality and preparation of meat is deeply connected to Argentine national identity, both in how they view themselves and how they’re seen from abroad (the single most frequent thing people would tell me before I went to Argentina was “Oh, I hear they have great steak there”). The ritual of the asado is also a very masculine affair — I’ve witnessed my boyfriend’s father subtly teaching him to be a good asador, and whenever we would invite friends over the guys would congregate with their beers out by the parrilla, despite the raging heat and flying ashes, and the girls would be left to do their own thing. Then, as they cooked, the asador would emerge and pass around small pieces of chorizo or whatever, maybe with some bread, and then go back and forth constantly even after everyone sits down to check on the pieces still grilling and bring new cuts when they’re ready. The point is that doing it right isn’t easy, and so each time he brings a tasty new morsel, the asador is praised and thanked.
Just think for a moment if you could make a metaphor of the Argentine lover and the asador. He comes in with high expectations, of himself and to please the woman. Not necessarily arrogance (this cliche might have some truth, but it’s too simplistic), but a general sense that compared to the rest of the world, he’s pretty great. But he does the thing (let’s say he “prepares the meat”) the way he’s been taught — by other men, and caters entirely to masculine taste. Like an excited child, he presents himself passionately and expects appreciation and congratulation. He might be frequently absent in some ways, but make up for it with what he brings in others. But while he’s been honing his technique with the guys out back, the girls are sort of left to one side — perhaps not truly considered in the conversation.
This is, of course, not a commentary on any one person, but seems like a general experience that many women have shared with guys in Argentina. I love Argentine meat (oh god..haha) but I also love a good salad, a yummy casserole, maybe some chicken once in a while. I love for someone to sit down and truly think about what I would love, and not about what he can prepare best.
One last thing. I was trying to think of an American equivalent to the “carnicero” ringing the bell of our apartment. What would it be, the milkman? That running joke about who your true father is? What on earth does that say about Americans?! If meat is intense and straightforward, then perhaps milk is a little bland and quickly goes sour…