Either to celebrate something important or just for the mere reason to gather friends and family, norteños (people from the north region of Mexico) light up their grills on the weekends, it is very common if you’re walking along the street to see clouds of smoke rising from backyards, the smell of charcoal and arrachera (hanger steak) tempting the neighbor’s senses.
Original Image “Carne Asada” by Rick González, used under CC BY 2.0 license, via Flickr.
No matter the season, cold or hot, grilling beef on the weekends (or during the week, no day is left out) is definitely a tradition in the northern states of Mexico. It’s the perfect occasion to spend time with family and friends, celebrate something, watch sporting events, relax and eat delicious food – without a doubt it’s a vital part of northern social lives.
Any excuse for grilling or carnes asadas is a good one. Along with very cold beer, juicy cuts of beef –arrachera being the most popular–, flour tortillas, salsas, chips, nostalgic or upbeat music and the best of all is that the whole family gets involved; the family man being traditionally who gets the grill going, starts the fire and grills the food. This customs definitely reinforce the family bonds, values of unity and cooperation and give a sense of importance and meaning to every event in every family member’s life.
With the years and family’s heritage and wisdom passed on, norestenses have perfected the art of grilling, either traditional style or with their own style. Choosing the meat becomes a ritual, the quality and freshness of the products has to be the best. Arrachera is one of the most popular cuts of beef but they also grill sausages, chicken, onion and chorizo. Snacks like chips are a must, as well as guacamole, quesadillas and mountains of flour tortillas; guests often bring these things to the food fest.
One chooses either charcoal or firewood to start and keep the fire going; these will give the beef its flavor and aroma. The grill itself is chosen to the family’s liking and according g to the grill master’s personality; their grilling techniques and ways to marinate the meat varies but the result will always be that northern flavor that people miss so much when they leave.