The greatest tragedy of modern day life is the pace at which we live it.
You know who said that? I did. A 30 year-old workaholic who rushes through commuter crowds every morning at 8 before barging my way back through the same people at 6. I graft in the mornings, graft at night. I can’t switch off on my measly 23 day’s holiday and use Sundays to cushion the end of the working week with the start of a new week so I don’t dread Monday mornings as much.
What’s worse, being constantly switched on transcends my work and social life. I WhatsApp more friends than I speak to and have a multiplication of Facebook friends that would dwarf the number of friends I engage with off-line. And I’m not alone. Ofcom research recently found we Brits spend more time online than we do sleeping, with the average adult spending nine hours of each day on media and communication.
But not all countries are culpable of falling into such lifestyle traps. The Spanish have long promoted communal, sociable dining traditions along with a good afternoon snooze to take the edge off stressful work days and the Italians soak up most of the day’s sun sat dining al fresco with a bottle of chilled pinot. I’ve just returned from Portugal where people enjoy an incredibly relaxed way of life.
And further afield, there’s a lot we Brits can learn from the Argentinians. As is tradition, every Sunday families and friends get together to enjoy a long, switch-off day of good food, good wine and good company. The asado is primarily a barbecue, but more notably it is a way of life. One that is relaxed, communal and fuelled on an abundance of the greatest two things in life; wine and steak!
And so it was that I found myself on a fittingly scorching Tuesday at a pop-up street food market in Shoreditch that resembles the set of Scrapheap Challenge ready to take my first taste of a very attractive alternative to Sunday lunch.
Greeted at the entrance with a glass of Graffigna Centenario Torrontes – sweet but long finish, prominent gooseberry notes – and Winemaker Ignacio Lopez, known less formally as Nacho, I got to grips with the concept of asado cooking, and more potently why we all need a bit of asado in our lives.
On a practical note the concept is simple. You take the best beef Argentina has to offer – which is in copious supply – and cook it very slowly on a grill, called a parrilla, or an open fire ensuring there are no flames when it goes on. Then, sit back, relax, eat empanadas, quaff good malbec and enjoy each other’s company until the beef is ready to serve up with a nice selection of salads.
But on a philosophical level, there is something far more profound about asado cooking, because in a day and age when we’re all rushed off our feet it forces us to slow down a tad and reflect in the things that really matter. Good food, good wine and good company. Aside from those things, very little matters.