“No lo toces porque te vas a quemar la mano.”
Let’s just say that one of my earliest memories with a BBQ pit wasn’t a very positive one. Luckily though, every other experience with a BBQ pit has been great. In fact, very few things in life put me at peace the way the grill does.
If you’re nodding slowly as you read that last paragraph, then you probably understand the power (and beauty) of the grill. And if your experiences are anything like mine, that grill is a huge part of your life.
Let’s be real, Latinos love to grill. At first I thought it was just a Mexican thing (even though my Salvadoran father taught me all I know about the art). Every birthday party I attended as a kid involved food from a grill. I can’t remember a big football game or boxing match as a kid without eating BBQ. Celebrating your child’s baptism? Yup, BBQ. If it were up to the men in my family, they’d grill three to four times a week (many of them “light the pit” at least once a week).
When I moved to Georgia in 2007, I noticed that other Latinos loved to grill too. I’ve spent many hours around a BBQ pit with Colombians, Peruvians, even Puerto Ricans (let me just say, y’all Boricuas do your pig right!). The first time I met my fiance’s Tío (who is Venezuelan), we bonded as we prepared dinner on the pit.
I went to the beach with my family last summer, and there’s a sectioned-off area, at the park we go to, with a bunch of grills. Men who had never met (and would never see each other again) were sharing charcoal, tortillas, and grilling secrets. I spent a good hour just listening to stories (most probably exaggerated) from the different strangers I met. It was probably my highlight of the day.
I guess you could say it’s a “man” thing. I mean, have you ever seen a bunch of women huddled around a BBQ pit? Probably not, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For my dad and I, el bote has served as a place where we can bond over meat on the open flame, great music blasting on the stereo, and an ice-cold brewski or two (or six). A few months back, he pointed to his grill and said, “One day, it will be yours.” He was completely serious.
I’m sure 90 percent of the stuff that touches the grill isn’t very healthy, so yeah, maybe you don’t want to be BBQing too often. But as I think about my experiences and those of the many Latinos that I’ve spent time around the grill with, it’s funny to see the role that a simple carne asada plays in our culture(s). And while we all do it a little differently, the outcome of however we BBQ is the same: great food, prepared with, and for, the people we love most.