Yes, we are all still in lockdown, part of the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” holding out hope that there really is light at the end of the tunnel. Some of our friends up north keep reminding us that we need to stop complaining, we are in paradise. So true.
At least Jackie and I have a tiny front yard where the dogs can do their business, and where last week we looked up at sunny skies and decided to have a barbecue, our first in Cuenca.
In Oregon, we had a good-sized gas grill set up under a covered patio. I admit to having attained a certain level of grilling expertise, both in summer and winter. Yes, I was the Grill Meister, the charcoal artiste, the jefe of outdoor cooking on our street, he said modestly, as Jackie rolled her eyes. Grilling in the snow was especially fun. Alas, when it came time to move to Ecuador, the grill wouldn’t fit on the truck and was left behind, to rust quietly, sadly. Lonely. Actually, one of our friends has adopted it. That grill is loving its new home where it is well appreciated, used only during appropriate weather.
So, in a burst of optimism, we bought a small, cheap charcoal grill, a bag of carbon, and some Pilsner beer, to see what kind of picnic we could produce out in the yard. Our temporary Venezuelan roommates, Daniel and the lovely Yari, offered to cook, and I would supervise and drink beer, something I have been specially trained to do.
We pulled out the pieces of chicken, pork sausages, and various unidentifiable scraps of beef that had been marinating for over two days, waiting for the perfect afternoon. The charcoal was lit with paper towels soaked in vegetable oil, and we drank beer, waiting for the coals to be ready. While the meat was cooking, Yari made lovely Pico de Gallo with a few boiled motes on the cob. It all turned out to be delicious and a great success, except for the sudden torrential rain that forced us indoors to eat.
Grilling is about as easy as it gets, and, as we can now attest, it can be done on a meager budget. Our “fancy” homemade BBQ sauce consisted of beer and salt occasionally sprinkled on the meat. I’m convinced that the great flavors of grilling come primarily from the charcoal, smoke and toxic gases, rather than any secret sauce. The decision to have a variety of meats was a good one. The thin strips of beef cooked up very quickly, and we were able to pick out and snarf delicious little pieces of it while the main meats cooked.
Yari’s vegetables were the perfect accompaniment to the meat. She whirled up a simple green sauce made of cilantro, mayonnaise, garlic, salt, pepper, and other mystery bits to slather onto the mote. Her Pico de Gallo recipe came from her family. A quick search on the internet will give you three dozen recipe options with various combinations of tomatoes, red onions, peppers, lime juice, etc.
It was lovely being outside and feeling the sun on our fish belly-white faces, even if ultimately interrupted by the rain. It lifted our spirits enough to withstand another week or so in the gloomy depths of our cave.
Be well, everybody.