HomeTop StoriesA barbecue in Mendoza and the earthquake - 03/22/2023 - Josimar Melo

A barbecue in Mendoza and the earthquake – 03/22/2023 – Josimar Melo

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It seemed like a normal Saturday in Mendoza, Argentina – last March 18th. We were in the field; a barbecue pit, planted in the ground, prepared to receive the meats, a bonfire on the ground licked the bottom of a pan full of oil about to receive empanadas. All normal, as one would expect in any Argentine backyard.

Until the earth shook.

Well, actually, nothing was that normal that Saturday. Starting with the place. An imposing house, in the middle of a vineyard (called La Vendimia), family retreat of Nicolás Catena Zapata, the great innovator of Argentine wine. The table was set up in the shade of the olmos that form a path to the lawn of the main house – where firewood crackled on the high barbecue.

It was the Carne y Vino event – ​​another indication that this wasn’t a typical barbecue. The initiative came from Casa Vigil, the winery owned by Catena Zapata’s winemaker, the good-natured but super-active Alejandro Vigil, in partnership with Adriana Catena, one of the patriarch’s daughters.

There, neither meats nor grills were typical of an ordinary Saturday in Argentina. There were Argentine and foreign guests, both cooking and eating. That day, sweating in front of the incandescent logs, was the magician of Spanish barbecue, José Gordón, passionate creator and roaster of magnificent meats –always from autochthonous Iberian breeds, slaughtered at an older age than in the Americas— served in his restaurant The Capricho, em León.

By his side, also handling chops dry-aged for 120 days, was the Argentinean Juan Gaffuri, from the bustling meat restaurant Elena, in Buenos Aires. To top it off, the Peruvian butcher-barbecue Renzo Garibaldi circulated there, whose bone restaurant opened a branch in São Paulo, and who the day before had been responsible for lunch at the Angelica restaurant, next to the Catena headquarters.

Nothing, therefore, as normal as that. But it was just another weekend barbecue (an “asado”) in Argentina.

Until the earth shook.

It was the first earthquake I witnessed. It was only three or four seconds before my feet let me know that there was a strange vibration in that dirt and grass floor. If it were on the asphalt of São Paulo or New York, it could be a subway running wild a few meters below. But in that rural paradise, only if it was a stampede. That there wasn’t.

Then it dawned on me. Damn, an earthquake! That passed quickly – but my eyes wouldn’t leave the tall grill, which kept rocking back and forth, trying to rebalance itself.

Soon a Chilean made fun of me. Imagine, an earthquake is something else… this is called an earthquake at most. A tremor. Earthquake knocks down and breaks everything.

An Argentine woman, who was inside the house, left very scared. Clubs creaked, bottles clattered against each other. But nothing fell or broke. An experience that fascinated me more than it scared me. My first earthquake. And the greatest danger would be knocking over the grill, breaking our wines, which seemed like the worst possible tragedy.

Only not. After such a special lunch, returning to the hotel, while surrendering to a sickly atavistic addiction –reading the news— I see on the homepage of Sheet: “Earthquake kills 15 in Ecuador and Peru“.

For earthquake newbies like me, it was amazing. But that vibration on the ground, which didn’t even disturb lunch, had started 5,000 kilometers away. It caused death and real tragedy. On its way, it punished Peru, Mexico, Chile, until it reached our barbecue mitigated. If I had any idea about it, possibly the fantastic meats and wines I enjoyed would not have suited me.

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