The Paraguayan Asado is a special thing. First off, for my non-southern cone friends, an Asado is basically a cookout, literally an occasion where you grill meat. And lots of it! I was invited to join the WWF Technical Team at an Asado in the Villa Morra neighborhood of Asuncion. (To paint the full picture, Villa Morra is one of the wealthier parts of the city, where cost of living is higher and there are numerous shopping malls and upscale bars and restaurants – it is the same area that I went dancing on Friday night.) We were invited to one of the most beautiful homes, certainly that I’ve seen in South America. It was designed to be open and impressive with beautiful landscaping; giant palm trees in the front yard and a little pond in the back, (not to mention the beautiful Yellow Lab and Rottweiller waiting to be petted and fed!) There was also a big pool aside an open air, but covered, terrace with a huge grill/oven.
And the food, oh the food! When we first arrived we were greeted with a mini hot plate full of Sopa Paraguaya – which literally translates to Paraguayan Soup, but really has the consistency of corn bread – chorizo, blood sausage, and manioc.
Let’s not forget the vino tinto, which I have been missing among all the beer they drink here! And then came time for the meal. Now I am new to this, so I wasn’t sure if there was another round of salads and primeros platos before the meat, but they just get right down to business. I filled my plate with lettuce, tomato, beats, cauliflowers, white beans, potato salad (vegetables seem to be a rarity here!) more Sopa, and bread, leaving little to no room for the meat!
While I was debating what to do, or when to get some grilled steak, a waitress appeared with a mini grill in hand and saved me the trouble of debate by offering me 3 or 4 different kinds of me. I kindly accepted the Lomo – steak – and it was delicious!!
Now for some background information: The occasion was to bring together all benefactors and members of a Paraguayan NGO called A Todo Pulmon – Paraguay Respira, whose goal it is to plant 14,000,000 trees in Paraguay. The primary goal of the organization is to put an end to deforestation, through planting new trees and educating the people who live next to the forest about the importance of the maintaining the land in its natural form and the environmental impact of its destruction. The primary education is focused on the children of the region. You can also see a video about the organization here. Warning: the video is all in Spanish but the visual gives you a pretty clear idea of what he is communicating and there are some nice shots of the forest and the wildlife that lives there; essentially since at least the 1950’s the Atlantic Forest has been continually destroyed and at the time of the recording, only 13% of the original forest still existed in small pockets throughout the region, today it is even less. WWF is a contributor to this organization, as they have similar goals in the region and this, my friends, is what I was brought to Paraguay to help with! (Feel free to ask questions as I am slowly becoming an expert!)