In 1508 alone – 16 years after Columbus first arrived in the Americas – 45 vessels crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean islands, bringing settlers and supplies. They introduced new crops, especially sugarcane, and new animals, including cattle, mules, sheep, horses, and pigs, and remade the already fertile environment that Columbus described.
Settlement and the taming of the land was seen as essential to a good conquest. And conquest was seen as an essential pre-requisite to conversion of the natives. The conquest of nature and the domination of natives, then, worked reciprocally.
Cattle were brought to the Pampas from Paraguay in 1580, by the colonial expedition of Juan de Garay.In the 18th century, the gauderios, who lived by hunting wild cattle, were recorded, most famously by the travel writer Alonso Carrió de la Vandera, when he passed through what is now northern Argentina.Commercial cattle ranching began in the second half of the 18th century.
After the importation of 7 cows and a bull by the Spanish in the mid-1550s, Paraguay’s s cattle herds swelled to some 3 million head by the time of the WWI. , the largest herds in the Southern Cone. As with every other sector of the Paraguayan economy, the war devastated the country’s livestock sector, leaving only 15,000 head.
More than 400 years ago therefore , cattle ranching was introduced to the Rio Grande do Sul region of Brazil. Cowboys, called Gauchos herded these cattle, and like the cowboys of Texas created a new style of cooking. They called it Churrasco, which is Brazilian Barbecue. Though this style of Barbecue wasn’t based on smoke like that of the United States, it has all the traditions and elements of an American Barbecue. Churrasco started in the 16th and 17th centuries and spread throughout all of Brazil in the 1940’s as the Gauchos spread across the country.
Originally the standard formula for Brazilian style barbecue was to coat meats in coarse salt. The meat would then sit for about 30 minutes to absorb the salt and then was placed over the fire. Later a salt-water baste was used to keep meats moist during the cooking. Beef was typically never seasoned. Poultry and lamb, however are spiced with a rich marinade the night before cooking. Meats are places on long sword-like skewers and cooked over an open fire. Now days with the growing popularity of this style of grilling you can even buy a churasco grill.
Churrasco is much more than a way of cooking in Rio Grande do Sul it’s a way of life. The Barbecue capital of Brazil is the city of Nova Brescia which has a statue of a man cooking barbecue in the central plaza.
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