Finding the soul of Sonora in carne asada – The Denver Post

By Pati Jinich, The New York Times

As a Mexican born and raised in Mexico City, I thought I knew my carne asada.

But it wasn’t until I traveled across the state of Sonora, from the border city of Nogales to Navojoa, in the southern part of the region, that I had a true taste of the northern-style carne asada experience.

At a taco stand anywhere else, carne asada is grilled meat. But in Sonora, a carne asada is the weekly gathering of friends and family, with the dish at its heart. Every component — from the dishes (the meat, the salsa, the beans, the smashed guacamole never with lime, the pillowy-soft flour tortillas) to their preparation (the cooking, the taco assembly) to everyone’s role (the parrillero, or grill master, his family members, the guests) — is treated with almost reverence.

A shared culinary experience, it embodies Sonora’s agricultural way of life, bringing together the pillars of its economy: its beef, from the cattle that roam the region’s ranches, and its flour tortillas, from the wheat that blankets its fields.

I learned that, to understand a carne asada, you needed to be invited to one. And that doesn’t just happen. The gatherings tend to be tight knit, with just family and close friends in attendance.

Still, I managed to be invited to not one, but two.

“It’s like getting the secret password,” said Hector Platt, whom I met at one event. “Once you are invited to a carne asada, you are in. You are part of the group and have access as if you were a member of the family.”