April 26, 2022 – 09:57
A note that is a guide to know how much it will cost to prepare the traditional delicacy of the workers. Tips, recommendations and some history. The “Suri” Borelli gives us secrets for the salteño locro.
The locro of May 1 comes almost as a natural fact of things. For those who paint gray hair, Workers’ Day always arrived cold, for a few years there has been sunshine; but the tradition of eating a plate, perhaps two or three, of a hot and pulsed locro remains intact. Even if the shirt perspires, on some sidewalk, in the unions, in companies, clubs, still lifes, with colleagues anywhere, no one beats the Salta locro
“What is a pulsating locro and what is its secret?” asked the brilliant photojournalist Carlos Brigo, who once came from Buenos Aires to visit Salta. “The secret is in the squash,” said Isaac Escalante, who sells some beautiful specimens of the “lead” variety at stall 77B of the Cofruthos market. Lead is the right one and his position is recognized by the old potters as one of the best. “I sell it for 70 pesos a kilo and the wholesale price drops even more. But I know that it is sold up to 150 pesos in the neighborhoods and it is because they are abused. Surely it will continue to increase as we reach the weekend. The recommendation is come early because it’s cheaper here and I promise not to raise prices,” Escalante said, showing off his River Plate jacket.
Issac Escalante. Photo: Jan Touzeau.
Then he understood that it is pulsudo because it comes with a lot of squash that gives thickness to that broth that is accompanied by a lot of meat, corn and beans that make it fall into the category “steady spoon”. “You have to ask for split locrillo, which I sell here for 180 pesos a kilo and the beans are lima beans from Cachi, which is the best, and I have them for 350 a kilo,” said Fabricio Ávalos, from stall 61B of the same shopping center. It is all the best merchandise, the corn comes from the fields of the Lerma Valley that remain unlotted, the bean is the XXL from the Alto Valle Calchaquí and has a pure paprika from the same area at 400 per kilo. They are all noble ingredients that are also available at other market stalls at the same prices.
With regard to meat, the old locreros and locreros use more forceful cuts such as the breast or the keperí, this last cut is the one that is between the rib and the shoulder of the animal. Both cuts, as they are highly demanded this week, have high prices and are above a thousand pesos.
“Every day people choose pork more, not only because it is cheaper but also because it is healthier,” said Ramiro Torán, from a popular pork butcher shop in the Cofruthos area. As a good salesman, he started throwing prices while he chatted, which are very competitive. “I have the red chorizo at 900 pesos that no one else has, the bacon at 500 and the roast pork tapa at 975 pesos. Then there is leather at 168, legs at 242 and knees at 360 pesos. That’s why I say that each time the locros come with more pork and less cow. In the final taste of the locro it comes out healthier,” Torán continued selling. They are good prices because in supermarkets a kilo of Spanish chorizo exceeds 1,600 pesos a kilo.
Thus, even the most traditional foods have their historical dynamics and are modified according to the contexts. Historian Daniel Balmaceda explains in his book “Food in Argentine History” that “locro is a dish of Quechua origin that spread from Upper Peru to the south and that by 1810 our entire territory was eating it, with its own recipe; since each one used the ingredients that the land gave, although the main element was always corn”.
This dish became popular in the celebration of Labor Day because it meets the need for food for many people at a low cost. It is hot and substantial for cold days and is also shared in solidarity in the preparation and then in the tasting. The preparation lasts several hours and fellowship times and spaces are shared.
For many, the best thing about this date is being able to share with coworkers, with those who are almost like family for the time that passes. In this sharing, the locro became over the years the traditional dish of the workers.
The ritual of eating locro on Labor Day is a relatively recent phenomenon. First, because the establishment of the Worker’s Day in Argentina, in 1890, is the evocation of a day of repression and death at work that occurred in 1886 in the United States. It was not a day for celebrations but for claims. In that historical journey, in the first Peronist government of the 40s, labor rights were installed and the celebrations were born on Labor Day (even with the election of the Queen of Labor), everything was celebrated with other types of food.
In union meetings in the mid-1960s, locro was eaten. Slowly, in recent decades, the locro became the inevitable menu on Labor Day, with huge steaming pots of hundreds of portions according to the members of the union that organized it. And the custom was asserting itself until it became a classic of the day.
Do not forget the “quiquirimichi”
Who knows what he is talking about is Luis “Suri” Borelli when he says that locro salteño has the “quiquirimichi”, which is to replace the pella fat with oil. Others use lard or caracu puree. In all cases, the green onion is sautéed with the garlic and, at the end, paprika, chili, pepper and salt. To lick your fingers.
For José Vicente Solá, author of the “Salta Regionalism Dictionary” (1949), the word locro comes from the Quechua “rokro”. In Santiago del Estero -also in Quechua-, it became “lokro”. Currently, the dish is known in the country as “locro”. And what is the locro? “A meal that is made with corn or whole and cooked wheat, meat, beans, jerky, chili and ocote (fat gut)”. Currently, and for the people of Salta, the locro of the 21st century must contain peeled corn, pumpkin, meat, bacon, Spanish sausages, pork bones, pallar beans, ocote, green onion, paprika, pella fat and chili.
“Of course, in Salta there are as many locros as locreros and there is no shortage of those who make this regional dish with other ingredients such as sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, belly, etc. But hey, nobody in Salta has the pure formula of locro salteño. The locro of the Calchaquí Valley is not the same as that of the Chaco of Salta; or from the Lerma Valley with those from Anta”, says Suri.
Another secret ingredient is time. To make a good locro, preparations should start about 12 hours before. If the locro is for lunch, you have to start the night before by soaking the corn and beans. “The locro, as for love, requires time and patience, two basic ingredients,” said the old fox of the valley.