When in Mexico, do as the Mexicans do!
By Cheryl Miller
I come from a long line of male BBQ aficionados.  Dad used to BBQ prime rib every Sunday, as well as dozens of other treats.  And as for the next generation, my brother took the art to enormous new heights with 5 BBQ’s lining his patio, 2 parillas (grills), a smoker and a deep fryer.  He BBQ’s every weekend and several nights a week and is quite famous among his circle for his BBQ’ing feats.  And oh my goodness, what delights! Me? No, I was a complete and utter failure at the craft.  I would have starved to death if I had to outdoor cook to live!  As a result, my BBQ collected dust for years.  I would always say to my bro’ that BBQ’ing is a male gene…until now.  

​A Mexican female doctor friend invited me to dinner one evening and showed me the Mexican way of BBQ’ing and not only is it scrumptious and woody favored, but even I can do it too!  And if I can, anyone can!

​Here’s what you do.  First, buy the Mexican version of charcoal, called “carbon”, pronounced “carbone”.  It is not the processed little briquettes Kingsford puts out, but rather it is actual wood that has been previously burned until it is a blackened version of wooden branches, limbs and tree trunks.  You can buy it bagged in Soriana, but I prefer going north of the bordo on Leona Vicario.  In the arroyo are two stands where they sell the “carbon” in large bags.  The smaller one is about $40 pesos and the super sized at $70 or 80 pesos.  Get the large one…it will save you gas, because you will be back!

​At your BBQ, line an area large enough for the amount of food you are going to prepare with one level of the carbon.  Warning ladies, you will have black hands, so bring a moistened towel to the BBQ.  Now take a paper towel(s) and cover it with vegetable oil.  Any kind of vegetable oil; corn, soy, sunflower or olive oil, they all work equally well.  AND, the good thing is that there are no petroleum products dousing your fire,

so therefore reducing your intake of carcinogens and enhancing the resulting flavors too. Allow the paper to rest a couple minutes.  Then
crumple the paper towel and place it over the first level of carbon. Start stacking, upright, additional pieces of the carbon over the towels, like a teepee.  Allow for airflow and a couple places to apply a match or “fire stick” to the paper towels.  And viola, you are ready to light.  The paper towels soaked with the vegetable oil lasts a surprising long time!  Get a piece or cardboard or a top from a Tupperware container and fan the flames.  Within a few minutes, your fire will be roaring.  You are ready to cook when grey ash appears all over on the top of the carbon wood.  
As an added bonus, I usually take a few of the remaining embers and place it in a ceramic burner.  I bring it inside and apply the resin of the Copal tree to the embers.  This Mexican “frankincense” is great incense with warm woody aromas that both men and women enjoy within the home.  So there you go.  You too, can BBQ like a Mexican at your own home. Yummy!