LIVINGSTON, Guatemala- A grill is amongst the simplest of cooking implements on the planet — they are really little more than raised up campfire platforms to be used in places where ground fire is inappropriate or not possible. It is amazing to me how complicated the grill has become: as they can be made easily out of backyard junk.
It is Semana Santa week, and in Livingston this means that many of the local women drag their grills out into the street to cook up cheap food for visitors to make a little extra money. These grills are mostly homemade, and are of a few different variations on a similar design:
They are mostly made out of old car tire rims welded to the top of either scrap metal or rebar legs.
I have been eating street food prepared on these grills for the past couple of days, and today as I sat eating my food I began inspecting the lady’s grill for the first time. I took a couple photos of it, and began mentally disassembling it in an attempt to figure out how it was made. As I looked it over its parts began to make themselves clear to me: the grill was just an old car tire rim soldered onto four pieces of rebar and then painted black. The grill part of the apparatus was a welded together skeletal assemblage of rebar shaped to fit neatly onto the top of the rim. I jumped out of my seat to inspect the grill closer. I made good on my observations and asked the lady of the bowl of the grill really was a rim from an automobile.
“It is from a car,” she spoke in Spanish, “my husband made it.”
“Is your husband a welder?” I asked.
She said that he wasn’t, but that he soldered the grill together.
There was another grill of a similar design nearby, and it became apparent to me that these handmade grills are probably common all through Guatemala. I may have eaten off of them before, but this was the first time that I really noticed what they were. It is an interesting aspect of a material culture when old and otherwise discarded implements, tools, and spare parts find new uses in altered forms. In this case, an old car rim and a few scraps of metal are again given life as a grill. It is even more interesting when these altered forms of discarded materials become standard: it is my initial impression that this design for a grill was not invented by the cooks husband, but the design has probably floated around this country long enough to have become normal, like the 50 gallon drum grill is all over the world.