Thursday, 23 December 2010

Mate: A Time to Share

I am always keen to hear about food cultures and cuisines from around the Globe, with a personal passion for travel and street food. I am very fortunate to have recruited two LouLovesFood correspondents, Simon and Ayelen, in Buenos Aires, to report back on the food in a corner of the world I have yet to discover for myself.
I hope you enjoy their maiden post;

Christmas is a time for giving and sharing, and so it seems appropriate to open our blog with the ultimate communal drink- ‘mate’.

With 98% of Argentinean homes owning the necessary paraphernalia, mate is the traditional Argentinean drink of choice. But mate is not just a drink for the home. From offices to parks, and from businessmen to bus drivers, mate is an intrinsic part of Argentinean life.

Mate is a hot herbal infusion served in a gourd and drunk through a metal straw. The main ingredient of mate is the yerba (that’s sherba to us Gringos); small dry shreds of leaves from a tree principally found in Paraguay, Uruguay, the north of Argentina and the south of Brazil.

Ingredients required for mates
1 cebador (or server)
1 gourd
1 metal straw
Hot water (not boiling)
Group of friends and a few spare hours for talking (optional)

The cebador will prepare the mate, filling the gourd two-thirds full of yerba and any additional ingredients (more of that later). While the yerba is still dry the straw is positioned at an angle in the gourd, at which point the water is added. Some people add a little cold water first so as not to burn the leaves. When the gourd is full the cebador will take the first drink, something sometimes seen as an act of kindness due to the bitterness of the initial cup, before refilling it and passing it on to the right. Once drunk it will return to him for another refill and the process continues as the gourd makes its way around the circle, with the cebador changing a bit of the yerba every now and again so as to preserve the flavour.

Each cup should be drunk in its entirety and any English sensibilities must be resisted as regards thanking the cebador: you are not to say “thank you” until you don’t want any more! And if you get too caught up in the conversation and forget you are in possession of the precious mate, don’t be surprised to hear the words ‘no es un micrófono!’ (it’s not a microphone!)

Additional ingredients
Due to its bitter taste mate is often drunk with sugar, but that’s not the only way to have it…

Mate with orange or lemon: Warm the lemon or orange peel over direct heat and chop or grind it as best as possible, before adding to the gourd. In Paraguay it is often drunk cold with orange peel.
Mate with mountain herbs: Made of 95% yerba, 1.5% mint, 1.5% pennyroyal and 1% peppermint.
Mate with coffee: Add two teaspoons of sugar and a teaspoon of coffee to the yerba and mix.
Mate with milk: Replace the hot water with milk!

Mate language:
- indifference
Sweet- friendship
Very sweet- talk to my parents to ask for my hand
Very hot- I’m dying of love for you
Cool- contempt
Cinnamon- all I think about is you
Brown sugar- I sympathise with you
Orange peel- come find me
Coffee- offense forgiven
Milk- held in esteem
Boiling- marriage
Foamy- sweethearts

Classic accompaniments
Tortas fritas
Pastries (facturas)
Bizcochitos de grasa

I hope you've loved this post as much as I do! Thank you SO much to Ayelen and Simon for their time and knowledge, I can't wait to receive more.
If you are reading this from foreign climes and have any ideas for content that you would like to share, whether it be a national dish, recipe, tradition or local eatery, please get in touch to become a LLF correspondent too!


No comments:

Post a Comment