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Category Archives: food and drink
Drinking mate (with two syllables in Spanish, “mah-tay”) is a tradition throughout southern South America. It’s an herb – looks a lot like oregano – that you stuff into a container (traditinally a gourd, but now more likely wood or metal) – which is also called a “mate.” Before you fill the container you put in the metal straw (bombilla) that has a strainer/filter on the end. You pour hot water over the mate and then drink the “tea” through the straw. It does have caffeine, maybe as much as a soda ? – so it’s both a mild stimulant and effective at calming an upset stomach.
Normally it’s taken straight and it’s fairly bitter, though in some regions people add sugar or other such stuff. Chris, Julia and I enjoy drinking it, Eric tolerates it during social situations, and Emily wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot bombilla.
EVERYONE drinks mate, young and old, rich and poor, men and women. People walk around with thermoses under their arms everywhere. Morning, noon, and night. It’s a very social experience. One person pours the water and passes it to someone, they drink and return to the pourer who refills and passes to the next person, and so on. Burning hot metal straws don’t allow for many communal germs, or so we allow ourselves to believe. What’s a little spit among friends anyway?
>I’m finally beginning to understand the story behind the strike that’s been going on across the country in the last few weeks. There is no shortage of opportunities to hear the news, but I guess I spend too much time sitting in my house working on a computer and connecting to the States and not enough time reading the Argentine newspapers or having conversations on the street. My step-father Fred even experienced the traffic associated with the strikers blocking a main highway but we still didn’t understand the whole story.
Now I’ve pieced together the threads with the helpful perspectives of the lady who owns the lavandería (laundromat) down the street and Mari, the woman who cleans our house. The government is imposing higher tariffs on grain exports, much of which go to China. Argentina competes with Brazil and the US for those Chinese dollars and it’s a cut-throat market. Argentina is the world’s 2nd largest corn exporter and 3rd for soybeans. President Kirchner has many ideas for how that tax revenue could be used, but many don’t think it will help those who need it most, including the (huge) agricultural sector. In protest, many farmers and transporters (truckers) went on a 16-day strike. With no truckers trucking, the shelves at stores grew emptier and emptier. Prices for meat (and milk, and other foods) are already very high here, and it’s hard to imagine an Argentine meal without meat. Last night I went to the carnecería to shop for tonight’s parilla and the butcher reminded me to get all I’d need for the weekend, as he expected to be sold out by noon today. At a market this morning, Chris said the sale of milk was limited to two boxes, sugar to two bags, and no meat could be had.