08 September 2008
My First Mate Calabaza, Bombilla + Yerba
Every country has its own unique right of passage. In Germany, you have to drink ale, jab your fork into phallic-looking sausages and get lost on the S-Bahn. In Azerbaijan, you have to ride a маршутка and drink chai until your bladder explodes and you become a puddle of lost pride. In Peru, you have to eat arroz con mariscos in a dirty restaurant and drink a Pisco Sour in the blazing sun. Well, in Argentina you have to drink yerba mate from a calabaza (gourd) using a bombilla (metal filtering straw). You get extra points for burning your lips or taking one for the team and willfully swallowing the first mouthful of freshly-brewed yerba since it's extremely bitter unless you add tepid water. Another great part of the mate ceremony is that the vast majority of yerba missions are small and family-owned. The stuff I bought was fancy organic nectar from The Saint Ignatius Mission, right in the little sliver of Argentina in the East that borders Brazil. I've already tried it and it's simply delicious. Well, after the first few gulps, I mean. Now, I feel like I am finally living in Buenos Aires. I've been to Confitería Ideal, I've devoured a million empanadas, I'm can bust out a little lunfardo slang and a lot of sheismo like a motherfucker. And now I can hit the Yerba Mate connection too. Ah, this is the life! Cheers, chicos.