Sarah A. Torgeson
Each week, we rummage through the dark corners of our kitchen drawers to bring you an enigmatic item. We ask you to guess what it is in our weekly From the From the Back of the Drawer puzzle. To enter this week’s puzzle, visit this page. To read more descriptions of past items, visit this page. And, don’t forget to donate your odd items to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
This week’s From the Back of the Drawer mystery item comes to us not from the American South but from South America. The ornate silver vessels and accompanying straw-like implements pictured here are used for drinking a popular South American drink known as maté. Also commonly referred to as yerba maté, maté is a hot, tea-like beverage originally prepared and consumed by the indigenous people of South America. Though Europeans who colonized South America embraced the beverage, maté did not gain the same popularity in North America or Europe as coffee or tea. Today, however, the beverage is finally growing in popularity outside of South America.
Maté is prepared by placing the dried leaves and stems of the yerba maté plant at the bottom of a drinking vessel, referred to as a maté or culha, before adding boiling water. After several minutes of steeping, the liquid is then sucked through a straw-like instrument known as a bombilla, which features a small strainer that prevents consumption of the leaves and stems.
Our rating: Fascinating and beautiful artifacts of South American food and drink culture.
Design: The design of the maté drinking vessels pictured here is based on the original vessels used to drink mate: dried gourds.
Originality: These matés and bombillas are traditional.
Practicality: Necessary if you would like to give maté a try.
Christine Folch (2010). Stimulating Consumption: Yerba Mate Myths, Markets, and Meanings from Conquest to Present. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 52, pp 6-36. doi:10.1017/S0010417509990314.