Extreme Cooking Tips And Advice: The Five O´Clock Mate

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Pablo Edronkin

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The British have created a very interesting tradition that can be easily adapted to the use of mate tea; we have done just that, and we enjoy our mate at five PM each day as we build our stone labyrinth in the Andes.

Mate is, as a lot of people know, a generally hot infusion made out of the mate plant; it is a very traditional beverage from the southern cone, that is, the most austral part of South America. The English, and the British, broadly speaking, have been questioned many times because of the methods that they used during the expansion of their empire but at the same time they have been a force of civilisation that brought progress to many parts of the world, and among their cultural heritage we can count, of course, the five o´clock tea.


The dawn of the labyrinth´s existence one day at five o´clock... right at mate time.
The dawn of the labyrinth´s existence one day at five o´clock... right at mate time.

Habits like this one have been imitated around the world - the sincerest form of flattery -, along with their language and other traditions; just go to India and ask. People may have a hate - love relationship with the British, but the second component is always present!

And whenever you are in the middle of an expedition, walking, climbing or hiking all day long, when the clock reaches five at the afternoon, a sip of coffee or tea becomes a very desirable treat… Only that preparing any of those beverages in such circumstances can be cumbersome inconvenient most of the times. Mate, however, requires easier preparation, and the fact that you don´t even have to boil the water required for the infusion makes it a much quicker and easier thing to prepare and enjoy.


The location and alignment of walls is being laid out in the maze that gave definitive shape to our five o´clock mate tradition.
The location and alignment of walls is being laid out in the maze that gave deffinitive shape to our five o´clock mate tradition.

We have adopted the British habit of tea a long time ago, but adapted it to the mate ritual, so to speak. We like to build things as we explore and that is rather hard work that indeed, makes us remind about the existence of mate each afternoon. Some time ago we began constructing a labyrinth deep in the Blanco valley. It is made out of stone using the pirca method and requires us to carry very large quantities of rocks to erect long and solid stone walls. A terrific fitness routine indeed, but tiresome as well.

So, whenever five o clock´approaches, one of the construction team members leaves the rocks and the walls and goes to prepare a fire and the kettle with water, the mate and perhaps some biscuits or tortas fritas. Then, after he has done that work for about half an hour and took a rest from the construction work, another one supplants him and begins distributing mate; this ahs to be done precisely at five o´clock, of course.

Later, as the mate ritual ends, another one takes his place and begins preparing other stuff as bread for baking, and then, another one makes dinner. Construction stops as sunlight leaves the place, and everyone by then has had to work on the stone walls and preparing mate or the camp for the night.


Then pircas are erected based on the laid out designs... working between mate sips.
Then pircas are erected based on the laid out designs... working between mate sips.

The construction of the labyrinth goes one and we think that it will go on forever since we have a limitless source of material to go on and it is located in an uncharted, virgin territory. We prefer to keep its location secret, at least for now, because The British have created a very interesting tradition that in the past, savage settlers from a nearby valley sacked and stole things from other construction sites of ours, perhaps by fear, mistrust or greed.

But their barbarism never had any real impact on what we do: Our constructions continue and in the case of the stone labyrinth we have even made a sun clock right in the middle of it to know precisely when the magic hour for the five o´clock mate arrives because it is a statement of the struggle between civilisation and savagery.


The solar clock marking five at noon as a wall is just being erected.
The solar clock marking five at noon as a wall is just being erected.



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