The first sip is strong and bitter. Facing extremely cold temperatures, gauchos heat the water – without boiling it – and prepare their mate to start their workday. The infusion usually has its own language and code, which are passed down from generation to generation – offering a sweetened mate, for instance, is a sign of ulterior motives.
Fish, shellfish and crustaceans – including the centolla (the famous king crab) – are part of the menu in coastal areas. Salmon, conger, sea bass, hake and trout appear in several recipes, mainly in smoked form.
Preparing a lamb al palo, slowly roasted for five or six hours, is practically an invitation for some kind of celebration. A good bottle of wine – produced in Patagonia, where the highlight is the Pinot Noir –, the omnipresent potatoes, fried pies and an accordion are usually the best accompaniments.
To prepare the dish curanto al hoyo, meat cuts, shellfish, cold cuts and vegetables are placed over hot rocks in a pit. Then, everything is covered with nalca (an edible plant native to Chile and Argentina) leaves for the cooking process.
Picking berries in the summer is a classic activity. Blackberries, raspberries and other fruits are used to produce ice creams, juices, desserts and even liqueurs – like the one made with box-leaved barberry, a dark ball that is a powerful antioxidant and a symbol of Patagonia. And it holds a secret: people who try it always go back to the south of the world.
LATAM has flights to many destinations in Argentine Patagonia, including Bariloche, Calafate, Ri´o Gallegos and Ushuaia. In Chilean Patagonia, LATAM has flights to Puerto Montt, Balmaceda, Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas.