Posts tagged #Pope's Favorite Food and Drink

New Pope's Favorite Drink Tells His Life Story

The crowds gathered in St Peter's Square in Rome were amazing when Vatican officials announced on Monday that the new pope would be, wait for it, an Argentinean.

Yes, that's right, an Argentinean - not an Italian, not even a European! Shock and surprise. So who is this man?

He is Jorge Bergoglio, the very different Cardinal of Buenos Aires. To begin with he speaks Spanish as a first language and is also a trained biologist.

But the differences go far further than that for this ascendant to the throne of Peter. Bergoglio is a Jesuit with a lifelong dedication to the poor and his whole lifestyle, including diet, is an indication of that commitment.

He has for many years lived in, not a palatial palace, but a midsized apartment in downtown Buenos Aires with another elderly priest. There he has cooked his own meals, crafting them from fruits and vegetables purchased at local markets with only an occasionally accent of meat for flavor. (What amazing dietary discipline in the land known for its fabulous and very large stakes).

After dinner he was known to often stroll on the streets of the Capital pausing to talk and listen to the needs, not of the high and the mighty, but of the everyday person. He never hesitated to enjoy what they enjoyed and that included a gourd of yerba mate, Argentina's national drink.

And therein lies a tale for mate is also known throughout South America as "Jesuit Tea". During the 1600s and 1700s the Jesuits established many missions throughout Paraguay and Argentina. In addition to sharing European skills with the local indigenous people, the Jesuits also simultaneously protected them from enslavement by the nearby Portuguese. 

While working together, the Jesuits and the free native population were able to cultivate the tea-like wild mate plant. Soon this new-world produce was competing with the English and Dutch marketed tea and producing significant revenue to support the Jesuit missions. 

In 1750 all this, however, came to a stop. The Treaty of Madrid, as captured in the film, The Mission, redrew the map of South America to satisfy the wishes of the rich and powerful.

This redistricting forced many of the once free native people under Spanish rule into Portuguese territories and into slaveryThe Jesuits protested such an injustice while the native people could only flee back into the jungle and so sense of safety.

Without care, the mate producing farms were soon overgrown and absorbed back into the tangled undergrowth leaving no trace of the renaissance between cultures that might have been.

The new pope is surely aware of this tragic struggle between obedience to authority and unalienable human rights because he has chosen "Francis" ("Francisco" in Italian) as his papal name.

St. Francis himself, as shown in the film, Brothers Sun, Sister Moon, struggled with this same conflict. Born into wealth and comfort, he came to understand that nothing can be rebuilt by exclusion, by indifference.

Like Francis, this new Pope is a man of simplicity, entering a world of marble palaces and rigid hierarchy. He is being called upon to address such vast issues as the ever widening child-abuse scandal and possible money laundering by the Vatican bank as well as the needs of the poor and the demand for universal womens' rights.

Pope Francis has in the past preferred public transportation over riding in a limousine, carried his own luggage, bought his own groceries and even danced the tango when he was younger.

Like St. Francis, he will find himself in need of that humility if he is to decline the seductive trappings of papal glory and remember the value a gourd of yerba mate drunk with the very people that Christ himself called, "My Brothers and Sisters".

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2013