José María Otero

Talking about a kettle

l Primus no me fallaba con su carga de aguardiente y habiendo agua caliente el mate era allí señor.” (There was always a Primus stove with its load of moonshine and if there was hot water, maté was the Lord there (“El bulín de la calle Ayacucho”). In a circle of friends, there is nothing better for confidences than a good kettle and maté.

Today we shall talk about this so peculiar and Argentine utensil called: la pava. If a peasant happened to go to a hardware store in Spain asking for a pava, no one would understand him because in the “Mother Land” they would think is a teapot.

Originally, the early Aboriginals, gauchos and colonizers that used to drink maté called caldera (pot, heater or caldron) the utensil where water was heated and it had no mouth. Even in some places of the littoral in the Mesopotamia or in Uruguay is still known by that name.

In Paraguay the old people keep on naming it with its Guaraní name: itacuguá: ï (water), tacú (hot), guá (pan or container). That kettle had no top cover either.

Why is it called pava in Argentina? People say that it is a witticism by the gauchos that, at a circle sipping maté, used to compare it to the turkey’s female because it has the silhouette of a bird laying down on a nest. And they compared it to the lavish female of the turkey because its body is chubby, blackened with soot and has an S-shaped long tubular neck coming from the middle of the belly or, rather, from the craw. And they pictured it by the fire, brooding the embers while whispering sweet nothings, according to the Lugones’ expression, when boiling by emitting different sounds.

Enrique Cadícamo wrote these lines to increase the glory of Angelito Vargas:

Soy de ese barrio de humilde rango,
yo soy el tango sentimental.
Soy de ese barrio que toma mate
bajo la sombra que da el parral.

And for those who do not remember it, I’ll tell them:
Bitter maté means indifference.
Sweet maté: friendship.
With lemon: annoyance.
With cinnamon: liking.
With orange peel: come to pick me up.
With lemon balm: Your sadness worries me.
With milk: I appreciate you.
With coffee: Your offense is forgiven.

Lastly, these unforgettable lines:

Yo no soy cantor ladino
y mi habilidad es muy poca;
mas cuando cantar me toca
me defiendo en el combate,
porque soy como los mates:
sirvo si me abren la boca.
(Martín Fierro)

And let’s go on heating the kettle to have the hot water ready…