Argentinian Gaucho Cowboy Culture: Meat, Knives & Yerba Maté
We all know about the cowboys of the American west, but have you ever heard about the Argentinian gauchos? These rugged and iconic horsemen flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries and were known for their nomadic lifestyle and colorful appearance. Much like North American cowboys, gauchos have been a beloved subject for writers and filmmakers in Argentinian culture.
These remarkable men subsisted almost entirely off of quality meat - which at that point in history, was pretty much the only kind that existed. Around here, we really love learning about gaucho culture. Our love of meat, yerba mate and knives makes us feel particularly interested in this unique facet of Argentine history.
Gauchos were first and foremost known for being expert horsemen. Their horses were their livelihood. They needed a close relationship with their steed to accomplish their work and survive the unpredictable challenges that came with living a nomadic life outside of the confines of the rest of society.
These guys were the definition of an outlaw, living on the edge and never following the rules. Naturally, gauchos were also excellent hunters and survivalists, prepared to courageously endure or cleverly escape nearly any danger that came their way. The more skilled they were at riding horses, the better their chances of surviving their adventurous lifestyle and excelling at their exciting line of work.
Much of the lore around these rugged horsemen came from the legends and songs that the gauchos created for entertainment and storytelling using their own lives as subject matter. They were renowned for their bravery and toughness. Though they possessed similar qualities to American cowboys of the southwest, there are also many differences between the two historical icons.
Of course, all cowboys and gauchos alike needed lassos, or lariats to wrangle wayward cattle. A unique weapon carried by gauchos, Gauchos are well known for carrying large knives tucked into their waistbands. These knives are called facon and were used for all sorts of tasks from eating food to the bloody fights that gauchos were known for.
We were really excited to find some of these traditional Argentinian knives being made today. Argentinian knife maker Jeronimo Coll was in Santa Fe for the Folk Art Market this summer, and once we saw his work we knew we had to make these amazing knives available to our customers. He is a true artist and hand braids the rawhide handle of each knife into intricate traditional patterns.
Each one comes with a handmade custom rawhide sheath that can attach to the belt in true gaucho style. These knives are timeless pieces that will last a lifetime of daily use, so if you’d like to carry one for all your daily needs, it can surely hold up to the challenge.
Gaucho culture is fascinating with many rich details and complexities. For instance, these devoted horsemen preferred for all of their steeds to be the same color. One gaucho might have all piebald horses while another had all gray or chestnut. They were known for being honest, hardworking and serious men who would not hesitate to defend themselves or their livelihoods.
The typical diet of a gaucho consisted primarily of meat and yerba mate, the caffeinated tea plant native to Argentina. Yerba mate is not only rich in caffeine but the brew also provides high amounts of other nutrients. Their meat would have consisted primarily of pasture raised beef, from the free roaming cattle they worked with on a daily basis. In addition to meat, the cattle provided milk, tallow for cooking, and hides for clothing and shelter.
These robust and charismatic individuals thrived on this simple yet nourishing diet and had plenty of energy to spare. The combination of nutrient rich, protein packed pasture raised beef along with yerba mate would remarkably have provided essentially every vitamin and mineral needed for these active men to stay healthy and vital.
We find it inspiring to know that this amazing culture was fueled by quality meat as the focal point of their diet. This diet would have made them especially hardy and able to go long periods of time without food if necessary. When cooking meat, they roasted the animal inside its skin, and served the meal with the skin still on - a preparation known as carne con cuero.
If you’d like to purchase one of Jeronimo Coll’s knives, check out our website or stop by the shop if you’re in the area to see them in person. We’re more than happy to show off these gorgeous knives. Also be sure to check out our selection of pasture raised beef, as well as bison, elk, venison, wild boar, pork, poultry, wild caught Alaskan seafood and more.
If you’ve ever stopped by our shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, you probably already know that we’re quite fond of giving away Yerba Mates. We also have a variety of flavors available for purchase in the shop and love sharing this amazing tea with everyone who comes in.