Resourcefulness is a matter of pride for the Argentines. An old can and a stick are not thrown out, but transformed with ingenuity and craftsmanship into the most useful tool in the shed - a tacho used for scooping water from the canal. Tachos are often painted in bright colours and patterns, qualifying them as folk art, as well as functional object.
In the city of San Rafael and in the surrounding countryside, the tacho is used daily to fill pails for watering the garden, for scrubbing the sidewalk and to wet the roadside to keep the dust down around the house. Its long handle allows for easy lifting, without the need for a back-breaking bend over the riego. Indispensable and inexpensive, it represents great vernacular design.
Faced with a fridge full of leftovers, I ask, "What would an Argentine make out of this mess?" The answer, gleaned from a conversation with my neighbour Maria, is a tortilla. With some cornmeal, a bit of flour, an egg, soya milk, water and a spoonful of olive oil one can easily whip up a batter to make a simple crepe-like pancake. The stuffing consists of whatever is leftover from other meals: beef, chicken, tomatoes, beans, zucchini, onions, anything and everything fried together. A sprinkle of grated cheese for the tops of the rolled tortillas and listo!
Served with arugula greens from the garden and some hot sauce on the side, the humble tortilla becomes an elegant lunch. It's an adaptable recipe, as clever and economical as a can on a stick. We served the tortillas with beer instead of wine - a large bottle of Andes pilsener costs 3.80 pesos at Vea supermarket.