Between the waterfalls, lenga forests and unpredictable waters of Laparent Lake, adventurers exploring the Ardillas Route might encounter a very pleasant surprise: the perfect prescription for a tired body and a weary soul. Oclidia Sandoval, known fondly as Señora “Tati”, is one of the remaining gauchas of the Region who still practices traditional-style hospitality so, it’s not uncommon that weary travelers are invited into the house to warm themselves beside the wood-burning stove and try one of her culinary masterpieces, like farm-raised chicken and polenta Cazuela.
Tati lives on the El Franco Farm, about halfway along the Ardillas Route, along the shores of the Redonda Lagoon. Although she doesn’t work in tourism, she has always shown Patagonia-style hospitality to weary travelers who are hiking or biking through the area and stumble upon her farm and the delicious foods she so fondly prepares.
But what exactly is her secret?
Let’s start with the chickens, which have never been treated with chemicals or fed artificial foods to fatten them. They are free-range, eating from the farmland and drinking crystal clear water. There are no cages here; only a large coop for nights, to help protect them from foxes and other predators. Next we could list the organic vegetables, or the crystal clear Patagonia water – virtually all of the ingredients in this delicious Cazuela are natural and fresh.
And, there is another vital element that accompanies Señora Tati when she is preparing this comforting Cazuela. Stop and listen to the sounds of the farm, a peaceful silence where the only interruptions are the songbirds and the whispering of the wind. Gaze at the landscape around you dominated by massive rock walls that cascade down to the shores of the calm waters of the lagoon. After you’ve spent a few minutes to relish this calm and magnificent place, will you understand the true “secret” of why Señora Tati’s cooking is filled with love and passion.