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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Shopping baskets ready and waiting to be filled…

Bounty from Abastos ready and waiting to be prepared…

Salad ready and waiting to be eaten…

There was more, but I was too busy eating to stop and take photos!

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What can I say? The poster for the 4th Annual Mezcal Fair in Santa Catarina Minas came across my Facebook page and I said, let’s go! Thus, friends and neighbors rented a van (with non-drinking driver) to head an hour south of Oaxaca city for day two of the 2-day fair.

A barro for distilling mezcal enhancing the basketball hoop.

Naturally, it was held in the municipal basketball court, adjacent to the church!

Food vendor and family member setting up.

Of course, being gringos, we were early, so we headed for the food stalls (all the better to absorb the mezcal to come) — including empanadas from San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Though, in all honesty, they weren’t nearly as good as the gal we usually go to in San Antonino.

Maestro mezcalero, Don Pablo Arellanes Ramírez.

The mezcal stalls hadn’t quite begun to be staffed.

Luis Arellanes Cruz atop the outdoor oven pit used to cook the agave piñas.

However, thanks to mi amiga K, who went in search of cervesa (beer) to wash down our empanadas, we were introduced to Luis Arellanes Cruz, who then took us to the Los Arellanes palenque, explained the process of turning agave piñas into mezcal to the new initiates among us, and introduced us to maestro mezcalero, Rufino Felipe Martinez.

Félix Ángeles Arellanes

Returning to the feria, several of us were delighted to renew our acquaintance with Félix from Mezcal El Minerito where, the last time I was there, friends and I watched the process of layering agave piñas, bagaso, and a tarp to begin the cooking process.

Folkloric dancers from Sección XXII of the teachers’ union of the City of Oaxaca.

Of course, no feria would be complete without entertainment. According to the schedule, there were bands and presentations and parades and dancers and…

The road out of town.

After three hours of wandering, eating, tasting, and enjoying, it was time to head back to the city. As they say, a great time was had by all!

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An hour south of Oaxaca city, the Zapotec village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco has much to recommend it. Besides the fields of flowers raised to decorate graves and altars throughout the valley and inspire elaborate floral designs on its blouses and dresses, the cocineras (cooks) of San Antonino serve a distinctive and delicious Empanada de Amarillo — a dish I never miss and one that has earned the village the (perhaps self-proclaimed) title, “world capital of the empanada.”

The main ingredients of the filling are pork broth, chile guajillo, masa, manteca, and cilantro. However, undoubtedly each cook adds her own secret seasoning(s).

Hot off the (tortilla) press, tortillas are placed on the comal to cook.

Once they reach the correct texture, the filling is spooned onto the tortilla and it is folded in half to be cooked, flipped, cooked, and flipped again until ready to serve.

The empanadas are traditionally served on a bed of lettuce and garnished with radishes and lime wedges and there is usually a small dish of pickled onion slices to further enhance the flavor. Yes, I ate the whole thing and it was riquisima!

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The difuntos have begun arriving and, like every year on November 1, I escape the tourist craziness of the city to spend time in the tranquility of the panteón in Tlacolula de Matamoros. Under the dappled sunlight of early afternoon, families clean, bring flowers, and celebrate. The departed must have nourishment for their travel between the world of the living and dead, thus fruit, nuts, bread, and beverages are placed on the graves.

The difuntos also seem to appreciate artistry.

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Located in the main entrance to the 20 de noviembre market, the mural by César Villegas González raises THE issue we should keep in the forefront of our minds when we set out to go grocery shopping.

Alimentación mortal — Food that can be deadly?

Or, Comida de los Dioses — Food of the Gods?

I choose to take a ride on the magical metate!

The mural was inaugurated in March 2019 as part of the “Vive tu Mercado 2019” program which seeks to promote the cultural and gastronomic riches found in the city’s mercados.

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On this Día Nacional del Maíz (National Day of Corn), in honor of the late Maestro Francisco Toledo, who led a fight to defend the native corn from genetically modified corn, a series of activities was held in four of the cultural spaces he bequeathed to Oaxaca. Understanding in Mexico, corn is life, my amiga and I braved the much-needed rain (that has now been falling for 24 hours) to participate in the activities.

Pasaporte Día del Maíz

Our first stop was at the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo (photographic center), where each visitor was photographed in front of a display of maíz and the mobile unit of the Centro de las Artes de San Agustín (CaSa) made special commemorative prints.

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Backdrop for photos at the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Next on the itinerary was the library, Fonoteca Eduardo Mata, where a video about the issue of transgenic corn was shown, corn masks were given, and we recieved a second stamp in our Pasaporte Día Nacional del Maíz.

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Raised beds of corn in the Ethnobotanic Garden

We then proceeded to the Jardín Etnobotánico (Ethnobotanic Garden), where we were introduced to two raised beds of maíz — one the silvestre abuelita (wild grandmother) and one her cultivated descendant that we rely on today.

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Serving pozol from an olla at IAGO

Our final stop of the day was at the Instituto de Arte Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO) where we were rewarded with many gifts — including a t-shirt or sweatshirt, a small flower pot of corn stalks, and a comida of tamales, nicuatole, and pozol (a prehispanic corn beverage).

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Field of corn in Teotitlán del Valle

Everyone should be honoring this day and giving thanks to the original peoples of Oaxaca for cultivating maíz 10,000 years ago.

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The long-awaited 3er Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca (3rd Gathering of Traditional Oaxacan Cooks) opened yesterday in the Centro Cultural y de Convenciones de Oaxaca (CCCO) — the new convention center.

While not nearly as convenient for yours truly as the previous two, which were held only a block away in the Plaza de la Danza, the Cocineras event had rapidly outgrown the old space and this site was more than adequate.

The gathering showcases 60 cooks, representing the 8 regions of the state, preparing more than 200 typical Oaxacan dishes — including desserts and beverages. Prices for each dish are reasonable and there is plenty of seating.

In addition to dining and drooling, there are cooking and craft workshops, educational conferences, and area where one can purchase kitchen and table related products, along with various packaged foodstuffs.

By the way, even the Zapotec God of Rain, Cocijo, blessed the opening with a much-needed downpour, but the rain didn’t dampen any spirits!

The Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales runs through Sunday, September 22, food stalls are open from 1:00 to 8:00 PM daily, and entrance is free.

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Food with friend in Oaxaca during the last two weeks…

First we eat, then we do everything else. –M.F.K. Fisher

Tostadas de mariscos – Marco Polo, August 15, 2019

People who love to eat are always the best people. –Julia Child

Chiles Rellenos – Tierra del Sol, August 17, 2019

Food is our common ground, a universal experience. –James Beard

Mole Negro – Teotitlán del Valle, August 18 2019

Laughter is brightest in the place where the food is. –Irish Proverb

Ensalada de Papa y Pulpo — Ristorante Italiano Epicuro, August 30, 2019

The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. –Mark Twain

And, while we are on the topic of dining well in Oaxaca, we are all looking forward to the long delayed, but eagerly anticipated, Tercer Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca (3rd Gathering of Traditional Oaxacan Cooks) to take place September 19-22, 2019 at the Centro Cultural y De Convenciones Oaxaca (note venue change). According to reports, there will be 60 traditional women cooks, 15 people making traditional beverages, 6 pastry chefs, and 6 makers of iced desserts.

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In commemoration of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas (INPI) is hosting a Fiesta de la Diversidad Indígena de Oaxaca.

It is a four-day festival honoring and promoting the state of Oaxaca’s indigenous peoples and their communities with artesania, textiles and other products for sale, cultural performances and workshops, food booths, and even healing treatments — and it’s happening a block from Casita Colibrí in the Plaza de la Danza!

Yawi Naka – Triqui – La Laguna Guadalupe, Putla Villa de Guerrero

INPI has an excellent online atlas of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and it, along with the statistics I previously posted regarding poverty, discrimination, and the results thereof affecting Mexico’s indigenous and Afro-Mexican peoples are abysmal.

Na Jacinta Charis – Zapoteco – Juchitán de Zaragoza

According to this article (in Spanish), the charge of the INPI is to advocate for indigenous and Afro-Mexican rights and to recognize that in order for these peoples and their communities to survive, institutional efforts must be taken to guarantee their full exercise of social, political, cultural, and economic rights.

Productores de Maguey y Mezcal Lucas 2010 SPR de Ri – Zapoteco – San Isidro Guishe, San Luis Amatlán

The INPI is also attempting to advance an understanding that the family/community economy of these communities has a different production logic than the commercial market economy and that their economic model must be respected.

Organización de Medicos Indigenas Tradicionales de laCañada – Cuicateco – San Juan Bautista Cuicatlán

This festival provides a space to promote the various community projects and to showcase the artistic and cultural expressions in the city.

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Chenteñas Hazme Si Puedes – Zapoteco – San Vicente Coatlán

I’ve aready been twice to the event — talking with various vendors, buying the blouse above (along with cheese, sal de chicatanas, and olive oil with fresh organic herbs), and sitting at one of the long tables enjoying a tamal, empanada, and a jícara of tejate

The Fiesta de la Diversidad Indígena runs through late afternoon tomorrow (Sept. 1, 2019). If you are in Oaxaca city, be sure to check it out (schedule below).

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The marathon that was La Guelaguetza 2019 has been run and not a day too soon for most residents. It was an exhausting and at times grueling two weeks — so much to do and so little time — streets choked with traffic and sidewalks clogged with people. According to state government figures, at its height, hotel occupancy reached 97%, which I’m guessing doesn’t include the growing Airbnb presence.

Woman pouring tejate

My participation ended as it began with food and drink — at the 13th annual Feria del Tejate y el Tamal. Fortunately (for me), it’s held at the Plaza de la Danza, only a block away from Casita Colibrí. On July 30 and 31, seventy five women of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras de Tejate de San Andrés Huayapam came to my neighborhood to prepare and pour this prehispanic drink for the thirsty and curious.

Tejate with rosita de cacao blossoms

Tejate is a labor-intensive frothy, refreshing, nutritious, and (supposedly) aphrodisiacal non-alcoholic beverage made from corn mixed with tree ash, cacao beans, mamey seeds, rosita de cacao (Quararibea funebris) flowers, and peanuts or pecans (depending on the season).

Preparation takes at least twelve hours, as the beans, seeds, flowers, and nuts must be toasted on a comal and corn must be nixtamalized.  Ingredients are taken to a molino to be milled, then kneaded together, left to cool, eventually being hand-ground on a metate to make a thick paste — which is then thinned with water and (literally) mixed by hand.

jícaras

Tejate is traditionally served in brightly painted gourds (jícaras) which fits right in with this year’s effort by the feria organizers to eliminate the use of plastic, in keeping with recent legislation in Oaxaca to prohibit the sale and use of most single use plastic and styrofoam containers. Known as the beverage of the gods, as it was once reserved solely for Zapotec royalty, today tejate is for everybody and is also being made into cookies, ice cream, and nicuatole (traditional Oaxacan corn-based molded dessert).

nicuatole de tejate

However, this food fest wasn’t just about tejate. The other headliner of this event was the versatile tamal. Numerous varieties in steaming pots sitting on anafres (portable cooktops) sat behind rows of banquet tables filled with giant serving baskets covered in colorfully embroidered tea towels. Proud cocineras (cooks) listed their offerings and provided free samples to taste-test.

embroidered tea towel

Where to begin? There was a mind-boggling selection of tamales — at least a dozen kinds to choose from. Many are readily available daily at local mercados (of course, each family puts their own unique spin on the basic recipes). However, here in the city, tichinda (fresh water mussel) tamales are rarely seen. I tasted and they were yummy.

list of tamales

My primary goal, when it came to tamales, was “para llevar” (to go) and I came prepared with my own containers. On day 1, I wanted to bring home tamales for the staff who works at my apartment complex and a couple of carpenters who were onsite building door and window screens for a friend’s apartment. I made several rounds of the numerous vendors, studying their offerings (along with their lovely tea towels) and then just dove in! Besides buying a tamal de camaron (shrimp) for myself, I bought a mole verde (chicken with green sauce) and a mole negro (black mole sauce with chicken) for each the crew back home, along with tejate cookies for their dessert!

On day 2, I was in search of tamal de chichilo, made from chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves — the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor. It’s one of my favorites and isn’t usually seen in the mercados, as it is usually reserved for special occasions such as weddings and baptisms or when the crops have been harvested.

tamal de chichilo

Besides eating a tamal de chichilo as soon as I returned home and another for dinner last night, six more currently reside in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator. Ahhh, preserving and celebrating the prehispanic riches of tejate and tamales — a couple of reasons why Oaxaca is a food lovers’ paradise.

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Sunday, I headed up into the clouds for the 19th Feria Regional de Hongos Silvestres (Regional Wild Mushroom Fair) in San Antonio Cuajimoloyas. Friends had hired a van and driver to take us on the steep winding climb into the Sierra Norte. An hour and a half after we left the city, we arrived at our destination, 10,433 feet above sea level. Cuajimoloyas has an ethereal feel and seems like a world apart from the valley below.
       
Baskets of fresh mushrooms with shiny orange caps and mushrooms resembling coral, trumpets, cauliflower, and flower petals beckoned. And the aroma of grilled mushrooms, mushroom tamales, mushroom empanadas, and chile relleno stuffed with mushrooms stimulated the appetite.
There were dried mushrooms in bulk and in little cellophane baggies for purchase.
Mushrooms aren’t the only produce the region is known for — delicious apples and new potatoes are grown in these chilly mountains.
And, there there were local crafts for sale and a couple of kinds of mezcal to taste (and buy).
I came home with apples, potatoes, a bottle of the lovely A Medios Chiles mezcal made from the wild Jabalí agave, and 30 grams of dried mushrooms. While the mushrooms weren’t of the “magic” variety, the experience certainly was!
“Mushrooms were the roses in the garden of that unseen world, because the real mushroom plant was underground. The parts you could see – what most people called a mushroom – was just a brief apparition. A cloud flower.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood

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It’s Guelaguetza time in Oaxaca… so many festivals, parades, and food festivals. However, not so much time to blog.

July 18, 2019 – Olga Cabrera (Tierra del Sol) and Carina Santiago (Tierra Antigua) following their mole demonstrations.

July 19, 2019 – Festival del los Moles at the Jardín Etnobotánico.

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July 20, 2019 – Mariachi concert at Hotel Las Golandrinas, in honor of founders, Señor and Señora Velasco.

July 20, 2019 – Gathering, in the rain, of one of the China Oaxaca delegations at the Guelaguetza desfile.

July 21, 2019 – Feria Regional de Hongos Silvestres (wild mushroom festival) in Cuajimoloyas, in the Sierra Norte.

So much fun and so much more to do! Stay tuned…

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I returned to Teotitlán del Valle late Friday afternoon to view the convite of of unmarried women of the village and Grupo de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 danzantes (dancers) process through town — an invitation to further festivities honoring La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Though that wasn’t the only activity on my agenda; I would be spending the weekend with my amiga K, who was house-sitting for another amiga N. It would be a weekend in the countryside for this city gal!

I arrived late afternoon on Friday…

Canastas (baskets) lined up in front awaiting the procession under the gaze of the sacred mountain, El Picacho.

Grupo de Promesa de la Danza de Pluma 2019-21 arriving in front of the church, waiting to process.

Guys who launch the cohetes (all bang, no bling rockets) announcing the procession.

The convite begins — unmarried women of Teotitlán del Valle carrying the aforementioned canastas (baskets).

After the convite, an early evening encounter with a burro as mi amiga K and I walked to Restaurante y Galería Tierra Antigua .

Saturday…

Early morning view of the campo in Teotitlán del Valle.

Breakfast gathering of cocineras (cooks) and friends in the cocina de humo at Restaurante y Galería Tierra Antigua.

Encounter with a bull while walking back to the house.

Returning to the church to watch the late afternoon performance of the Danza de la Pluma.

Following the Danza de la Pluma, late night watching the toritos, castillo, and fireworks in front of the church.

Sunday…

During mass, shopping baskets parked in the church atrium.

Off to market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros. The upside down St. Peter encountered in the Señor de Tlacolula chapel.

Taekwondo competition in front of the municipal buildings in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Returning to Teotitlán del Valle, still life in front of the sacred mountain, El Picacho, seen while walking back to the church in the afternoon.

Final Danza de la Pluma performance in the church atrium at the 2019 Fiesta de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

It was a lively, delicious, and exhausting weekend. Did I mention, I walked an average of 4.5 miles per day?  Wouldn’t have missed it for the world! Muchisimas gracias to all who made it an unforgettable weekend!

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I returned to Casita Colibrí early Friday morning, weary from Aeromexico’s red eye from San Francisco.  After emptying the suitcases, bed beckoned!  No need to drag myself to the market, as neighbor and gal pal, K, welcomed me home with a delicious dinner.  Saturday, was spent putting things away, tending to the garden, and raiding the freezer for a tamal to go along with leftover salad from the night before.  However by Sunday I was recovered enough to accompany K on her weekly pilgrimage to market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Doña Aurelia, cocinera at her Puesto de Barbacoa. A yummy way to begin the day!

A stop in the Capilla del Señor de Tlacolula of the Parroquia de la Virgen de la Asunción for a reminder from Señor de la Paciencia (Lord of Patience).

The bell tower of the Parroquia de la Virgen de la Asuncón, Tlacolula de Matamoros.  It always pays to look up.

“The sense of responsibility is latent in the human being, with sensitivity we should look for it from childhood, channel it in adolescence, perfect it in the youth to understand and better serve society.”

Far from the madding crowd in search of a baño.

Aprons on and baskets in hand: Marketing on market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

What better way to get back into the swing of things in Oaxaca.  Chicken soup for this soul!  Gracias a mi amiga.

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Home soon and looking forward to returning to these sights…

View of Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

Metates and garlic — market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Monos and marmotas waiting for a wedding at Santa Domingo de Guzmán.

Oaxaca, I love you.

 

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