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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Even if you’re just going out for coffee, mask up!

A reminder from the shutters outside Café Brújula in Plaza Santo Domingo on Macedonio Alcalá. Artist: Mister D.

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This morning’s headline in NVI Noticias: Oaxaca revive pesadilla de los sismos en lo más álgido de la epidemia por COVID-19 (Oaxaca relives the nightmare of earthquakes in the height of the epidemic by COVID-19). I wasn’t in Oaxaca for the 8.1 earthquake September 7, 2017, so I don’t know what it felt like. However, I still have vivid memories of experiencing the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area. As scary as that one was, yesterday’s 7.5 temblor was definitely more violent and lasted longer.

The good news is I, my neighbors, and all my friends in Oaxaca are okay and the city sustained mostly minor damage. However, there is much devastation to roads, homes, and other structures closer to the epicenter near Huatulco. And, saddest of all, the death toll is now up to seven. For a more complete report, with dozens of photos, click on the article, Suman siete muertos por el terremoto.

Two months ago work stopped on the roof and bell tower of Templo de San José — due to virus restrictions on construction sites. This morning, workers returned to check out earthquake damage.

This, and the state of Oaxaca’s coronavirus statistics, like most of Mexico, continue to rise precipitously. And, unfortunately, many of the hospitals near the quake’s epicenter sustained damage. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Side by side statistics: June 19 and June 23. Grey=cases notified; green=negatives; orange=suspected; red=confirmed; turquoise=recovered; black=deaths

Oh, and did I mention, we have had massive rain storms the last two nights? We are all wondering what is next, locusts?

Yikes, look what I found on my screen door this morning! At least in Oaxaca, we know what to do with chapulines (grasshoppers) — toast them on a comal with lime and salt. They are a great source of protein. Yummm…

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Painted on the front of Catedral Restaurante, a message to Oaxaca food lovers…

When all is over, I will look for you and I will hug you so tight that we will forget time.
When all is over, I will need you more than ever.

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Sunday mornings have always been my favorite time to wander through the neighborhoods of Oaxaca. Traffic is light, sidewalks are mostly empty, and the city seems nestled under a blanket of tranquility. Thus, in these days of an abundance of alone-at-home time, a long peaceful walk with my neighbor (maintaining sana distancia/social distancing, of course) was just what the doctor ordered.

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Out the door and up the hill, we went.

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“Hola, buenos días” greetings were exchanged with the few people we encountered — many walking their dogs.

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Though we weren’t planning to eat, we stumbled on a lovely garden restaurant – Ancestral Cocina Tradicional — and couldn’t resist sitting down in their sun-dappled courtyard for a quesillo and huitlacoche quesadilla, washed down with a healthy jugo verde. Everything about the restaurant was done with care and attention — including being mindful of COVID-19 concerns.

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Emerging from the restaurant, we continued our ramble, admiring architecture, street art, and the beauty of dry season flowers.

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This Dama de Noche (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) stopped us in our tracks!

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After three hours, we returned to our homes feeling refreshed, appreciative of Oaxaca’s many gifts, and feeling like we can get through this — despite the puppet masters.

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Aguas, atole, aguardiente, cafe, chocolate, compuestos, destilados, pulque, tejate, tepache, and té, oh my! Those are only fraction of the 72 beverages (alcoholic and non) found in the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca and featured in the “hot off the press” book, Bebidas de Oaxaca. Authors, Salvador Cueva and Ricardo Bonilla spent a year traveling up and down and over and through the mountains, valleys, and coastal regions of this most diverse, both geographic and cultural, state.

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Ricardo Bonilla and Salvador Cueva.

They met the indigenous men and women whose families have handed down through countless generations the recipes for everyday and ceremonial beverages. Most of all they got to know, learn from, and appreciate the people and their traditions. A poem, composed and recited by Emma Méndez García from Huatla de Jiménez, expressed the pride and strength of the rich cultures of those who contributed their time, histories, and knowledge to the project.

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Emma Méndez García (Huautla de Jiménez) reciting the poem she wrote in honor of the occasion.

The relationship the authors developed with their subjects was obvious at Saturday afternoon’s book presentation at the gloriously dilapidated and magical Proyecto Murguia (site of the 2012 El Sueño de Elpis). They presented each of the cocineras and cocineros featured in the book with the book, a book bag, a mug, and much gratitude and appreciation.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Jovita López Cruz (Unión Nacional Zafra), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Carina Santiago (Teotitlán del Valle), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Catalina Chávez Lucas (Tlacolula de Matamoros), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Reyna Mendoza (Teotitlán del Valle), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Celia Florian (La Ciénega, Zimatlán), and Salvador Cueva.

Following the formal presentations, 20 of the beverages were free to sample and purchase directly from their makers.

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Mezcal from Graciela Ángeles Carreño (Santa Catarina Minas).

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Pinole prepared by Elisa León Pérez (Santa Catarina Ixtepeji).

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Estella serving Chocolateatole con cacao blanco by Carina Santiago (Teotitlán del Valle).

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Tepache con rojo by María Díaz Cortés and Juana Gallardo Jiménez (Santa María Tlahuitoltepec).

Bebidas de Oaxaca is available in Spanish and English and in hard and softbound editions. For information regarding purchasing the book, go to their website. Or, if you are in Oaxaca city, attend the book talk at La Jícara (Porfirio Díaz 1105) on Thursday evening, March 5, 2020 at 7:00 PM. A percentage of the sales of the book will go to the Bebidas de Oaxaca foundation to support the people and families who participated in the book.

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Valentine’s Day in Mexico is known as Día del amor y la amistad (Day of love and friendship) and I had the extremely good fortune to spend it in Teotitlán del Valle (one of my favorite places in the world) among friends at the thirtieth anniversary celebration of the restaurant, Tlamanalli.

Iconic Restaurant Tlamanalli tapete.

Special garlands of papel picado fluttered above the heads of the 150-200 invited guests, centerpieces of jicalpextles filled with handmade sugar flowers, papel picado flags, and marshmallows wrapped in colored tissue paper graced the tables, and each place setting included a commemorative menu.

Papel picado celebrating 30 years of Tlamanalli.

One of Teotitlán’s several bands was positioned just inside the door and played throughout the afternoon.

Musical entertainment to accompany the dining.

The open kitchen was a beehive of activity and, no doubt, had been for at least two weeks — in preparation for this auspicious anniversary.

Family working together in the kitchen.

Four courses honoring their Zapotec heritage were prepared with love and respect by world famous cocinera Abigail Mendoza Ruiz, her sisters Adelina, Marcelina, Maria Luisa, Rosario, Rufina, and her niece Diana.

Soups: Higadito de fandango, Flor de calabaza con quesadilla, and Garbanzo molido con tortillita.

Tamales: Chepil en totomoxtle, Mole amarillo con carne de conejo en hoja de milpa, and Frijol en totomoxtle.

Moles: Rojo con carne de gallina, Seguesa con lomo de puerco, and Negro con carne de guajolota.

Desserts: Nicuatolli de maiz azul con tinte de cochinilla, Flan Tlamanalli, Dulce de calabaza, Nieve de zapote negro, and Nieve de pétalos de rosa.

And, I got a bit of a chuckle when it was pointed out to me that it was the men in the family who were on washing and drying duty.

The men continued washing and drying throughout the day.

We were surprised we recognized so few of the attendees — only later discovering, thanks to this article, that many were dignitaries (not our usual crowd). However, we were more than delighted to have been seated at one of the tables in the section reserved for family members, several of whom we knew, and where conversations were in equal parts Spanish and Zapoteco, with only bits of English thrown into the mix — keeping us on our toes!

Commemorative jicalpextle centerpiece.

What an honor it was for us to be invited to share this special day with the Mendoza family — a day filled with love and friendship and very good food!

(For more photos and commentary, check out Chris’s blog post.)

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Looking in the rear view mirror at images from 2019. They bring fond memories of life in Oaxaca — ferias, festivals, food, and friends, not to mention exhibitions, random street scenes, and the unexpected at Casita Colibrí. They were also a reminder of many days and nights spent in Teotitlán del Valle this year.

January – San Juan Guelavía town hall.

February – Wall on Niños Heroes, remembering the Ayotzinapa 43.

March – Cactus flower on the Casita Colibrí terrace.

April – View from a gas station along Carretera Federal 175.

May – Construction assistance from the balcony of Casita Colibrí.

June – The tamales brigade at a 50th birthday fiesta in Teotitlán del Valle.

July – Newly made candles in Teotitlán del Valle.

August – Necklace from Monte Albán Tomb 7 exhibition at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca.

September – Convite during the Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María in Teotitlán del Valle.

October – Danza de la Pluma at Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario in Teotitlán del Valle.

November – Día de Muertos tamales in Teotitlán del Valle.

December – Nacimiento (nativity scene) in the Plaza de la Danza.

Many thanks to all my wonderful blog readers — for reading, for commenting, for sharing, for the opportunity to meet some of you, and for inspiring me to continue blogging from my rooftop terrace in Oaxaca. Wishing you all the very best in 2020!!!

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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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