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Jardín Conzatti fauna

Real and imagined, fauna are alive and well in the city.

Hummingbirds, squirrels, and butterflies live, play, and love among the trees, dogs, humans, and on a utility box in Jardín Conzatti.

I love juxtaposition

I’m always trying to find ‘connections’ between things. That art is the juxtaposition of a lot of things that seem unrelated but add up to something recognizable. –Pat Metheny

The taste for quotations (and for the juxtaposition of incongruous quotations) is a Surrealist taste. –Susan Sontag

I get the same charge from juxtaposition of colors as I do from juxtaposition of chords. –Joni Mitchell

Creativity is that marvelous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition. –Max Ernst

I love the juxtaposition of a sweet little blouse with a motocross look. –Melissa McCarthy

Cities are about juxtaposition. In Florence, classical buildings sit against medieval buildings. It’s that contrast we like. –Richard Rogers

Thankful on the rooftop

What an unusual yet lovely (and delicious) Thanksgiving 2020 was.

Cranberry/pear relish bubbling on the stove.

After the fact, I realized this was only the second Thanksgiving I’ve shared with just one other person. Childhood dinners were filled with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even the Thanksgiving I spent in Denmark, the international school I attended prepared a turkey with all the fixin’s dinner — to the delight of the American students and curiosity of the other international students and Danes. Once married, we hosted or joined family and/or friends — and that has been my tradition ever since, even here in Oaxaca.

Sage dressing with whole wheat bread, celery, onions, and carrots.

Keeping Covid-19 protocols in mind, Kalisa, my (now famous) friend, neighbor, and cocinera extraordinaire and I decided we would persevere in an attempt to carry on with an albeit downsized celebration of just the two of us on my terrace. For the main course, we ruled out turkey, discarded chicken as not special, and settled on repeating the success of rabbit — concluding it would go well with my cranberry/pear relish and sage dressing. And, who knows? The indigenous peoples may have proffered rabbit to the starving and clueless foreigners.

Roast rabbit à la Kalisa.

So, we made our own pilgrimage up to Pochote Mercado Orgánico in Colonia Reforma to again purchase the criollo rabbit Kalisa would be preparing. A couple of days later, at Mercado IV Centenario, we happened upon camotes/sweet potatoes to be used for her “pumpkin” cheesecake. Unlike my first several Thanksgivings here, when bags of fresh cranberries could only be found at Mercado Hidalgo, I was able to purchase all the ingredients for my cranberry/pear relish at Mercado Benito Juárez. As for the dressing, I still had some Bell’s Seasoning brought from the USA a couple of years ago, and the rest was easily found. Looking at our menu, it occurred to me that perhaps we needed something green. That was easily solved with some baby lettuce from my garden (alas, no photo).

Pumpkin cheesecake with caramel topping.

And so it was, a Thanksgiving where two friends gave thanks for our very present blessings — friendship, health, abundance, and being welcomed into the beautiful and loving arms of Oaxaca.

Two friends giving thanks on a rooftop terrace in Oaxaca.

By the way, the place settings were for photo-op purposes only. We retired with filled plates and glasses of wine to the south end of the terrace where we could sit and eat 8 feet apart.

Game. Pizza. Fowl.

It’s been a whole month since I’ve delved into the food porn photo archive. With Thanksgiving only two days away, what better time for a few of my dinners from the past ten days.

Rabbit served on a bed of fettuccine.
Eggplant, anchovy, and goat cheese pizza topped with arugula.
Roasted chicken served with tortillas (of course), guacamole, pickled red onions, and green salsa.

And, what better time to express my gratitude for having such a great and talented friend and neighbor who delights in sharing her culinary artistry with others. ¡Muchisimas gracias Kalisa!

Theme going on

The walls of Oaxaca have a theme going on…

I think they have been watching too much “el norte” news!

Intangible cultural heritage

Yesterday, Mexico celebrated the National Day of Mexican Gastronomy and the tenth anniversary of traditional Mexican cuisine being designated by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Due to pandemic restrictions, in the absence of being able to savor the sights, smells, and flavors of a food festival, I honor the day with a photo of one of Oaxaca’s ubiquitous street food stalls.

This one, at the corner of Matamoros and García Vigil, always has customers — big and little, seated and standing, human and canine.

Day of the Dead ofrendas

Living and being in Oaxaca during the Días de los Muertos is hard to put into words. There is so much to experience and to think about. It is the ofrendas that touch me the most — they are all so personal, even those on display to the public. And, one of the unexpected delights of tracking down the chairs of the Silla Calavera project, was to see the Day of the Dead ofrendas constructed by the hotels and restaurants also displaying the chairs.

Casa Antica, Av. José María Morelos.
Plaza Las Vírgenes, Calle Labastida. Only very occasionally do fires break out!
Utilitario Mexicano, Mariano Matamoros.
La Casa de las Artesanías, Mariano Matamoros.
Hotel Casa Garay, Calle Miguel Cabrera.
On the Zócalo, ofrenda for Tomás Martínez, a leader of the Frente Popular Revolucionario.
La Mano Mágica, Calle Macedonio Alcalá. Photo of Arnulfo Mendoza on the top right. I can’t believe it’s been 6-1/2 years since his passing.
Hotel Trébol, Ricardo Flores Magón.
Hotel Casa Vertiz, Calle Reforma.
Hotel Marqués Del Valle, bordering the Zócalo.
Jardín Sócrates neveria next to Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Soledad.

Sensory overload challenges the limits of heart and mind and, especially this year, my emotions ran the gamut from extreme exhilaration to quiet joy to being moved to tears.

To women everywhere

The stencil, seen on Sunday’s walk along Av. José María Morelos, may be of women from San Miguel del Valle, but the words speak to women everywhere.

We are the struggles won by our ancestors.

In my effort to “step away” from the US election news, I went in search of the fourteen chairs of the “Silla Calavera” project scattered throughout restaurants and hotels in the city — a creative and calorie-burning distraction!

Artist: Juana Vicente Ortega Fuentes, decorative painter; displayed at Pitiona restaurant. Title: Levantada de Cruz (Raised Cross).
Artist: Fabián Pacheco, metalwork artisan; displayed at Gozobi restaurant. Title: Tradición y costumbre (Tradition and practice).
Artist: Francisca Calvo, wooden alebrije artisan; displayed at Pitiona restaurant. Title: Platicando sobre las costumbres de mi pueblo (Talking about customs of my people).
Artist: Jesús Sosa Calvo, wooden alebrije artisan; displayed at Hotel Parador. Title: Como ves te ves (As you see you see).

The project arose as an idea to spread the traditions of Oaxaca through artistic creations using an object of daily life — a comforting and comfortable seat, where each artist, through their creativity and respect for the dead, exposes the face of a skull.

Artists: Taller de Barro Zamani, polychrome clay artisans; displayed at Terranova restaurant. Title: Muertos que viven (The dead who live).
Artists: Erika Nancy Carrillo Carreño, Montserrat Mandujano, Eliézer Vargas García, artesanas de la Costa oaxaqueña; displayed at Hotel Trébol. Title: Colores de vida y muerte (Colors of life and death).
Artist: Colectivo Zegache (Alejandro Mendoza, Eleuteria Pacheco Mendoza, Edith Santo Méndez, Nancy Martínez Gaspar); displayed at Hotel Casa Garay. Title: Dxi tu gúl (Zapotec, unable to translate).
Artist: Meletón Lazo, surrealist artist; displayed at Hotel Ferri. Title: Flor de piña (Pineapple flower dance).

Unfortunately, this next chair had been disassembled by the time I arrived, but here, in two parts, the back and the seat.

Artist: Gabriel Sosa, wooden alebrije artisan; seat back at Los Danzantes restaurant. Title: Fiesta de colores (Festival of colors).
Artist: Gabriel Sosa, wooden alebrije artisan; seat at Los Danzantes restaurant. Title: Fiesta de colores (Festival of colors).

The artisans, I think with great success, sought to capture and share their roots, customs, and traditions.

Artist: Marcos Lucero, painter; displayed at Hotel Santa Rosa. Title: Bii tugul/Viento de muertos (Wind of the dead).
Artist: Juan Lazo, landscape painter; displayed at El Asador Vasco restaurant. Title: La muerte es mas vida (Death is life).
Artists: Paulino Ramirez and Eduardo Ramirez, painting and wooden alebrijes; displayed at Restaurant Casa Palmeras. Title: La última luz (The last light).
Artist: Alfonso Canseco Peligro, graphic artist; displayed at La Mala restaurant. Title: Siéntate, vamos a tomar (Sit down and let’s drink).
Artists: Luis Lazo and family, textile artists; displayed at Hotel Casa Vertiz. Title: Ciclo de vida (Cycle of life).

Yesterday, the chairs were removed from the restaurants and hotels. Tonight, with an inaugural celebration, they went on display at ARIPO until November 15, 2020. For purchase after that date, contact Matlacihua Arte or individual artists.

For my skeleton loving grandson, the 2020 skeletons, catrinas, and catrines hanging around Oaxaca.

Seen on the sidewalks, businesses, and balconies of Oaxaca on November 1 and 2 — during these days we welcome and celebrate with our departed.

Even the recycling bins in Oaxaca are getting into the spirit of Day of the Dead.

Calle Independencia side of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
In front of the Iglesia de Guadalupe
Zócalo side of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

And cempasúchil (marigolds) to beckon the difuntos (departed), plastic bottles, and tin cans.

Invitation to my departed

These are strange days leading up to our departed coming to call while we are living in the time of Covid-19. With public activities canceled, thus no nightly calendas (parades) filling the streets and our ears, and fewer tourists, Oaxaca is experiencing more peace and tranquility this Day of the Dead season — albeit laced with a touch of melancholy and anxiety.

Masked and shielded, I braved the mostly local crowds south of the zócalo, to shop for cempasuchil (marigolds), cresta de gallo (cockscomb), apples, mandarin oranges, peanuts and pecans, chocolate, and pan de muertos (Day of the Dead bread) — but it wasn’t nearly as much fun as years past.

However, the joy returned when I unwrapped photographs of my parents, grandparents, and other loved ones; selected some of their favorite things to put on my ofrenda; placed the fruit, nuts, bread, and chocolate among the photos; positioned candles, flowers, and incense; and poured my departed a copita (little cup) of water and another of mezcal — all to beckon, entertain, and sustain them during their brief stay.

I’m looking forward to a more personal and reflective Día de Muertos this year.

Marigolds for Muertos

Cempasúchil (marigolds), the flowers synonymous with Day of the Dead, have begun appearing throughout the city. Alas, not in the quantity we are used to.

As I have written previously, because of the acceleration of the Covid-19 cases, the City of Oaxaca will not permit public Day of the Dead celebrations and events.

So it’s a subdued Día de Muertos season we are living.

While the yellows and oranges of the marigolds seem to mirror the semáforo amarillo and naranja (yellow and orange Covid-19 traffic lights) we are bouncing between, they brighten the days and impart a familiar and welcome scent.

Then there was pozole

Last night’s socially distanced dining on the terrace featured pozole!

Bowls of pozole with garnishes of avocado, cilantro with onions, cabbage, salsa, limes, and peppers waiting to be added.

My kind of comfort food. Thanks, Kalisa!

More terrace fine dining

Given that the socially distanced dining on the terrace ice was broken earlier in the month, the entertaining continued with the arrival of L, my BFF since we were twelve. Kalisa — neighbor, friend, and cocinera extraordinaria – rose to the occasion and the three of us have been eating extremely well.

October 6, 2020 – Chicken and black bean memelas, huitlachoche and corn empanadas, salsas, and sautéed squash.
October 8, 2020 – Heirloom tomatoes, pickled onions, and queso fresco, accompanied by Parmesan Crisps hand carried from California.
October 8, 2020 – Guacamole, pickled onions, salsas, and peanuts.
October 8, 2020 – Tostadas of chicken and pork with spinach and guacamole.
October 14, 2020 – Chicken mole accompanied by rice and black beans.
October 18, 2020 – Salad of cucumber, onion, and peppers.
October 18, 2020 – Squash, fresh basil, huitlacoche, and cheese lasagna.

Lest you be concerned about the intervening dinners, the quantities were huge, doggie bags were taken back to our respective apartments, and leftovers continue to be happily consumed.

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