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As the name implies, the Feria del Tejate y el Tamal also featured tamales, along with yesterday’s blog post subject, Tejate, “Drink of the Gods”.

embroidered tea towels

Tamal vendors from San Andrés Huayapam stood behind long tables lined with tin buckets, giant pots, and baskets covered with colorfully embroidered towels hiding every kind of tamal imaginable.  There were mole negro (black mole) tamales wrapped in banana leaves…

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And… flor de calabaza (squash blossom), amarillo (yellow mole), verde (green mole), chapulín (grasshopper), frijol (bean), and chepil (a wild herb) wrapped and steamed in corn husks.  The local newspaper reports there were also fish and shrimp tamales.  Darn, I didn’t even see them!  Though not a surprise because it was quite a scene as crowds amassed in front of the vendors placing their orders.  It reminded me of the lyrics from the Neil Diamond song, Sweet Caroline:  Hands, touching hands, reaching out…

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I don’t really have a favorite — they are all so uniquely special.  However, because chichilo mole originated in San Andrés Huayapam and is only served on special occasions (weddings, christenings, harvesting of crops), I always make sure to bring home a couple.  Chichilo mole is 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.  They are so yummy!

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The prehispanic riches of tejate and tamales — a couple of reasons why Oaxaca is a food lovers paradise.

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I returned to Oaxaca late Sunday night, a little dazed and confused.  Of course, getting the dreaded “red light” at customs didn’t help.  All was fine, though the word “bagels” didn’t register until someone behind me offered the word “pan” (bread), I nodded my assent, and the customs officer smiled and nodded hers.  Whew!

First on Monday morning’s “to do” list was a trip to my local market, Mercado Sánchez Pascuas.  It felt SO good to be walking again, even up hill!  Reaching my destination, completely unbidden, an “expletive deleted” popped out.  How could I have forgotten?  The mercado was in the midst of a month and a half renovation!

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This is a three million peso project that includes replacement of the roof, waterproofing of the slab area, and structural maintenance.  Most of the approximately 100 stalls have been relocated to the patio in front of the Tinoco y Palacios entrance and the parking lot at the Porfirio Díaz entrance.  The latter, I was pleased to see, found room for the annual display of poinsettia.  I will return!

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But first and foremost, food!  I found (or they found me) my favorite vendors.  They may not know my name, but they recognized and called to their gringa customer, who they haven’t seen for almost a month.  Quesillo (Oaxaca string cheese), verduras (vegetables), fruta (fruit), tamales (mole, verde, amarillo, and rajas), and salsas (green and chipotle) were purchased.

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My two shopping bags filled, I headed back down the hill to home, sweet, Oaxaca home.  It’s great to be back!  The icing on the cake, especially coming on top of the sticker shock of el norte, was the above, plus 8 bottles of beer, came to a grand total of 335 pesos — that’s $16.42 (US dollars), at today’s exchange rate.

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Oaxacan cuisine, with its pre-Columbian roots, is a major attraction and the state’s tourism board and restaurant association continue to do their utmost to promote this cultural heritage during the Guelaguetza festivities.  Last Friday, set amidst the beauty and tranquility of the Jardín Etnobotánico, it was the opening degustación (sampling) for the Festival de los Moles.       P1110341This was my fourth time attending this buffet luncheon celebrating the 7 moles of Oaxaca.  And, like the previous years, my plate was swimming in moles and I came away sated and smiling!

P1110337 The Expo Feria del Queso y Quesillo in Reyes Etla beckoned on Saturday.  When we arrived, students from the Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca were giving a demonstration on the cheese making process.

P1110422Despite how tempting the various cheeses looked, I only managed tiny tastes of a couple; Alas, I was just too full from the previous day’s feast to fully appreciate them.

P1110426However, by Sunday, my mouth was watering for wild mushroom empanadas, but we were foiled in our attempt to head up into the mountains for the Feria Regional de los Hongos Silvestres in San Antonio Cuajimoloyas.  A bike race had closed the highway and several of the major streets getting into and out of my part of town and, as you can imagine, alternate routes were gridlocked.  Grrrr…  I think the Guelaguetza events committee needs to rethink the schedule and transportation logistics!

Lucky for me, the Plaza de la Danza is only a block and a half from Casita Colibrí and so, late this morning, there were no impediments to walking over to the 10th Annual Feria del Tejate y el Tamal.  The women from the municipality of San Andrés Huayapam (about 7 kilometers northeast of the city), were ready and waiting to welcome visitors with their ancient drink and variety of tamales.

P1120599 The leis the women (above) are wearing are made from Rosita de Cacao flowers, one of the ingredients in tejate.  For the uninitiated, tejate is a foamy, quite refreshing, and nutritious non-alcoholic pre-Columbian beverage made from nixtamal corn, mixed with tree ash, toasted cacao beans, mamey seeds, and Rosita de Cacao flowers and is called, “la bebida de los Dioses” (the drink of the Gods).

P1120562The tejateras of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras del Tejate prepared and served their tejate to inquiring novices and aficionados, alike.  The sale of tejate is the main economic activity in San Andrés Huayapam.

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And then there were the tamales… Pots and baskets, covered with hand embroidered and crocheted tea towels, were filled with steaming tamales nestled in corn husks — verde, chapulin, amarillo, frijol, dulce, rajas, chepil, and chichilo.  If you’ve never tasted tamales in Oaxaca, you are missing something!

P1120551Huayapam’s chichilo tamales are well-known and loved.  Chichilo is one of the seven moles of Oaxaca and it is only served on special occasions, such as weddings and christenings or when the crops have been harvested.  It is 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.  Of course, no tamal festival would be complete without mole tamales wrapped in banana leaves…

P1120557Today and tomorrow (July 22 & 23), if you are in Oaxaca, the Plaza de la Danza is THE happening place for tasting some delicious local specialties between 10:00 AM and 8:00 PM.  ¡Buen provecho!

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There is SO much going on in Oaxaca right now that the doing isn’t leaving much time for the writing!

However, I’ll give it a try with today’s Feria del Tejate y el Tamal.  The festival is part of an effort to preserve the food culture of the Zapotec.

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What, you may ask, is tejate?  It’s a frothy, refreshing, and nutritious non-alcoholic pre-Columbian beverage made from Nixtamal corn mixed with tree ash, toasted cacao beans, mamey seeds, and Rosita de Cacao flowers.  The sale of tejate is the main economic activitity in San Andrés Huayapam, located about 7 miles north of the city, and it is prepared and served by the tejateras of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras del Tejate.

Then, of course, there were the tamales — in tin buckets and giant pots covered in layers of tea towels, many colorfully embroidered.  So many vendors anxious to reach into the steaming buckets and so many varieties to choose from.  Where does one start?

Blogger buddy Chris recommended the Rajas and Verde from the gal “down at that end,” a taste of a friend’s Flor de Calabaza added that to the list, Mole is a given, and I had to find Chichilo.  The latter is one of the seven moles of Oaxaca, it is only served on special occasions, such as weddings and christenings, or when the crops have been harvested.  Chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves (the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor) give it its distinctive flavor.  After three unsuccessful attempts, eureka, I found it!  And so I returned home with five mouth-watering tamales.

Platter with 5 tamales

Speaking of ingredients like corn, cacao, chiles, and calabaza, for a graphic of foods Mexico gave to the world, click HERE.

¡Buen provecho!

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Oaxaca is a foodie paradise, in major part, because much of its cuisine draws on and honors its pre-Hispanic roots.  And, right now, during this time of Guelaguetza, various food and beverage ferias and festivals are also happening throughout the city and central valleys of Oaxaca.  Today, on the Plaza de la Danza, the Feria del Tejate y el Tamal, celebrating these specialties of San Andrés Huayapam, opened with the usual fanfare — music, monos, a marmota, and speeches.

Mono and marmota with "Huayapam" printed around it.

Present were a number of local dignitaries, including Evelyn Acosta López, the recently elected corn goddess, la Diosa Centéotl 2012, who presides over the Guelaguetza.

Evelin Acosta López seated.

Tejate is a foamy, refreshing, and nutritious non-alcoholic pre-Columbian beverage made from Nixtamal corn, mixed with tree ash, and toasted cacao beans, mamey seeds, and Rosita de Cacao flowers.

Rosita de Cacao blossoms.

One frequently sees tejate, served in these colorfully painted gourds, in the mercados of Oaxaca, at festivals, and street side stands.

Dried and hollowed-out gourds painted red with blue, yellow, and green decoration.

And, yes, it is safe to drink.  The water and ice that are added…

Woman with surgical mask pouring water from bucket into large pot of tejate

come from garrafons of “pure” water.

Stack of garafons (jugs) of pure water.

And, please, don’t be put off by the women, up to their elbows, mixing the ingredients.  Just think about it…  Chefs often use their hands when preparing food and arms are generally much cleaner than hands!  Believe me, these women take great pride in their expertise and product.

Hand and lower arm mixing tejate as water is added

Oh, right, there were also tamales!  Once I finished taking photos and drinking a tall cup of tejate, I made my day’s tamal purchase; chepil, chichilo, and mole.  Tomorrow, I will be returning for more.

Large galvanized aluminum bucket filled with a variety of tamales wrapped in corn husks and banana leaves.s

The Feria del Tejate y el Tamal runs today and tomorrow at the Plaza de la Danza, then moves up to San Andrés Huayapam for Saturday and Sunday.  You can find a little more information about the feria in last year’s blog post, Tejate and tamales.

And, sheesh, I still haven’t blogged about the cheese feria, mushroom feria, not to mention, the Feria Nacional del Mezcal — all of which I’ve attended during the past several days!

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And now we have the sixth annual Festival del Tejate y el Tamal de San Andrés Huayapam!  A large tent covers half of the Plaza de la Danza and over 100 “tejateras” who belong to the Unión de Mujeres Productoras del Tejate set up shop early this morning to sell refreshing cups of this pre-Hispanic beverage made from corn and cacao.

The festival is part of an effort to preserve the food culture of the Zapotec.  San Andrés Huayapam (aka, San Andrés Huayapan) is about 7 miles north of the city and its main economic activity is the sale of tejate.

Packages of tejate lined up on a table

The festival also features empanadas, hot off the comal…

Empanada being cooked on a comal

and six kinds of tamales:  Salsa verde, Amarillo, Rajas, Verde, Chichilo, and Tamal de mole.A variety of tamales in a metal bucket

I wanted them all!  However, for today’s comida, I opted for chichilo from this gal…

Woman serving tamales

Why chichilo?  The answer is, because I’ve never had that kind before!  Chichilo is one of the seven moles of Oaxaca and is only served on special occasions, such as weddings and christenings, or when the crops have been harvested.  Chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves, the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor, give it its distinctive flavor.

Woman reaching into steaming hot cauldron of tamales

She picked out a good one… it was delicious!

People sitting and eating at long tables.

¡Buen provecho!

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