Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hola from Mexico

The Slow Cook Very stealthfully boarded an early flight this morning and arrived in Mexico City just around lunch for some serious touring in Oaxaca.

Our friends Tom and Ninfa brought us home to a refreshingly simple lunch of cheese quesadillas in whole wheat tortillas. Then we drove to the local Thursday market where there was a mad jumble of vegetable hawking, tamale steaming, pork skin frying and tortilla stuffing already in progress.

Unfortunately I am not able to offer photos at this time. But imagine the aromas rising from at least a dozen grills with skirt steak, onions, chilies frying. A communal dining table half a block long was packed with diners.

Ninfa stopped for a long while to negotiate a purchase of some fresh tortillas to take home for dinner. The saleswoman insisted we sample her sweet tamales, then another fried savory of corn and cheese.

At another stand, a cook with a long pair of steel tongs was removing slabs of pork skin from a cauldron of bubbling fat. The fried skins, or chicharron, were laid in tall stacks on the sales table. A crush of shoppers snaked their way through the stalls. We stopped for fresh mangoes, nopales, big white potatoes. Everywhere people were pressed up against the food stands, or fondas, eating off their plates of fresh tortillas.

As we left, a marching brass band and drum broke into song. I am thrilled to be back in the land of zea mays, or maize or corn used every which way. Yes, the world has intruded on Mexico in a big way. Sam´s Club has arrived. But we had a discussion about the important differences between fresh corn masa and the mass produced dry product. You can taste the difference in the toritllas, said Ninfa.

In the evening, Tom made a first-class blender full of margarittas and Ninfa served a simple vegetable soup, followed by chicken in a peanut and tomato sauce. How many people know that dinner in Mexico would be unthinkable without soup? And where did that come from, I would like to know. Blue corn tortillas. Fresh, vey ripe mangoes for dessert.

Welcome to Mexico.

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