Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Tibet Thing

Our friend Ninfa recently returned from a pilgrimage to Tibet. Already a keen observer of things, Ninfa seems to be in a heightened state of spiritual awareness.

At the ruins at Mitla outside Oaxaca, Ninfa was descending into one of the tombs when she noticed the earings being worn by another tourist. They were from Tibet. The two of them embraced like long lost friends, then struck up a long conversation about their experiences in Tibet. The other woman was Swiss and was beaming just as widely as Ninfa. We waited until they´d exchanged e-mail addresses and promised to stay in touch.

Another of Ninfa´s companions on the three-week stay in Tibet is a woman named Erika who lives in Puebla. Ninfa had mentioned the possibility of stopping in Puebla for mole with her friend Erika on the way back to Mexico City from Oaxaca. Yesterday in the morning there were phone calls. Then, as we neared Puebla more conversations on the cell phone as Ninfa tried to arrange a rendezvous with Erika.

Erika and her mother located us on the highway entering the city then led us into the historic centro. Erika was excited to be taking us to what she described as a teeny tiny fonda, or market eatery, that served only typical dishes and the most exquisite moles. But as it turned out, Erika's mother thought we might be better off at a small restaurant where the noise level would be lower and we would be able to talk.

After parking our vehicles, we followed Erika and her mother around a corner and through a small square that began to look more and more familiar to my wife and I. Finally we entered the Hotel Colonial and realized that this was the same hotel where we had stayed on our first visit to Puebla nine years ago.

The dining room is a perfect example of its type, a colonial courtyard inside the hotel with heavy, high-backed wooden chairs, neatly pressed white tablecloths and waiters in immaculate uniforms. We all chose the menu of the day, which led to a light vegetable soup with grated potatoes, a ´Hungarian' rice, a green salad with tuna (?) and finally a chicken quarter smothered in a black, shimmering mole.

Also on the table were condiment bowls of salsa and mole. I noticed that Erika spooned a generous helping of mole onto her rice, indicating that mole in these parts is eaten any time and with any thing. Erika confirmed that few people actually make their own mole any more. Most buy the paste in quantity at the market and add their own favorite ingredients, such as chocolate or, in her mother´s case, ground almonds, followed by chicken broth to loosen the paste and turn it into a sauce.

Erika and her mother were both fascinated to learn of our interest in pozoles red and green, as well as chilaquiles and of course mole. And after revealing the strange coincidence of finding ourselves back in the Hotel Colonial through Ninfa's chance encounter with another pilgrim in Tibet, we told the story of how, after making a large purchase of ceramics at one of the local workshops in Puebla nine years earlier, we had finished a meal at another restaurant only to find that our credit card company had put a hold on our purchases. We were forced to walk back to the Hotel Colonial to retrieve cash to cover our bill, followed the whole while by our waiter.

The mole on this occasion was as good as ever. And like clockwork, the clouds opened up shortly after 6 pm for the daily deluge. On our way out of Peubla, we realized there is not a lot of attention paid to storm drainage in Mexico. The streets were like rivers, with rushing water up to the axels and pedestrians cowering in the doorways...

1 comment:

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