Welcome to the Adventure

Living in Mexico is often indescribable...you just have to live here. I have been journaling experiences for a while, and I hope you can get a feel for stupid-ass gringos trying to get it. But I am still here, and that says a lot for those of us sticking it out, as the payback is what makes life so good here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Birds, autumn in Mexico, and street food

The parrots are in full force here this week in the neighborhood. They hang out for a while and then move on to better places to eat, but when they are here, they let us know it. They are loud and chatty and fun to watch. In June and July, there was a flock of about 20, now with the babies and new recruits I'd say there were about 100. They take over entire trees and talk, talk, talk. They talk while they are flying, they talk while they are resting. Loud. I told Larry it feels like we live in an aviary sometimes, between the parrots and the chatty cockatiel behind us. This morning we woke to the cocatiel imitating, we think, a long lost dog friend. The bark sounds like one of those little dogs that bark all the time. Guests always ask where's the dog, we laugh. Then it moves on to a crying baby, whistles a little tune that is a fragment of some sailor-type song, and then on to imitating all the other birds around here, and especially the parrots. The cockatiel loves when the birds come.....

It is already turning orange and brown, but the flowers are blooming. Two weeks without rain and Mexico moves into instant autumn, or I should say summer. Really only two seasons here. Leaves are already starting to drop. But the flowers are blooming like crazy, and the colors are brilliant!

But the weather is still perfect. Had friends for dinner last night. We sat out on the patio watching the sunset, listening to the birds (parrots) quieting down, and the frog/cricket population picking it up a notch. Miss Maggy (our guest cat) snagged a bat, and chased down a toad..our usual evenings. Change of weather funny enough lead to a conversation about food. Street food to be specific, as our guests being from the Isthmus, filled us in on the how some of our favorites are made.

One of the truly great treats on the street are the coconut tortillas. They are amazing. Crunchy, slightly sweet, coconut flavor, so good with coffee. Claudio explained that they are cooked underground, like in a tandoori oven for those of you who know Indian food. They slap the tortillas on the wall of a ceramic oven, in the ground, and are cooked until crisp and slightly browned. Naturally as we were talking about them, we had to have one, even after a grilled steak dinner, with pear tart for dessert, out came the tortillas...that good. Then we switched to moletes.....

Moletes here are amazing. They are prepared by mashing plantains, cooking them, forming them into a sort of meatball shape, and stuffed either with a salty cheese (our favorite) or meat/salsa, then deep fried. We buy them off the women on the streets, still hot, and oh so delicious. Claudio's wife, Adriana, is an excellent cook, and has promised to lead me to the proper method of cooking them perfectly. But that first bite, slightly sweet, slightly salty, is unbelievable.

And speaking of seasons, it is elote (corn) season now. For fans of corn on a stick, dipped in mayonnaise, sprinkled with local cheese, and chile, it is heaven. I held out for two years on this street food before I would eat it. The mayonnaise ingredient had me worried. But last Day of the Dead, up at the pantheon, a vendor was selling them, and I gave in, had to try it, illness be damned. Oh my G!!! It is soooo good. Larry still refuses to go there. He waited for me to get sick after I ate it, and nothing happened. Everybody eats them though. Whole streets of people walking around with corn on a stick, glee in their faces.

We sometimes buy our cheese on the street here as well. The local Oaxacan cheese is a bit like mozzarella cheese, sold in a big ball, and pulls apart like string cheese. Mild, slightly salty, it is so good in quesadillas and tlayudas (another street food treat, a large tortilla, piled with beans, cheese, and other things depending on the vendor). Friends here are doing cooking/food classes for the tourists who come on the cruise ships, and one of their classes is local cheeses paired with local mezcals. Now there's a class. Pairing cheese and mezcal. Sounds vaguely familiar, doesn’t it (for those of you in wine country). Mezcal is a story unto itself, and we have tasted a lot... When Will and Dan were here at beginning of summer, we did a bit of tasting and found another mezcal called Tobola...still made from maguey (different from Tequila and usual mezcal cactus, but a maguey), that now has turned into a favorite. Everyone has a favorite mezcal though, and like wineries, there are 100's of versions (as I have written before, the mezcal road to Oaxaca is full of “tasting” rooms).

At any rate, we have come to appreciate the street food a lot more than restaurant food here. I don't think there is a bad cook to be found in Oaxaca, from tasting various vendor's food and accepting any invitation for dinner from a local. When we say this, locals laugh, and agree. Then they will tell us of another vendor who does tacos like you have never tasted.... and we are off to another foody moment....

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