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Posts Tagged ‘Oaxacan Cuisine’

Okay so, this being a mom thing – I really love it. I mean, I love my kid more than life itself – he’s amazing. No, really, he’s AMAZING.  He comes to parties, art-openings, out to swank restaurants and just chills. I simply throw him in the sling and we’re off. I’ve chatted with numerous Mamas and have been told that this is not the norm for many two month olds, so I feel really lucky. Some people think I’m crazy to take him out with me wherever, whenever, passing him around like a hot potato – but he doesn’t make a fuss and it works for us.  As long as Maxwell is fed, changed and not in the same place or position for too long, he’s super tranquilo. I appreciate that he’s down to come out. And I know it won’t last forever, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

I know that in a few months, he’ll hit that super-Neanderthal baby stage, when he starts crawling and teething and putting everything on Earth in his mouth, and we may end up a bit more homebound, just because it’ll be easier.  And as much as I love going about my life and taking my kid along, I’m surprised at the ease with which I’ve come to appreciate the “stay at home mom” thing.  I can’t believe it, but I don’t mind being home as much as I thought I would.

Sometimes I’m the quintessential Mexican Mama. I spend entire days cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and listening to talk radio. I’ve officially come in contact with my inner Donna Reed. And it’s easy to do that here – in a place where being a mother is looked at as a given, a good thing, a priority.

Also, the fact that I’m a mom makes me feel more integrated, more part of the community here. Before, I was just a Gringa, an outsider, a tourist. Then when I was pregnant with a half-Mexican kid, I gained some more clout. Now, with a babe in a rebozo, strolling through the market, I realize that I’m part of a club, the not-so-secret society of Mexican Mothers.  I was thrilled to discover I was automatically a member of this club, but it turns out there’s some hazing involved. There are some very specific rules that MUST be followed, and unfortunately, I never got the handbook, so I get reminders, suggestions and advice in all forms at least once a day…

For instance, just in case I don’t know, or I might have forgotten, Oaxacan friends, family members and perfect strangers consistently remind me of the most basic thing: CUIDARLO! Take CARE of your baby!  How old is he? Wow! So little! Be careful with him on the street!  Then rules get more specific (sometimes insistent) often having to do with climate concerns. Cover him up! Put a hat on him. A winter hat! And don’t forget the socks! Isn’t he cold? (It’s 77 degrees.) Isn’t it a little late for him to be out? (It’s 7:45pm) Isn’t he a bit squished in that sling you have him in? (Noooo.) You’re not going to bring him into the KITCHEN, are you? (Huh?) If he’s exposed to the smell of food, he’ll get swollen glands! (Hmmm. I’ll take it into consideration.)  Where’s his red string? (Red string?) He needs a piece of red string on him to ward off the evil eye. (Oh, right! I’m on it.)  And are you drinking your Atole?

Let me pause here on the Atole bit. Rewind to when I was 8 months pregnant. Everyone and their mother told me that in order for my milk to come in, I should drink Atole. Atole is kind of like a cream corn soupy porridge, but without that perfect sweet-salt-cream combination. It’s this THICK, hot, grainy, maiz based beverage which I liken to the gruel that made Oliver Twist get out of his chair and demand “Food glorious Food.”   Sorry, ladies who love it. I know it’s supposed to increase your milk supply immensely, and I do feel bad about offending the Mexican corn goddess, but YUCK! And if I had a dime for how many women have told me that I need to drink Atole, I’d be living on a beachfront property in Puerto Escondido right about now. (By the way – my milk supply – out of control. I’m a fountain over here, no Atole necessary.)

Okay, glad I got all that out. Enough kvetching. I’ve known for a long time that Mexico, like everywhere, has its own idiosyncracies. Yes, it is sometimes challenging to be discovering motherhood a world away from my darling NYC, (where it really is freezing but nobody would dare tell me to cover up my kid). But it’s actually comforting to know that so many people are genuinely concerned for the well-being of my son. In the end, being in Oaxaca reminds me that the old adage – it takes a village to raise a child – is still in effect… I’m glad I’m here to witness and be a part of it.

Now, I know I’ve got some red string around here somewhere…

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Okay, I don´t know how to say this, but living in Brooklyn for the past nine years has turned me into an all out food snob.  And I’m realizing that being pregnant and living in Oaxaca is not helping me resolve this situation AT ALL.

It always starts out great.  Miguel and I get here and immediately load up on all of the wonderful Oaxacan delicacies we can´t get in NYC.  Real, bonafide Oaxacan mole.  Quesillo.  (I´ve probably eaten enough string cheese by now to stretch from here all the way back to Brooklyn.)  Oh, and don’t forget the Tlayudas.  Memelas. Estofado.  Potato filled Tacos.  Fresh tortillas hot off the comal.  Salsas.  Mmmmm salsas!  And all the fresh mango and avocado you can imagine.

comal ladiesAnd so it goes.  We enjoy the local cuisine.  We eat mom’s Mexican home cooking. We go for breakfasts at our favorite food stands where ladies serve the same things their grandmothers served before them, under the shade of the same old colonial chapels.  About a week goes by.  Then another week. Then another.  And then… I start craving stuff. Stuff I can’t get here.  

I can’t get just made, still hot sesame bagels with scallion cream cheese here. I can’t get Thai spring rolls with tamarind dipping sauce. I can’t get a mini-mountain of fresh wasabi to smother all over my crunchy inside out spicy tuna roll.  I can’t get Greek yogurt with honey. I can’t get Gloucester cheese with chive and onion. I can’t get vanilla rice milk or chocolate soy milk.

But here’s my real dilemma.  I can kind of get some of these things. I know, for example, that I can get veggie burgers and Soba Noodles at Sam’s Club. (Read: WALMART.)  And I can get Organic, Pesticide Free Milk and even some Organic Valley Cheddar Cheese at Chedraui, better known as Super Che.  Yes, Sam and Che (not uncle or Guevara ) but the two biggest box stores in Mexico, work their hardest every day to import and distribute all sorts of delightful products to the Mexican masses. 

me and samBut wait.  Are my cravings that important?  And how organic is my Organic Valley hunk of cheese if it has to travel like 5,000 miles to get to the store? Where do I draw the line? 

To me, just the fact that Sam’s Club/Walmart exists in Oaxaca is horrible. It’s contemporary colonialism at its worst. It cuts out all all the middle men and severely limits the abilities of smaller, local businesses and merchants to compete.  Also, we all know Walmart has a terrible track record when it comes to allowing employees the right to organize for a fair wage.

IMG_4612CHEdraui isn’t much better than Walmart, but there aren’t like, whole movements against the store, or extensive documentaries and books being written about the bad stuff they are doing in the world. Regardless, I know Chedraui is not good. And upon entering the Super Che Market in Puerto Escondido, instead of breathing a sigh of relief as I hit the wall of air-conditioning, I watched as my conscience and stomach battled it out…

Conscience:  “What the hell is wrong with you? Have you so quickly forgotten about the eco-cide?” 

Stomach:  “Oooohhh, but I see those super crunchy Asian rice crackers over there! And smoked salmon! Lox!  And didn’t you see that amazing infused olive oil in aisle three?  Let’s just go over to the dairy section…Come on…forget about the ecocide for a second…”

Conscience:  “Okay, ‘mother to be‘ if that’s what you want to teach your unborn kid.”

Stomach:  “I hate you.”

And so, my conscience wins and no matter how many foods I find that I love and want to break open and devour at that very moment, I can’t stop thinking about “the incident.”  Let me explain. 

You see, there’s a massive square block of Oaxacan land about five minutes from my house in Colonia Reforma. I walk by it all the time on my way to the center.  Some say it was a “natural reserve” where rare breeds of bird and other animals thrived for years.  Others say it was privately owned and subsequently sold to the Chedraui corporation.  Regardless, one night about a year ago, Chedraui’s owners decided that they would begin construction of yet another store using up the entire block. 

The weird part is, they started “construction” without notice to the locals, in the middle of the night.  They sent an army of men with chainsaws and bulldozers to clear the green swath of land as swiftly and “quietly” as possible.  You can imagine the chaos and scandal it caused in the community.  Here’s a video about the incident.  Of course after much outrage by various eco-groups, the city ordered that construction cease. By then, it was already too late. Hundreds of trees (some over 300 years old) were brought down. Here are some photos I took on my walk to the center recently. 

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Sigh. 

So you see my internal conflict.  With all this stuff in mind, I think I have no choice but to do my best at being a “localvore.”  I´ll keep shopping at the Pochote Organic Market and El Mercado de Abastos and some of the other specialty stores where I can get some of the stuff I want.  

My mom sent me a recipe for bagels the other day.  Maybe I´ll just have to make my own. But if anyone wants to send me and Miguel some Kashi Go Lean Crunch or a bottle of Pom Blueberry, please feel free.

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