Speaking of tacos…

26 July 2009

It´s been the week of the taco here in Oaxaca.  First, my dueña (landlady) made me some delicious and simple quesillo tacos for lunch on Wednesday, accompanied by sauteed squash.  Thursday, my salsa teacher taught us a move he called “el taco,” which I don´t recommend on a full stomach.  Or if you weigh more than 100 pounds.  Or if you don´t want to reverse-hump your partner´s leg.  And Friday, my Spanish teacher taught us my favorite idiom so far: echarse un taco de ojo.  Word for word, it´s something like “to do a taco of the eye,” which loosely means to check out the eye candy.  ¡Que padre! (Cool!)

If you know any fun  food metaphors or idioms in Spanish, please reply and share!

I don´t get it, but I like it!

I don´t get it, but I like it!

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Save the elotes!

23 July 2009

Corn of the Americas--how many can you find at the market?

Corn of the Americas--how many can you find at the market?

Corn is corn, right?  Yellow, sweet, pops when you bite it?  Wrong!  I had reason to consider the wide variety of indigenous corn available in Oaxaca last night as I strolled around the zocalo savoring an elote.  For the unitiated, an elote is an ear of corn on a stick, spread with a little mayo (which I always get against all common sense) then sprinkled with grated cheese, chili powder and lime juice.  You can also order this combo off the cob and in a styrofoam cup–then they´re called esquites–but I prefer the more environmentally friendly and perhaps Freudian cob version.  This combo may sound gross in the abstract, so if you are in New York, get yourself to Jackson Heights (82nd Street on the 7, there´s a vendor just as you exit at the Northeast corner)  and just try it!  You can get some Indian sweets for dessert.

But to return to the point, the corn I had last night was more dense, less sweet, more starchy than typical U.S. corn on the cob.  The kernels were bigger and creamy white.  And here in Oaxaca each corn experience is different in terms of color, texture, density and sweetness.  Though I am no expert, I think this is because unlike in the U.S., Oaxaca has so far managed to avoid being completely overrun by one variety of genetically modified corn.  To be frank, I don´t want to write more about this publicly because I´m scared of “big agra” so I´ll just recommend you check out this article and if you can, rent King Corn, a documentary in which two young men discover they are mostly made of corn (thank you, American diet!), try to grow an acre of the stuff and do a lot of cool stop-frame animation with corn kernels.  Or if that seems like too much effort, just slow down and enjoy some corn on the cob…perhaps with a little lime juice.

Elotes!

Elotes!

Check out this factoid found in Karen Hursh Graber’s The Cuisine of Puebla, Cradle of Corn:  the word chalupa is the name of the boats Aztecs used to get around the canals of Tenochtitlan, their capital.  Cortes conquered and then razed the city in the early 1500s, using its site as the center of Ciudad de Mexico.  Ouch.

La Esquina

11 July 2009

I used to hate getting my hair cut.  Unlike my straight-haired compadres, I always looked worse after the ordeal, during which some hapless stylist would try to make everything “even”–a fool’s errand with curly hair.  Each curl has a mind of its own and is a different length each day depending on the weather or how it dries or how the stars are aligned.  All this changed a few years back when I discovered a salon dedicated to cutting curly hair.  Now after a haircut I look great, much better than I could possibly look my on my own with my ham-handed styling techniques (wash, apply gel to random parts of head, air dry in subway.) 

valentina

Totally addictive--try it on watermelon!

The icing on the cake is that after my haircuts I have a choice of three affordable snack joints.  After all, you can really work up an appetite sitting in a salon for two hours!  To be honest, I exist in a state of appetite workedupness, but that’s another story.  The choices are Despana (can someone teach me how to do a properly accented n here?), a Spanish food store with a little food counter in the back, Hampton Chutney Company, with its toothsome dosas, and La Esquina taqueria.  La Esquina seemed the best choice given the heat of the day and its open-air seating.  I was only going to order one taco, avocado and queso fresco, but then I noticed “cochinita pibil.”  I had just been reading that a “pib” is a hole in the ground in which meat is traditionally cooked in the Yucatan, and couldn’t resist trying this taco of pulled pork, shredded cabbage, habanero pickled onions and jalapeno.  Topped with Valentina hot sauce, of course!

Hello world!

6 July 2009

20 de noviembre mercado en Oaxaca

20 de noviembre mercado en Oaxaca

Though I have no idea how to blog, I do know how to write, and in my experience these tech-y things are often simplicity wrapped in obscure new language, so I’m just going to dive in and figure it out as I go.  I am preparing for a six week trip to Mexico, where I will (a) continue my plodding journey towards fluency in Spanish, (b) learn more about indigenous and colonial cultures’ interplay in Mexican cuisine and (c) do my best to avoid sunstroke.  Let’s just say my cast-iron stomach is probably better suited to Mexico than is my freckle-mottled skin.  Onward!