Basta!

4 August 2009

(29 July 2009)  Those of you who know me will be shocked to read that I CANNOT EAT ANYTHING ELSE TODAY.  Yes, the bottomless pit has a floor.  Maybe it’s the heat.  Maybe it’s the approach of middle age.  No, it’s probably that today I attended a market tour/cooking class at Seasons of My Heart.  We visited the weekly market in the town of Etla, which our guide Yolanda told us is a largely Zapotec community.  I have been visiting various markets, but to go with someone in the know made a huge difference.  She explained which plants were purely medicinal and which were used in cooking, she pointed out the limestone still sold in order to process corn and make it usable for tortillas, she…well, let me just share some excerpts from the five pages of notes I took today, and that way I can return to reclining and digesting (regesting?).

  • 1st class chocolate: fermented in its own juice for 1 week.  2nd class not fermented, beans have defects
  • Canela=¨puro¨cinnamon.  Canelon= fake cinnamon, from Sri Lanka.  Both used in Mexico now.
  • Comal=big flat fireproof stone.  Want one!
  • Copal: from a copal tree.  Used for incense.
  • Poleo/”hierba de borracho”–used for hangovers
  • Rosemary and basil used for healing
  • Tamales tasted: black bean, epazote-squash-corn-parsley, raja-jalapeno-tomato, yellow mole, red mole, elote (sweet corn…yum!), dulce (with raisins, sugar, etc.)
  • The chickens are super yellow because they eat marigolds and alfalfa
  • Oaxacan cheeses: queso fresco, quesillo (stringy), recason (“recooked”, very mild and soft/crumbly)
  • Helados/nieves (ice creams/ices) tasted: cherimoya, lime, chocolate, burnt milk, tuna (prickly pear?), pecan
  • Tejate: prehispanic drink made in an olla (big earthenware bowl) with chocolate, rosita flowers…

And that was just the market tour.  After that, we were driven to a lovely ranch with a huge kitchen and dining area, where we were greeted by chef Susana, who proceeded to give us a short lecture and explanation of the menu del dia, accompanied by even more tastings.  We each chose one dish to learn and prepare for our five course meal.  I selected tetelas, little bean-filled triangles grilled on a comal.  Forming them was remarkably similar making hamantaschen, so I was right at home, though I had to restrain myself from adding apricot jam.  The best part was making the salsa, which required roasting chiles and tomatoes on the comal, and then using a molcajete (see pic) to grind and blend the ingredients.  I am bringing a molcajete home, though I have no idea how, since it weighs about twenty pounds and I am already at my limit.

Molcajete

A few more excerpts from my notes:

  • Can´t take roots back to US!
  • El chiste (the joke?!)/el punto: the point of being perfectly cooked
  • Salinas de Marquez: sea salt made on the isthmus in Oaxaca
  • Chile in the eye?  Put salt under your tongue.  Chile on your hands?  Wash hands with chopped tomato and then with soap.
  • The Florentine Codices: 14 volumes about everything in the new world (according to who?)
  • tlamole=native word that is origin of mole
  • 7 moles of Oaxaca: amarillo, negro, verde, mancha manteles (“tablecloth stainer”), chichilo…que mas?  almendrada? 

In case you´re wondering, the seven moles of Oaxaca are described here.  I was missing coloradito and rojo. 

After a couple hours of preparation, beer and photography, we sat down to enjoy tetelas with salsa, garlic and squash blossom soup, salad, chicken with mole and chocolate cake with prickly pear sauce.  And mezcal.  And, of course, tortillas.  A Mexican meal without corn tortillas is like…well, it may just be beyond the power of metaphor.

Cooking tetelas on a comal

Cooking tetelas on a comal

Chicken cubierto en mole!

Chicken cubierto en mole!

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4 Responses to “Basta!”

  1. Wish I were there! Sounds fascinating!

  2. Lauren said

    Yummmmm…having such nostalgia for Oaxaca and its food…oh — and tuna is cactus fruit. Is that the same as prickly pear?

    • seekashadow said

      Yes, prickly pear! I don’t know where I got cactus fruit. It’s entirely possible that after 5 weeks of Spanish, my grip on English is slipping! But cactus fruit has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

  3. Kate Reynolds said

    What a lovely recap of our market day/cooking class! And I’m with you, it’s a rare day that I can’t find a little more room for food in my belly…and this was one of those special days

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