FRIDA 01

Frida & Diego

When I was 15, my art teacher took our class to see a collective exhibition that included several of Frida Kahlo’s canvases. I had never seen such pure bold color, strength and fragility in any other paintings.

Ten years later, I moved to Mexico and I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to live “Fridaland.” But to my surprise, in the 70s, she was not well known by the majority of people in this country. They knew Diego Rivera’s work much better than hers.

I did not mind that, and I considered her my favorite “secret artist.” However, it wasn’t too long before the rest of the world took more interest in Frida, and since that time, her name has become even more illustrious than her husband’s.

In fact, Frida has become so famous that she is considered by many to be a commercialized cult figure. And yes, hundreds of books have been written about her, movies have been made, and songs have been composed about her life. Reproductions of her self-portraits, her jewelry and her clothing are for sale in boutiques all over the country. But I don’t care. In fact, I love Frida memorabilia.

Jorge is just as keen as I am, and on August 28th – Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s wedding anniversary – we prepare Chiles en Nogada to commemorate the day.

It is our favorite Mexican fiesta of the year.

As I mentioned in a recent post, they are a lot of work, and during the process, they don’t look too special.

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But the end result is wonderful to the eye and the taste buds.

Delicious!
Delicious!
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Markets

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a strong advocate of buying locally. I think it is so important that we support the Merida owned businesses, artists and other initiatives.

But today, I had an encounter that almost made me change my tune!

Jorge and I got in our car, nice and early, for our weekly trek to the Santiago Market. We like to buy fruits and vegetables, flowers and sometimes, a tasty torta de cochinita or some tacos de mariscos. However, today, I bought my flowers and we hightailed out of there as fast as we could… When my vendor complained that sales are way down, I couldn’t resist telling her: “The truth is… no one can stand being here. They prefer to shop in clean places.”

Her face fell. “Es verdad,” she said.

The meat section was so foul smelling that Jorge actually gagged. The smell of the bathrooms – located across the aisle – was equally putrid. Where are the health department inspectors? They are so fussy about some small things – like restaurant liquor licenses – but then they completely ignore BIG things – like sanitation!

Markets are a big tourism attraction and an important resource for the community.

The city administration is giving their big annual report tomorrow, followed by a gala. I have attended before and will be going again… Some years they hand out “evaluation forms.” One is supposed to write a nice comment about the great job the city is doing, but I am going to mention my latest market experiences and I hope someone will take note, and do something to improve the situation.

EMMA 04

Where we grow up…

I’m thinking about childhood today.

When I was 3
In North Vancouver when I was 3

I spent mine in North Vancouver when the place was not much more than a village. We kids wandered all over the neighborhood and I know “security” was never a concern. For 5 cents, we could go to the matinee at the Tomahawk Theater. The seasons changed, but rain or shine, snow or sleet, we kids played outdoors. Of course, our favorite time of year was summer, when we could swim at the Mahon Public Pool and play outside until late – without coats.

Maggie and Carlos at the beach in winter-time
Maggie and Carlos at the beach in winter-time

My son and daughter grew up in tropical Merida, where it is hot and humid almost all the time. The first movie theater they remember was the Cine Fantasio, where they saw all the Disney movies – over and over again – and I enjoyed the AC. I thought swimming at the beach in January should amaze them, but they grew up with a year-round beach, and couldn’t understand why I thought it was such a big deal. However, the year we spent Christmas in Canada and they got to play in the snow – WOW – that they loved!

Emma in August
Emma in the Arctic in August

Now I have a granddaughter. She spent 6 months in sunny Merida but now she lives in the Arctic, where it sometimes snows in August. I wonder what her childhood outdoor play and entertainment memories will be?

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Guten Tag – Buen Día – Ramón

Today, I read a post advocating less diversity in our world. The author figures that all nations should be made up of people who look alike, think alike, share the same religion and language. And the countries should have tightly locked borders.

I wonder if this would be to keep “our kind” in, or “the other kind” out? Maybe both?

It amazes me, but there seems to be a growing number of folks who have allowed fear to fill their minds and fuel their rants.

To restore my serenity, I turned off the computer and thought about yesterday afternoon. To get away from the heat, Jorge and I had driven to the air-conditioned mall, figuring we’d watch a movie. We didn’t see anything too interesting, and so decided to try a film we knew little about: Guten Tag – Buen Día – Ramón. I figured we could leave if we didn’t like it. Actually we stayed until the last credit rolled off the screen.

The hero (in more ways than one) is Ramón, a seemingly jinxed kid from northern Mexico. His family is penniless, and he has tried five times to enter the US to find work. The local Mafioso is eager to employ him but that is not the life Ramón wants.

A friend, whose sister lives in Germany, suggests that Ramón go there to try his luck. So, when some cash unexpectedly falls into his hands, he seizes the opportunity and makes his way from the Durango dirt bowl to the pristine snow of Wiesbaden.

To put it mildly, Germany is not at all what he expects, but eventually he meets Ruth, a retired middle-aged woman, who helps him begin a new life.

The plot has all the elements needed for a super deluxe, extra-cheesy chick flick, but it is nothing of the sort. The writing is excellent, the actors are superb and the director is a genius. Indeed Guten Tag – Buen Día – Ramón has a powerful message – one that is the polar opposite to what I read on that blog today.

You need some Spanish to fully appreciate this film. Apparently, there is an English language version but it did not make its way to our theaters. The parts where German is spoken have Spanish subtitles.

But don’t let any linguistic limitations keep you away – I would have enjoyed the movie even if the audio had been turned off. As Ramón says to Ruth at one point, “I don’t understand your words, but I understand your smile.”

Enjoy the trailer:

Chiles en Nogada

Chiles en Nogada

It’s THAT time of year again… during August and in September, Mexicans savor one of the country’s most famous dishes: Chiles en Nogada (Chilies in Walnut Sauce.)

I post my recipe every year, and hope that some brave souls will give it a go!

I’ll be making Chiles en Nogada this week… how about you?

CHILES EN NOGADA

The Picadillo (Meat filling)

Saute 1 kilo of ground pork with:

1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Add salt and pepper to taste

When the meat is cooked, use a small molcajete (mortar and pestle) or coffee grinder to pulverize:
8 peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1/2 inch stick cinnamon

Add the ground spices to the meat mixture with:

2 heaping Tbsp blanched and slivered almonds
2 heaping Tbsp dried citrus fruit peel and salt to taste

Cut in tiny pieces:
1   1/2 pounds of tomatoes,
2 pears, cored, peeled and chopped
2 peaches, pitted, peeled and chopped

Add whole: 100 grams of raisins

Mix everything together

The Chilies:

Put  8 chiles poblanos (and you MUST use this type of chili) straight into a fairly high flame or under a broiler and let the skin blister and burn. Turn the chilies from time to time so they do not get overcooked or burn right through. Wrap the chilies in a plastic bag and leave them for about 20 minutes. (they will sweat and the skin will be easier to remove) Make a slit in the side of each chili and carefully remove the seeds and veins. Be careful to leave the top of the chili (the part around the base of the stem) intact. Rinse the chilies and pat them dry.

Stuff the chilies with the picadillo until they are well filled out. Set them aside on paper towels then put them in the fridge to chill (If you wish, they can be refrigerated until the next day)

 The Nogada (walnut sauce)

The day before you plan on eating the chilies, soak 2 cups of walnuts overnight in cold milk

On serving day:

Drain and pulverize the nuts, then blend them with:
1 small piece white bread without crust
1/4 lb queso fresco
1 1/2 cups cream
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
Large pinch of cinnamon

When the sauce is smooth, refrigerate it until it is cold.

 To Serve

Set the chilies on a plate and drizzle them with the walnut sauce. Then, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley leaves and pomegranate seeds.

You can accompany this dish with guacamole, rice and tortillas.

Note: Although the original recipe calls for walnuts, I often substitute pecans. The difference in flavor is there but barely.

Writing and Intercultural Living…

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