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Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

The history of Guacamole is both short and long.

The Aztecs invented it.

History lesson over.

And since the Aztecs were happily living and eating guacamole in Mexico long before the Spanish swooped in on them in the 1500’s, Guacamole’s been around a long, long time.

Anyone who’s ever seen Guacamole turn brown and crusty at a party has reason to be afraid of it.  And let’s face it; the Avocado in its full fruit form is standoffish, even scary. Bumpy, green and black on the outside, it’s the bad apple of the fruit basket.  Unripe, they’re hard and horrible.  Overripe, they are the stuff of science fiction with the pale green flesh blighted with brown spots and stringy and the skin easily dented.

If an Avocado was a 5th grader, it would be the reason the teacher fears turning his/her back to the class.

And because of their look, Avocados are slighted.  Have you ever seen an avocado image on a slot machine? Cherries, apples, lemons, sure.  Avocados?  Never.

Nobody is the avocado of your eye.  You’ll never say, “She’s an avocado!” as a compliment.

English: A seedless avocado, or cuke, growing ...

Location: San Pablo Huitzo, Oaxaca, Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up in New York State so Avocados didn’t grow on trees, you know.  I knew about apples and pears. I understood strawberries and blueberries and berries of all persuasions.  I don’t remember when I first encountered the avocado but I know I was suspicious. Too wary to try it and I admit without any avocado knowledge, I was a hater.

Until a frostbite cold, stark and beautiful experience in Uyuni, Bolivia, brought me to the light.

Uyuni is possibly the ickiest city in Bolivia but also home to the largest salt flat in the world (Salar du Uyuni).  A salt lake covered much of Bolivia in Prehistoric times. Today, what remains is about 10,000 square kilometers of desolate, stunning salt desert.

Pre-warned about the ickiness of Uyuni, we booked a night bus from La Paz and planned a single day to see the flats, getting out-of-town that same night to head toward Tupiza (the town near where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are rumored to have met their maker).

I boarded the bus, my backpack deflated since I was wearing every possible layer.  Without heat on the bus  I was grateful when the combined body heat of the passengers warmed the air. The windows fogged but it didn’t matter since it was too dark to take in any view.

The trip lasted hours and hours and I was awake, sleep hard to latch on to, feeling the bus rumble on the road and feeling tortured by the sounds of snoring all around me.  Sleep eventually won out as the sun crept up on the horizon.  I drifted, only to jump up moments later when a drop of water fell on my forehead. Then another hit my nose and yet another dropped on my glasses and ran down the lens.

The windows were all closed and now streaked with water on the inside. The scent on the bus was Ode De Stale Locker Room and the ceiling was covered with droplets, waiting to pull away from the metal surface and fall on my face.

The breath we blew out during the night, transformed and collected on the ceiling was raining down on us.

I was trapped in a terrarium.

We weren’t even there yet and it was already icky. I was cold and worn through and really grossed out. And when we finally arrived, the driver parked and kept the bus doors locked with us inside. It wasn’t quite light and the streets were too dangerous to allow us to wander.

But it was all worth it.

Salar du Uyuni is isolated, unforgiving and beautiful. Just ask these guys:

It is also white crystals that run all the way up to the horizon.

We drove on it, walked on it and then ate it for lunch. Our guide, pulled white bread flour-dusted rolls from his pack, and with a jackknife, cut tomato and avocado into open rolls. Then he reached down, took a pinch of salt from the ground next to his boot, sprinkled it into the sandwich and handed it to me.

I ate two.

And I still remember that lunch as one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

The most spectacular moment of the day was sunset. The white of the salt bed held and reflected the colors of the sky and sometimes even seemed to be directing the show – as the bed turned pink, the sky followed.

I left Uyuni nourished, body and soul, by the experience and by the avocado.

I will never repeat the trip to Salar du Uyuni but I get to go back to the avocado over and over again.  I rarely slice it into a sandwich since my preferred avocado delivery system is Guacamole.

Aztecs believed Guacamole to be an aphrodisiac. I will leave you to test that theory on your own.  It clearly lights a pleasure center in my brain – I think if it as Guacrackole or Crackamole or I just think about it all the time.  Science today tells us the avocado is just plain good fat, good stuff, good for you.

Since Guacamole is avocado mixed with anything, recipes vary. I like the simple set up that lets the ingredients stand out.

My guacamole/guacrackole/crackamole recipe is:

  • 2 Avocados, mashed but chunky
  • 1 medium onion, white, chopped, about a cup
  • 1 medium tomato, juice and seeds removed, chopped
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Jalapeno to taste
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Liberal dash of love

– Mix but don’t mush!

– Eat fast so you don’t have to share!

And of course, have a margarita!

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I spent a month in Mexico.

Floating Band Xochimilco, Mexico City

Quetzalcoatl, in Teotihuacan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I explored the country, colors, culture and flavor of Mexico and printed the experience in my memory – a beautiful slide show I have the luxury of flipping through and sharing.  Cinco de Mayo brings the pictures out, literally and figuratively and since much of my Cinco de Mayo celebration is internal, I don’t have a lot of planning to take care of. One of my favorite Mexico memories is sitting in Plaza Garibaldi listening to dozens of mariachi bands play and watching limos pulled up, strike deals and whisk bands away to  gigs. The night was full of music and costume and joy and I was gifted with an amazing pick up line. A man told me, “You are very attractive because you’re a little fat.” That line was later topped by the man who told me that he wanted to be with  me because my nose isn’t too big and the next man who said he loved me because I reminded him of his horse. We can dwell on that mixed message all day. But instead –  Cinco Cinco de Mayo Celebration Ideas for procrastinators!

1. Geek out on history:  Beside the commercial pull of the holiday ( Google alerts advised me more than once that I better buy Cinco de Mayo supplies before they run out) there’s history behind the celebration.  Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day but a celebration of the Mexican victory over the French in The Battle of Puebla in 1862. The victory was short-lived as it gave Napoleon III a reason redouble his invasion efforts. But in a chaotic and uncertain time, it gave the people of Mexico something to feel good about and rally around. So along the theme of unity see #2.

2. Camp it Up: Grab your friends and family and decorate to the nines, Mexico style. When I was in San Miguel de Allende helping the family I lived with decorate for Easter, I went for perfection, biting my lip as I cut colored strips of paper to hang in the windows. My house mom looked at me with wide eyes and said “Nothing in Mexico is exact!” and then she cut the paper with crazy speed, making a multi-colored beautiful banner in minutes. So go for it. If you have kids, they’ll be all over it. If you don’t, you might enjoy decorating more if you add drinks. See #3.

3. Scarlet Margaritas:

I found this recipe on myrecipe.com and my independent panel of judges approve. The drinks are festive and a taste sensation. Win/Win. And a little home cooking (see Margarita Ice Cream and Margarita Cupcakes) can save you from dealing with #4.

4. Restaurant Roulette: Let’s face it, if you’re in a city whose populus embraces Cinco de Mayo, you must be creative and focused if you want restaurant Mexican food on the 5th.  In NYC, all my favorites are booked.  So the options – Try for a walk-in table. Go early, wear comfortable shoes and bring a snack because the bar seats might be full and there might be a wait. Try a lesser known, neighborhood joint. Or, be like me and try #5.

5. Flee:   Find a place that hasn’t gone loco for Cinco de Mayo. I’m heading to Maine and when I called the restaurant I want to try on Saturday night, they told me that they don’t take reservations, are open from 5PM – 9PM and on a Saturday night, the wait could be 40 minutes. I’m not sure if Cinco de Mayo crossed the mind of the person who took my call. And no, 9PM is not a typo – they really close that early. So I think post dinner, I’ll have my friends back to my place for #2 & #3.

Cinco de Mayo is knocking on your door!

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