Comida Mexicana de la Calle y Clase de Cocina

Like with some things, I can be kind of moody. Indeed, I do have a side of me that is a complete ‘FOOD SNOB’…I admit it…but, the admission doesn’t mean it will change…in this case…it will most likely get significantly worse!! With that said, I hold street food within the highest regard…wherever I find it…most of my life I have gravitated towards it…and, now I have even more evidence to support the ‘Bourdain in Me’!!!

But, when I travel…I am prone to find groceries…this evening I was ending a long day…and just decided to grab a few things for the late night munch…lo and behold…I came upon a Walmart…

Sigh…and yes…

Walmart is UBIQUITOUS…it is everywhere…like GOD…it is everywhere…so yes..that is a picture of me…coming out of Walmart…But!! This isn’t the U.S. Walmart 🙂 Love when a place doesn’t have plastic bags…you have to bring your own…or buy one…a certain awareness/consciousness/responsibility…something to be learned there…

And, walking out of the door…ahhh yes…the deliciousness of comida mexicana!!! Mexican Street Food – Everywhere…my friends…I will never see a taco the same way…

The scents, the flavors, the freshness!! I will say straight-up, have not been a fan of corn tortillas…but, here in Mexico City…primarily, it is what you find! I’m not complaining..in fact…we have a believer now!! 🙂 We aren’t talking about adding powder to browned meat with some water….we are talking about something coming alive in your mouth and stomach…street food – it is alive!! 🙂

And be clear…eateries, restaurants…little shops…food stands…a table on the side of a street, with a table cloth…and someone cooking food…just at the corner…ahhh…yes, everywhere it seems…

My wanderlust began as a child. My mother began my travel experiences early…domestic and international…hence, my affiliations with West Africa and exploring overall. One of those early experiences was to Spain…and I always remembered the Paella. Not a dish easily cooked, I’ve learned…thus, not easily found…but, allow me to share this please…

As we say, I’m gonna leave that right there….

This trip, I decided to do a few things different – ehhh, different circumstances call for different actions!! A few I will share…

With all the exceptional food, I decided to sign up for a cooking class!! Food is a big culture item…and I am a culture person…so, FOOD, yes…let us get with it…

I signed up with a group called Mexican Food Experiences/Tours – ‘Private Mexican Food Cooking Class with Food Market Visit’ … what an exceptional day…lasted about 5 hours…and we actually started off at the market, Jalisco Mercado, with Chef Eduardo!!!

No can you imagine walking through an open market with a Chef, learning how to pick vegetables and meats for your special dish…a professional trained chef (masters degree)? Well, now I CAN…and now I see…what he means when he says, “if everything isn’t fresh…then it isn’t Mexican food”….

In my hand you see an authentic ‘Gordita’…not the one from Taco Bell my friends…so, I’ve never had one from there…but, I can imagine it is a bit different!! Always interesting to me how when you travel overseas, some places, there seems to be an abundance of fresh juice stands…fresh squeezed papaya…’shaking my head’…

The spice man…that’s his business…he makes and sells spice mixes…and under the suggestion of our Chef…I went ahead and purchased…a nice amount of his ‘Mole’ powder to make … of course … ‘Mole Sauce’….yes…I am most pleased!!!

And of course…in the land of the tortillas…a packet of them will do nothing…so right in the market, there is tortilla production process/factory…so many get consumed that they have these little shops all over…where you have the option of purchasing the tortillas or the actual paste to then customize your own…of course we took the later course…all righteous and good…

Our cooking class, took place in a home…not in a restaurant! That was an exceptionally nice touch…a wonderful experience, to spend time inside an actual home…and to take our time…and be guided…

There was no Sous Chef today, so we…well, I wouldn’t say 2nd in command…more like there were a lot of opportunities for learning… 🙂 And, it was wonderful learning…to actually be taught how to cook an excellent 3 course meal…under the guidance of a master…I won’t remember it all…but, I did retain some parts…and, I am wealthier as a person for the experience…

And YES, in the skillet…beginnings of homemade salsa…customized indeed!!! We had to use razor blades to trim leaf veins, cut, slice, refine…and the other cooking stuff!!! One of my tasks was to knead the dough for the tortillas…

Yup!! The goof smile!! I own it!! Admittedly, I didn’t know it would be this much work!! I am reminded to never take for granted the effort that goes into this type of preparation! In fact, even with this class…what most comes to mind is the seasoning of ‘Love’!! My favorite seasoning!! When someone puts that much effort into cooking for us…there is a lot of the seasoning of ‘Love’ going in it!!

Three course meal!! Can we say ‘Truffle Tacos’…never knew there was such a thing…and then again…why would I have known!! What I do know is that this was such a wonderful experience…I even worked on my challenged social skills – successfully, I might add!!

Some would say, “it is just a cooking class”…and that is fine…for me, it was much more than that…I learned so much…but, also not to be diminished…I learned a lot about myself. Exceptional it is to me when we can go somewhere…and learn, then bring it home…home being within ourselves…for future joys and peace…to share with those who appreciate enough to value it as well…For some reason, the folks at ‘TSA’ had the same affinity as I did for my brick of ‘Mole’ powder 🙂

As I mentioned…beyond COVID, this past year was its own thing…but, between those lines…yes, I feel the moment coming when you are on the peak…feeling the wind, breathing fresh air, accomplishing…and you can see off into the distance so far that your eye sight fails…however, inside you know there is more beyond the horizon…add in the fruit cup…fresh, spicy, and alive…you get my drift… 🙂

Keep climbing…digging…Yes, I am feeling a calling…as in ‘Malik/Bourdain – Parts Unknown’ 🙂

“Para todas las personas que se nos han ido”

“For all the people who have left us…”

For quite some time I have been curious about Dias de los Muertos. Like many people, my own life has also experienced some significant loss coinciding with COVID. Soo..in some ways it is quite fitting that now is the time I am exploring this cultural dynamic. Such an interesting cultural shift…how the dead are included. And within this cultural dynamic are certainly some major shits that can be incorporated into our own lives.

Forthrightly and honestly, the size of Mexico City had slipped my mind! Around 22 million people…and more than NYC…yes, I was asleep on this gem!! While the Day of the Dead is recognized within Latin America, its strongest affiliation is in Mexico!! I am not trying to summarize the entire significance in this post…but, only to place a few highlights.

Historically, it is said that Dias de los Muertos is essentially a Latin custom that came about from a mix of Aztec rituals and the Spanish conquistadors (Catholicism). Since there were hundreds of tribes in Mexico during this time, I’ll also assume they made a contribution as well!

More importantly, this cultural custom focuses on reducing the intense sadness/mourning that can come with death of a loved one and replacing it with festivities…I didn’t walk the entire parade route but imagine this stretched for a little under 9 mile…and, I walked a good part of it…the entire way was mostly shoulder to shoulder….

Obviously the parade isn’t the only aspect of these festivities, and the main focus is to include death as a natural part of life…of being a human being. To the degree that it is a way of including our loved ones in the day. Many people, such as myself, had the mask painted on half their face – indicating that both death and life are an equal component to the same thing….always with us. As Maria Popova, the Marginalian, writes perhaps, ‘death is not the assailant of life but the ultimate consecration of its lucky possibility…’…

Sure we’ve read the statement that grief is love with no place to go…as in loving someone or something…that is no longer present in your life in a form that allows you to express your feelings toward them or it…consequently, in consideration of people…they could be physically alive or dead. Often times…these people/things remain alive in our mind one way or another…yet these days provide a cultural means to identify and honor it in a healthy way regardless to the physical state of them or the means by which their presence changed…

Well traveled, I am!! Student of culture and life around the globe, Indeed!! An expert on Latin Culture, I am NOT!! However, with what I have experienced, I do love the emphasis on family. How it is included in so many aspects of the culture…families dressing together, made up together…so many babies on shoulders… and to have so many people together…it wasn’t a drunken festive party…it was unimaginably clean and wholesome…especially considering the number of people attending…

Obviously, some take these days very seriously!! 🙂 Love seeing the kids in the trees, on roof tops…screaming when certain characters came walking by… With the way people intermingled and talked, it was obvious the interactions weren’t just for blood family…there was definitely a feeling that people were treating each other a certain way…family that you choose…definitely a cultural item that needs to be transferred to some other places we know of…

And of course what is a festival/parade without food…particularly since Mexico is world renowned for its street food, more on that later 🙂 For awhile I lost focus on the other things and just absorbed the cooking that was going on!! Can I say righteous…and let’s put it right here… even the dead have bread….’delicioso pan de muerto’!!! Much Love!!

Outside of the parade, one of the most common parts of this custom is to honor the dead by setting up an ‘ofrenda’…an altar. Generally, they have set up flowers, candles, food, drinks, photos, and personal mementos of the person. The home I visited, picture bottom left, even had cigarettes and something to sip for the loved one 🙂 You will also usually see lots and lots of orange flowers that we call Marigolds, but out of respect…they call them ‘zempasuchitl’ (an Aztec word)… You will often see them around the city with the ‘ofrendas’. But, also inside of homes sprinkled on steps and stairs leading to the ‘ofrenda’…I was told that it serves as a conduit to bring loved ones, the dead, into this world…and invitation to come celebrate… 

There is no way to capture the significance of this day nor the feelings I am having by being here in one post. This is only an attempt to share a little piece of culture, some lessons learned, and a few tidbits of my own life (between the lines)….

It is no coincidence that this pilgrimage took place simultaneously with other events in my life these past 2 years. As sometimes the dead are a catalyst for the living…and the living are a catalyst for the dead…indeed the relation continues…even if in our own mind…

And to borrow a piece from my home culture, as O’shea Jackson – Ice Cube – said, ‘today was a good day…’….

Fact is: The Dead never really leave us…”Rather they are alive, but we perceive not…” 2:154…

with that noted…

“Para todas las personas que se nos han ido

Love…

Ciudad de Mexico (Mexico City)

September 30, 2021

Quite the beautiful dynamic to go beyond the surface, pull back the layers of life, and dig into beauty…to find….

Por fin, mi viaje continua….con y sin…pero lo continua….

I have been planning this journey for over a year and a half. Aside from the corona virus dynamic, making it happen has been ochos locos!! But, finally, it is here 🙂 Admittedly, this part of the journey is more internal than external. It coincides with some major life changes. The type of changes that you can either sink from or get to swimming. I’m sure many of you can understand. Those vicissitudes of life….they do come a calling when we least expect it! With that said, I am using this as my yogini has guided…as a catalyst to reach those internal elevated places … and I shall!!!

For a long time I’ve had an interest in ‘Ciudad de Mexico.’ But, the interest increased exponentially as I delved deeper into cultural studies and the modality of art. Once I got further along and started to explore the Latin affairs, the interest became more particular. Along this path, Frida Kahlo, came in the light.

As I began to learn more about her work, and learned more about what art is and various ways of understanding it… it became necessary to become more familiar with her art…but more so, to become more acquainted with the dynamics that shaped her perspectives.

Hence more interest in the history of Mexico and it’s global interactions. As said by John Berger in ‘Ways of Seeing’…

“The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe…”…

So much of our interpretation of what we see is dictated by what we already believe. or as I might add…what we think we know or believe…would the state of humanity or our personal lives be in the condition it is in…if we were all that aligned with reality? Maybe yes…Maybe no!!

But, how many of us then can admit within the totality of what there is, we don’t know much. Personally, when I started to study this trip, I didn’t know a damn thing about art. Now, I have evolved to a point where I am more fully aware of what exactly I don’t know….nice to apply that to other things as well 🙂

I don’t pretend to be an aficionado….simply put, I just want to learn…add more culture and understanding to my own…

Simply put, it is easy for our lives to get small and intensely confusing when the ochos locos comes. But, we can remind ourselves and reconnect to the grandeur and largess of life. In many ways, this is what Frida embodied and many other aspects of her home culture.

With the contextual timing, this one is similar to a pilgrimage. However, I’m also a believer that when we go places…we only find what we brought with us…same as in relationships.

Thus, this is about using an experience to connect more with what has already been discovered within…as usual, some I will share…and, some is for me…

Usually, I stay in more humble arrangements…however, this time there was a shift to match the original plan and the current purpose…

The abode of the launch…

And yes…’THE VIEW”… 🙂 on top of the hill is Chapultepec Castle maintained within the park called ‘ Bosque de Chapultepec’…for this purpose…view, neighborhood (Condesa), proximity…perfecto!!

But, of course we are in Ciudad de Mexico. Being an Anthony Bourdain acolyte, the ‘Street Food’ must be honored…this place is called ‘Taco, Naco’..will have more on this later…

As our journey continues…