Monthly Archives: January 2019

Artful Aprons of San Miguel del Valle Talk at OLL, January 25

The artful aprons of San Miguel del Valle are an elaborate confetti of embroidered designs. I was invited to give a talk at the Oaxaca Lending Library (OLL) on January 25, 2019 at 5 p.m. Please come! You can read more and register HERE.

Of course, you have to BE in Oaxaca, to join us!

Joining me for the talk are Jacki Cooper Gordon, who is an Envia cultural guide and Mickey Gardner, who lived in the village ecotourism cabins for a month, working with local women.

Hard to decide which one!
  • Textiles as cultural identity, and aprons in particular
  • Aprons as contemporary dress — innovation, adaptation
  • History of San Miguel del Valle and apron-making
  • Economics, production, quality
  • Cultural appropriation or cultural admiration
  • Life in a small Zapotec hill town
  • Where it is and how to get there

I got to San Miguel del Valle because I took an ENVIA tour with Jacki. She knows a lot about the history and economic development opportunities. We will talk about:

Laura and Mary in the workshop

Special Feature: We have invited embroiderers Maria Zacarias Hernandez Hernandez and her cousin Laura Miguel Hernandez to answer questions and to sell their stunning aprons. Maria is a recipient of Envia microfinancing.

Free-form, hand-guided machine embroidery

PLEASE BRING YOUR PESOS. Aprons range in price from 500-1,000 pesos, depending on complexity of design and density of embroidery. There will be about 20 pieces for sale at the OLL on the night of the talk, including bags and napkins. Sales go directly to the makers.

Traje includes two undergarments, one lacy, plus apron
Abuelas prefer a simpler style

May Your 2019 Be Filled with Sweetness: Oaxaca Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe

For the life of me, I could not find a buttercream frosting recipe that uses real, homemade Oaxaca chocolate, the kind made here in the village. Oaxaca chocolate is a dietary mainstay. The cacao beans are roasted at home and then taken to the molino (mill) to grind along with cinnamon, cane sugar, vanilla bean, almonds and perhaps chiles. Each family has their own recipe handed down by the abuelas.

During the grinding, it comes out of the mill as a warm, thick paste and is poured into pans where it solidifies, then cut into two-inch or three-inch cubes large enough to make a pot of hot chocolate (with water, of course) — an early morning and late evening staple, perfect for dipping conchas.

I decided to adapt chocolate buttercream frosting recipes I found online. Most of them call for dark semi-sweet chocolate, or cocoa powder, or chocolate chips. None included Oaxaca chocolate. I know from years of being in the kitchen that it is the cacao butter in chocolate that makes it creamy. With Oaxaca drinking chocolate, you taste the sugar granules. So, I decided to combine four cubes (about 8 ounces) of traditional Oaxaca chocolate with about four ounces of Oaxaca-made Mama Pacha artesanal chocolate for eating — the amount I had on hand. (Here’s how to buy Mama Pacha.)

Swirls of Oaxaca chocolate buttercream frosting

Making a buttercream frosting is easy. It takes about ten minutes once the chocolate is melted. You just need a hand-mixer, a spatula, a spoon, a Pyrex measuring cup and a mixing bowl. The secret is to melt all the chocolate, but cool it to the touch before adding it to the creamed butter. If the chocolate is too hot, the butter will melt and your frosting will be ruined.

Ready for chocolate cake and my homemade pumpkin pie with cornmeal crust

How to Melt the Chocolate: put all the chocolate in a 2-4 cup Pyrex measuring cup. Microwave the chocolate in 30-second increments, stirring and cooling for several minutes between each 30-second zap. The chocolate should be combined, soft and paste-like. Put a finger deep into the center to be sure the mixture is not hot.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of cubed Oaxaca chocolate
  • 3-4 ounces of artisanal 70% cacao semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2-1/2 cups of powdered sugar (azucar glace´)
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 T. almond milk, plain or vanilla flavored
  • 1/4 t. pure vanilla extract
  • dash of salt (omit salt if using salted butter)

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate as described above.
  2. Put butter into medium size mixing bowl. Cream with mixer until smooth and fluffy. Color should be a creamy beige.
  3. Add cooled chocolate and continue to combine into creamed butter with electric mixer.
  4. Add 1/2 the amount of powdered sugar and stir into the chocolate butter mix at lowest speed of hand mixer. Add remaining powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl until all is mixed.
  5. Add vanilla extract and almond milk. Mix in thoroughly.
  6. Chill for a few minutes.
  7. Will frost an 8-10″ layer cake or 12-18 cupcakes.

The Cake:

In Oaxaca we have a Mexican supermarket called Chedraui. The best one is in Colonia Reforma. It has a complete selection of imported products, too, including those that are gluten-free. I am experimenting with a gluten-free and milk-free diet, so I did buy a Betty Crocker gluten free chocolate cake mix and substituted almond milk for cow milk. It turned out to be delicious.

My Zapotec friends raved that this was the best frosting they ever had, too! I confess it doesn’t look like much. Not smooth as silk (because of the granulated sugar). But it is delicious.

Happy New Year.