Gastronomy + Gastroenterology: Oaxaca Digest

Those of us who live here are witness to the growing worldwide interest in Oaxaca food. Food festivals are everywhere any time of year. Take your pick from mole to salsa to tacos and tamales, and of course chocolate. We have fusion, small plates, tapas and schnitzel. We even have food trucks — something I was used to seeing more of in Durham, North Carolina, than Oaxaca, Mexico.

Chileajo from Oaxaca’s Mixteca prepared by Mario Ramirez

Innovation is everywhere and we want to try everything. Well, maybe just a taste of salsa de chicatana (or not) and a sprinkle of chapulines on top of a hot, Oaxaca cheesy molote.

The All-Chocolate Pop-Up Dinner inspired a Pop-Up of the Pop-Up immediately following, which inspired this post.

Meal prep with Rosario and Medellin, Columbia cook Mariano Capdevila

If you come to Oaxaca for the annual July Guelaguetza you can go off to explore the Sierra Norte and the Feria del Hongos to be held July 19-20 in Cuajimoloyas. Its an easy day trip from the city if you start early enough. Here you can sample all the wild mushrooms that the rainy season gives forth. They are stuffed into empanadas. Sautéd for enchiladas. Steamed for soup. Ready to take home in their natural state to prepare any way you like them, perhaps tossed into a delicious pasta prepared with butter and garlic. Recently on an upscale restaurant menu, I saw carpaccio de hongos — a deviation from thinly sliced beef or prosciutto, served with squash and a blossom.

Let’s get to the guts of it: Gastronomy and gastroenterology.

There is an underbelly to all this. Delicious food that doesn’t quite settle in the digestive system. This is not isolated to visitors. It happens to long-time residents, too. It happens to locals — people born and raised here! But no one talks about it. We suffer. We run to the bathroom. Our gut gurgles. We emit noxious odors or sounds we try to hide with a cough timed just right. We endure.

Mariano’s couscous with wild mushrooms (hongos), almonds, prunes

We keep eating because being here is all about the food. It’s a subject for discourse, comparison, and enjoyment. Yet, the symptoms of digestive malfunction persist. We may resist taking azythromyacin and opt for acupuncture or aguamiel or a tincture. Anyone have an antacid?

The table is set and Rosario is ready!

Maybe after a while, in between the pollo con mole negro and the sopa de garbanzo and spicy chileajo con puerco, we can endure no more and seek the advice of a gastroenterologist who sends us to a lab with container in hand. You might not like the results. You may be asked to eliminate all dairy, all beans (gad, how can you live in Oaxaca and not eat beans, for god sake?), all mole, and anything fried. You need to rebalance your microbiota aka your gut bacteria, you are told.

Tortilla española with potatoes, onions, Moroccan spices
Ingredients for the tortilla before adding the scrambled eggs

Then, after months of this regimen, life doesn’t change.

Norma’s mixed grill: costilla, chile poblano, tomatoes, onions

Meanwhile, back in the USA, the infectious disease clinic needs a three- to six-month lead time to schedule an appointment. They have little or no interest in responding to the urgency of a Mexican-inspired intestine.

Maude’s cucumber and parsley salad
Still Cleaning Up from the Pop-Up of the Pop-Up prep.

So, you go to another Oaxaca gastroenterologist who says take this pill for two weeks, eat whatever you want and read The Schopenhauer Cure. Your sister, who has experience with digestion, says Drink aguamiel morning and night for two weeks. You do both. There is major improvement. To what do you attribute this? Modern medicine or pre-Hispanic Zapotec folk cure?

Mariano’s tagine of mixed veggies and chicken with Moroccan spices

What’s to do but eat?

Kalisa’s extraordinary cheesecake made with Mama Pacha chocolate

2 responses to “Gastronomy + Gastroenterology: Oaxaca Digest

  1. So frustrating…. and still no solid answers???? The food is divine but I’m sure you wish you could identify the culprit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *