Monthly Archives: May 2011

Dinner at Restaurant Tierra Antigua, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Gorgeous! Plato Principal -- The Main Dish

Like a painting, I call it arte de comer.  Carina Santiago Bautista cooks from her heart.  For years, Cari prepared food and sold it daily at the village market for carry out.  Now, she has a brand-spanking-new kitchen in her new casita on Av. Juarez and operates the restaurant La Tierra Antigua.  I organize special dinners there for workshop participants so we can savor the flavors that come from Cari’s kitchen.  Usually, I pre-order a menu but the last time I asked Cari to use her judgment and create a menu that would express the ingredients available locally in season.  Frequently, I prefer to eat my meals there with a big soup spoon.  The bowl of the spoon is wide and deep enough to scoop up the thick, fragrant sauces that spill over the food and puddle on the plate.

Farm fresh steamed vegetables at Restaurante Tierra Antigua

Carina Santiago’s Early Spring Menu

  1. Salad/Ensalada:  a chopped mix of avocado, onion, tomato, cilantro, lime juice and salt.
  2. Soup/Sopa: spinach (espinace) flavored with oregano and cilantro
  3. Bread/Pan: slices of Oaxaca sourdough bread slathered with olive oil, butter, mustard and topped with ground pepper, then put under the broiler to brown and crisp
  4. Main Course/Plato Principal: pollo la plancha (chicken breast) sautéed with onions and green peppers, and accompanied by enchiladas with mole coloradito, steamed choyote squash and brown or white rice
  5. Postres/Dessert:  pan de queso–cheesecake with dark chocolate sauce

For the chicken breast, Cari pounds the breast to tenderize it, then marinates it in milk, pepper, oregano, garlic and salt for 6 hours before cooking it. Delicioso.

For the cheesecake, Cari uses Philadelphia cream cheese, light evaporated milk, eggs and no sugar.  I might mix the cream cheese with ricotta, local goat cheese or queso fresco for an earthier flavor.  Below, the cheesecake is adorned with fresh pear slices and banana, with a dollop of chocolate — on a hand-painted plate from Dolores Hidalgo.


The Cheese Cake -- Pan de Queso


Restaurante Tierra Antigua, Av. Juarez #175, Teotitlan del Valle, (951) 166 6160 or cell phone 044 (951) 199 7884.  Carina Santiago Bautista and her husband Pedro Montano Lorenzo.  To reserve, contact Cari at


Carina Santiago Bautista, talented cook





Writer’s Guide to Reading in Public: 8 Tips

Writers are solitary, work in silence, and are often intimidated by the daunting prospect of reading their work in public.  Robin Greene, MFA, the leader of our Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat attributes this fear to our collective wish to “get it right and not make mistakes.”  She says that imperfection is what makes us human and creates the relationship between the audience and the reader.  People enjoy it when you make a mistake, she says.  It makes you more like them.  And, we can transmit this tension and fear of public speaking as energy in the delivery of our words.

Robin Greene, MFA, introduces the readers

Reading is different from speaking, Robin goes on to say.  The writer has to do more work when putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to convince the reader that they should care about what we are writing.  This is what Robin calls, befriending the reader, and the relationship starts out as adversarial.

When reading aloud in front of an audience, we don’t have to convince them. They already care about and like us because they are there waiting to hear our words.

Janet Chavez Santiago reads from her memoir

8 Tips for Reading in Public:

  1. Track what you read with your finger.
  2. Always know where you are when you look up.
  3. Speak slowly–words evaporate.
  4. The more slowly you speak, the more your audience will digest and retain.
  5. Practice phrasing out loud in front of a mirror.
  6. Create a friendly reading space with chairs in a semi-circle.
  7. Add slash marks on the written page where you want to take pauses in the stanza.
  8. All communication is an act of love.

If you have tips to share, please add them in the comment section!

Click here for the next Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat. And, click here for more about Robin Greene, MFA.


Susan Florence shares her thoughts about women and identity




UNC Chapel Hill Nursing Student to Volunteer in Oaxaca

For the fourth summer, I have helped place a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student from the School of Nursing who will volunteer in the Teotitlan del Valle public health clinic.  Kathy Ray, a second degree BSN student, will spend almost three weeks in this indigenous Zapotec village, working alongside the clinic physician and nurses, practicing her Spanish, doing patient in-take, and accompanying the health care providers as they visit homes to be sure that inoculations are up-to-date.  Kathy, a 39-year-old mother of teenagers, won an undergraduate award to help fund her global health experience.

Amy Davenport volunteered with the UNC Student Health Action Coalition before she went to Mexico

Kathy will be following in the footsteps of Leilani Trowell, Lindsay Bach and Amy Davenport who all lived with a local host family during their stay in the village.  The family and clinic staff loved having them and our students learned a lot about the culture and delivery of rural health care in Mexico.

2009 nursing student Lindsay Bach takes patient's blood pressure

Many of you know that my full-time position is with the School of Nursing.  As director of advancement, I help the school raise needed funds for scholarships, professorships and critical programs that help educate future nurses — a crucial societal need.

One of the pleasures I have had over the years is my role in starting this student exchange and learning program in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca.  It is one more way to promote intercultural exchange, global understanding and appreciation for the culture of our important neighbor to the south.

And, our university would not be permitting our students to take part in this program if there was any question about risk to personal safety!



Vocal Yoga: Medicine Melodies, Ah Ohm Hoong Rahm Zah

A moment remembered from the Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat:

Our yoga guide Beth Miller gathers us around her in a circle.  We sit on chairs, backs tall.  At the head of the room is the traditional Zapotec altar complete with candlesticks and an incense burner ready for the next celebration.  Forefinger touches thumb to form a circle.  We rest arms on knees, close our eyes, take a deep breath and then another.  Inhaling yet again, deeper, each of us releases sound from within, from the center of our being.  From the third eye, to the throat, to the heart, to the belly, to the secret chakra of the woman’s womb, the place where we release the child from our bodies, whether real or imaginary.

Beth will be teaching this summer, July 5-11, in Teotitlan del Valle.

We sing clear, mouths open, full.  It does not matter if one or the other of us cannot carry a tune.  There is no shame in our voices as we expel the breath and accompanying sound.  It fills the room and the walls reverberate.  The sound is another sister and it envelops us.  Elena Gutierrez, in whose home we practice this vocal yoga, tells us we sound like a sacred ashram.  The melodies we chant become integral to the creative energy we develop as each day passes.  The sound gives us connection, power, peace, and allows us to lift our creative voices high.

With hands put together in the prayer of honoring each other, we bow and leave the room in silence.

This silence is sparkling clean.  Bird sounds are amplified.  The cup placed onto the tablecloth is an act of intention.  The table vibrates slightly to receive it.

Next is the taste of crunchy fresh tortillas soaking up spicy black bean paste topped with slivers of sweet white onion, translucent.  A sprinkle of chopped fresh cilantro and queso fresco like white paint splattered on a black canvas adorns the morsel.

My spoon cuts and I lift spoon to mouth, taste the crunch again, the corn ground by Magda’s able hands, formed in her palms, toasted on the comal in the courtyard, turned four times by fingers old enough to tell the story of eternal woman.

The black heat of bean paste smeared on tiny tortilla, the crunch of corn with cilantro punctuation are full in my mouth.  My tongue receives them like a host, hot flame of spice engulfs my mouth, a vessel holding the flavors of earth.


Open Letter: It’s a struggle! I’ve migrated to a self-hosted WordPress site.

This is a do-it-yourself blog/website that I am struggling to learn how to manage.  I must say, I am a content person and the “back end” mystifies me.  I probably have no business managing this self-hosted blog myself. Nevertheless, the deed is done and I’m trying to figure out now how to get the

Subscribe to Me!

feature back onto my front page.  This is where the subscriber signs up to get each of my posts delivered into their email in-box.  In the transition from WordPressDotCom to WordPressDotOrg, I have lost all my subscribers and only just discovered that they have not received any of my posts over the last month.  Big Bummer!

Yesterday, I spent four hours trying to understand and get the Google Feedburner RSS going.  I get it that if you click on the orange RSS icon you can get a syndication of my blog that is delivered to Google Reader or other vehicles for getting news delivery.  I don’t think the people who read this blog really understand that.  They are likely more interested in recipes and travel tips.  But I could be underestimating the audience.

I’m now publishing a monthly newsletter.  If you want to join the mailing list, please let me know!  In the meantime, thanks for figuring out how you can stay connected to me.

Saludos y buen suerte a todos,

Norma Hawthorne