Monthly Archives: September 2011

Chiles En Nogada: Tasteful Symbol of Mexican Revolution

Read travel/food writer Freda Moon’s sensuous tribute to the sublime red, white and green Chiles en Nogada and you will understand the heart and soul of a nation.  Food is a commentary about culture and in this case, gender.

Freda describes the role of the descendants of indigenous noble women who converted to Christianity, took to the life of the convent, and created the perfect blend of indigenous and native ingredients to give birth to Chiles en Nogada — a fitting tribute to the birth of a nation.  The seasonal dish, served in August and September, is the symbol of Mexico and her revolutionary cry of freedom.  It is the El Grito of pure Mexican soul food.

Chiles en Nogada was born and bred in Puebla, Mexico where it has many variations.  It is replicated in every city and town throughout the country.  One of my favorite restaurants in Puebla for everything autor (authentic) is El Mural de los Poblanos where Chef Lisette Galicia creates magic in the kitchen.  Her chiles en nogada, in my opinion, are near perfection.

Freda Moon has promised a recipe that she will convert from Spanish to English.  As soon as I hear word of it, you’ll see it here!  Buen provecho!

You also might want to check out Jim Johnson’s recommendations on his blog: Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for restaurants that prepare excellent Chiles en Nogada.

In Oaxaca, the restaurante La Casa del Tio Guero serves a good chiles en nogada.  The owner/chef is from Puebla.

And, stay tuned to up-to-the-minute news, and other Oaxaca insights: LIKE my Facebook Page: Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC


El Grito and Mexico’s Independence Day: Viva Mexico!

I just finished reading Diversity Inc.’s short timeline associated with Hispanic Heritage Month. It begins with the “discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) in 1492. Is it a coincidence that Hispanic Heritage Month overlaps with Mexican Independence Day? And what about the definitions of “Hispanic” and “Latino/a”? Are there new insights about ways we differentiate the terms and how does this reflect on our appreciation for diversity?

In Oaxaca, one-third of the population is indigenous. When they immigrate to the U.S. to find work, we call them Latino/a — but isn’t that a misnomer? It is so easy to lump people into categories and define them without asking how they describe or define themselves.

So, at this moment of celebration for Mexico, let’s pay tribute to El Grito — the cry of independence– and remember that Hispanic-Latino/a immigrants represent a growing number of America’s population who contribute to our climate of freedom and prosperity. Together we can strive to create improved economic-social-political conditions for all of us.

Oaxaca, Mexico: Safer Than Disneyland USA

Oaxaca is SAFER than you think or the headlines indicate! 

Quick–which national capital has the higher murder rate: Mexico City or Washington, DC?  This question begins the SF Chronicle story by Christine Delsol on Sunday, August 21, 2011.  If you answered Mexico, you are wrong!

The article goes on to say that the drug war affects a fraction of Mexico’s municipalities (translate to”counties”) — 80 out of 2,400.

95% of Mexico’s municipalities are SAFE, at least as safe as the average traveler’s hometown.  “There are Mexican destinations that pose no more risk than Disneyland,” Delsol says. The article includes tips for traveling safety in Mexico — or anywhere else!

You’ll find traveler resources and new perspectives for approaching a common belief (especially among American journalists) that ALL of Mexico is affected by the drug violence (NOT TRUE).

You can also search my past posts about safety and quotes I have included from workshop participants, many of them women, who had a wonderful experience in Oaxaca without any fear to their personal safety.

And, thanks to friend and textile designer Sheri Brautigam who travels regularly back and forth between Oaxaca and her home in Santa Fe, NM, mostly by car, who sent me this story.

I understand from Sheri and friends who DRIVE from North Carolina to San Miguel de Allende, that it is popular and prudent to form caravans, stick to the main toll roads, and travel by vehicle starting out early in the morning.  I am contemplating doing this trip by car in December or January, so I will have a lot of new information to report to you first-hand IF these plans materialize.



Pinatas Galore Plus Great Shopping at Mexican Market “La Cumplidora” in Sanford, NC

Drive by window-shopping is my weakness.  I was on my way to meet professor Robin Greene, who leads our Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat: Lifting Your Creative Voice, at our mid-way breakfast diner in Sanford, NC.  Almost there, and I noticed some pretty remarkable, huge pinatas hanging in a store front on the highway.  The rubbernecking angels sat on my shoulder as I made a mental note to stop on the way back.

Which I did! making a quick (and careful) left-turn from the center lane on the highway.

La Cumplidora is filled with nooks and crannies of Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Columbian food.  The selection represents all nationalities of clientele who live and work in the area.

I was the only gringa!

And, I felt at home among people who I know work hard for the food they are buying and are conscious of cost.  Children were hanging on to the hems of mothers’ skirts as they shopped for fresh and beautiful produce:  limes (7 for $1), avocados (99 cents each), choyote squash (99 cents each), cilantro (59 cents a bunch),  plum tomatoes perfect for salsa, six different varieties of dried peppers, fresh habaneros and poblanos.

Tip: Save Money and Shop at Your Local Latino Mercado

All the produce was a fraction of the cost of what I find in the major supermarkets and much better.  I found perfectly ripe mangoes — 8 for $7.50 — a price unheard of at Harris Teeter (usually $1.65 each) where you might slice one open to find a dark center damaged by early picking and refrigeration even though the skin is ripe and it is soft to the touch.

At the way back is a full-service carneceria — butcher shop — with all types and cuts of fresh meats — beef, pork, chicken, and goat.  In the corner is the queseria — cheese shop — where the imported from Mexico fresh cheese is sold by the pound.  There is even some house made entrees  for carry-out.

Just like in Oaxaca, the pasteleria/panaderia (pastry and bread bakeries) section was doing a bustling business.  The fresh out of the oven concha rolls were exactly like those I see in the bakery on Garcia Virgil.  Several young men held aluminum trays in one hand, tongs in the other, opened display case doors, reached in and piled the savory mouth-watering treats onto the trays.

They looked liked confectionary pyramids: 

Pink rolls filled with sweet cream, sprinkled with chocolate.  Flaky pastry cones stuffed with vanilla custard. Alternating chocolate and white layered cake squares with mocha frosting.  Jelly rolls.  Sesame cookies.  It was all I could do to pass this by (I’m watching my calories.)

Food is so important to retaining culture.  It keeps us connected to our families of origin, the memories of growing up, our way of keeping our identities in our adopted homelands.  And, for keeping the memories of a satisfying vacation or travel adventure alive.

As I stood in line in a U.S. “village” 35 miles from my own North Carolina home among warm and friendly people, I was reminded of my own family’s immigrant status at the beginning of the 20th century.

And, if you are ever in Sanford, North Carolina, be sure to make a stop at La Cumplidora.  Or discover the local Latino market in a neighborhood near you.  A world of wonder will open up to you and you will save on the grocery bill.

Oh, and the pinatas:  huge fanciful animals and stars and dolls decorated with crepe paper streamers in bright colors, pictures of boys and girls, sparkles, perfect for containing the candy treats to celebrate a birthday.

La Cumplidora, 901 South Horner Blvd., Sanford, NC 27330, (919) 776-1060.

Give Thanks to Latino/a Labor on U.S. Labor Day

Participate in the Facebook Event: Give Thanks to Latino/a Labor on Labor Day

Today I’m picking weeds in my garden, getting ready for a big Labor Day shebang that Stephen is preparing for in our North Carolina yard. Sweat is streaming from my brow, dripping onto the earth, and after an hour I have to take a break.  A LONG break.  That got me to thinking about Labor Day, its origins, who is doing the physical labor in America, and what Labor Day means to me beyond the annual Bar-B-Que in the back yard with family and friends signaling the end of summer.

For the most part, the labor required to do America’s back-breaking physical work is done by Latino immigrants who tend to our agricultural farms, till the soil, plant the vegetables, cultivate and harvest them, and put food on the table for our enjoyment and sustenance.

They work in orchards and nurseries, on landscaping and construction crews and restaurant kitchens in cities and towns across America.

We depend on Latina labor to clean our houses and care for our children.  I see immigrant women of all ages in every town I visit in America working as caregivers and orderlies in health care units, hospitals and nursing homes.

In North Carolina, our chicken plants are staffed by Latino Labor who do the work that is dangerous, bloody and stinking, and repulsive to most.  They kill, clean and process the fowl that become chicken breasts, legs, thighs that are carefully packaged for our consumption that show up neatly, row upon row at our local Harris Teeter or Lowe’s or Food Lion or Kroger.

For every low paying job imaginable, think of a Latino/a worker.  I want to honor and give thanks to the men and women who work to serve the needs of America.  Won’t you join me?

Participate in the Facebook Event:  Give Thanks to Latino/a Labor on Labor Day