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eG Foodbog: Caroline


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Rachel, please tell us more about salsas, please! Would these be with fresh stuff, or of the fried variety?

And, just what happens to the bottles from the bottled water? Refilled, recycled?

Oh, and just what is in that yellow bottle on the left side of the last photo?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Here's how the scratch dinner turned out.

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Just sitting down to the first course, the crema of asparagus. It doesn't look quite as good as it should. Moral, don't photograph green soup in a celadon colored soup bowl. Not that I have a second set!

This could actually be a Mexican dish. I would guess in the middle class, comida (the main meal of the day between 2 and 4) starts with a crema four days of the week, with a chicken broth the others. An exaggeration of course. You don't see many recipes for cremas (perhaps with the exception of squash flower crema) for the same reason in the US you don't see many recipes for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Every one knows how to make them. Soften a little onion in butter or oil, add the vegetables of your choice (usually everyday ones like carrot or chayote or calabaza) and simmer until tender. Whirl in the blender. Serve. There is usually no cream in a crema, the word refers to the texture.

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Salads for the main course. Self explanatory.

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Trifle for dessert

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For me, since I don't have a sweet tooth, cheese instead. The Camembert which is meltingly lovely was made by Quesos Villa Nolasco in the state of Puebla.

And then there was coffee.

Edited for soup color.

Edited by caroline (log)

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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On on to Friday. Breakfast, a repeat of yesterday except that I had coffee instead of tea. Lunch leftovers. Right now a nice cup of tea with a chocolate digestive biscuit.

Now I'll upload pictures of Mexican sweets. Tonight we've been invited to dinner with friends. Judging by past experience, I'd say there's about a 50/50 chance it will be Mexican. What is clear that the invitation is for 9pm. This hour for dinner just kills me so I'll be taking a nap before going.

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I've arrived at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana in the Historic Center of the City. This is where the presentation of José Luis's book on Mexican sweet making is to take place.

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This is the main patio. It was formerly the Convent of San Jeronimo, famous in the eighteenth and nineteenth century as the source of the best sweets in Mexico. What a thrill.

José Luis founded the gastronomy program here. It's one of the best in Mexico City and noted for its emphasis on learning the Mexican culinary tradition. Today the students are competing for the best interpretations of nogadas (walnut sauces) and pipians (pumpkin seed sauces).

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In one of the rooms upstairs we assemble for the presentation. Here's a slightly blurred José Luis.

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He's a modest but pretty incredible person. He was trained as a chemical engineer and then worked in the large-scale commercial sweet and maize syrup industries. Then he started giving classes on traditional small-scale confectionary with copper pans and wooden spoons. To his surprise not only housewives and culinary students but industry people attended to learn.

Oh and he is a wonderful scholar on Mexican culinary history. His book on the cuisine of the ViceRegal Court in Mexico is an absolute gem. He's been a wonderful friend to me for which I am really grateful. Right now, he is the force behind a group of about half a dozen of us (Spaniards, Mexicans and Peruvians) who are trying to get some kind of comparative history of the cuisine of the Spanish Empire going.

The book is great. It has historical recipes from the Baghdad cookbook, Sent Sovi, Rupert de Nola and other classic Spanish texts from the sixteenth century and seventeenth centuries, Nostrodamus, and then the eighteenth and nineteenth century Mexican recipes. Plus it has an understandable account of sugar chemistry, the technology of sweet making, and detailed modern recipes for all the classic Mexican sweets (candies, that is).

Here's José Iturriaga giving one of the recognitions. Whoops. Upgrade problems again, so wait for the next hours exciting installment because José Iturriaga is another incredible mover and shaker in Mexican Cuisine.

Edited for a bit more about José Luis.

Edited by caroline (log)

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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OK. Try, try again. Here's José (Pepe) Iturriaga.

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Handsome, urbane, charming, a prolific author, degrees in history and economics, on umpteen international committees. Years ago he wrote the book on the street food of Mexico City. I can't remember the title right now as my copy is in Guanajuato.

Then he became director of Conaculta, which is rather like (for Americans) the National Endowment for the Arts and for the Humanities combined. Not quite the right analogy but it will do.

There he organized the publication of 54, yes that's right, 54 books, some of them cookbooks, some of them not, on the indigenous and popular (everyday/lower class) cuisines of Mexico. Unbelievable. They come in between 3 and 6 bucks a book and are indispensable. I'll post my review of them on my personal blog.

As if that were not enough there are another 14 books, publications of original manuscripts and cookbooks from eighteenth and nineteenth century Mexico.

Apart from José Lusi's book, I also picked up a copy of one of Iturriaga's latest, Pasión a Fuego Lento: Erotismo en la Cocina Mexicana. Fuego lento means slow fire. You can translate the rest.

But surprise, no brindis, no drinks and snacks, perhaps because of the time of day. Well, I'm just a few blocks from Mexico's most famous street shop so I grab a taxi and off I go. I'm not sure I will get to post on that today, but tomorrow for sure.

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Rachel, please tell us more about salsas, please!  Would these be with fresh stuff, or of the fried variety?

Hi, I certainly will chat more about salsas. But can you hang on until Monday or Tuesday because I'm better able to illustrate that in Guanajuato than here in Mexico.

And, just what happens to the bottles from the bottled water?  Refilled, recycled?

The big garafons are picked up when the new ones are dropped off. They are refilled.

The smaller Mexico City ones go in the trash. That does not mean for one moment that they are not recycled. In fact the recycling of trash is almost frightening, if not on the American model. Leave aside the picking over done by maids, passersby and the like. Trash trucks have not only a government employee usually the driver but a whole bunch of unpaid extras, usually relatives. Every bag of trash is opened and picked over for anything that can be sold. Then when the trash gets to the dump there are families who live there and have final pick over rights.

In Guanajuato we have trash pickup 364 days a year, but then we live in a well-to-do neighborhood. Remind me to post a picture of the trash basket.

A hydraulic engineer once told me that the money spent on bottled water in Mexico would be enough to set up purification plants across the country. There's a bottleneck here.

Oh, and just what is in that yellow bottle on the left side of the last photo?

Well, here we're back in the international world. Good old Schweppes tonic water to go in my husband's gin and tonic.

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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rachel-

can you speak about the influence of sephardic jews on the mexican cuisines since some made their way to the new world? do you feel it had any influence or was the moorish the more pronounced?

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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I'm going to have to run out on some errands in a moment. So I'll post replies to these queries and photos of the Mexican confectionery when I get back.

Breakfast was simply coffee, excellent toast made with bread from one of Mexico City's best artisan bakeries, and butter.

And dinner last night was great. There'd been a conference in town that we had not been able to go to. So our friends Mario and Susannah invited us and a group of friends who were at the conference: a couple from Puebla, two Argentinians (Cordoba and Buenos Aires) and a Basque.

The conversation and the food were good, the photos are terrible because if you are not with a group of foodies you can hardly call everyone to order, ask that the lights be turned up, and set about snapping the dishes.

Here are the pre-dinner drinks and snacks.

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Choice of tequila (in the small glass) with lime and salt or wine.

Warm fresh cheese with epazote and jalapeño to spoon on totopos (tortilla chips). No it wasn't pink and I'm going to have to confront my market men when we're back in Mexico City. But this cheese as you can tell is fashionable right now.

Chapulines al mojo de ajo. They're the brown things in the bowl. Chapulines are grasshoppers. To make anything al mojo de ajo style is to fry chopped garlic until brown and crispy, then fry the fish, chapulines or whatever, and then add the garlic. I asked Mario whether he had cooked them but no. He's bought them ready prepared in the Mercado San Juan, where else?

Here's the main course.

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Really superb Argentinian wine. Most people serve Argentinian, Spanish or Chilean wine as good Mexican wine is very expensive comparatively.

Salmon which they had marinaded in a little mustard and honey for an hour, then baked in a closed dish with a little white wine. It was good. You could not detect the mustard and honey as separate flavors.

Good Mexican rolls.

Not visible. Mexican white rice (that is first fried and then cooked in broth). Perfectly cooked with the grains just right.

Salad. Mixed greens, grated carrots, sliced almonds and dried cranberries (the latter two almost certainly from Costco and the cranberries very fashionable).

Dessert

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Pastries which Susana had purchased at a nearby bakery (there are good bakeries in their part of town near San Angel which was an area where a lot of Germans settled).

or

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A selection of Lebanese pastries. The Lebanese are a strong presence in Mexico (think Carlos Slim and Salma Hayek) and Lebanese foodstuffs are widely available in both grocery stores, Lebanese coffee shops and Lebanese specialty stores in Mexico City.

Plus coffee and brandy.

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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This morning I went to the tianguis (weekly street market) about half a mile down the street. It's a big one, three or four blocks long with four lines of stalls. You could spend the whole day poking around there, leaving with you "Vuitton," and "Eddie Bauer," second hand clothes from the US, CDs, plastic bowls, blender replacement parts, you name it. I'll just post a few food photos. They are all red because of the red awning stretched over all the stands.

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Stall owner from the State of Michoacan who sells specialties from there. I bought a tamal with small fish, bread, cookies, and a few other things I'll try to photograph later.

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Large eating area,

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The best kind of fried pork skin (chicharron) with carnitas, bits of meat, attached. I bought the left hand piece.

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The butcher preparing a nice piece of pork filet for me.

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The lady from the State of Hidalgo who sells heavenly nata (clotted cream). I nearly walked off without paying but all was forgiven.

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The vegetable lady weighing out my radishes, spring onions, nopales, watercress, spinach and green beans.

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The young girl who walks around selling shelled green peas, habas (broad or lima beans) and sometimes corn. "Para una crema," she says, "para una sopa" (for a cream soup or for rice).

"Will her photo appear in a magazine, " she asks. "No, on the web," I reply. I'll try to make sure I take her a copy next time I go.

Now I need sustenance, so decide to swing by Ricardo Muñoz's restaurant which is about half a mile away on the university campus. That later,

Rachel

Edited by caroline (log)

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Whoops, problems with image gullet again. I'm posting this so I can save at least the text. I'll try to fix the pics tomorrow.

OK. A light lunch. The National University of Mexico is incredibly lucky that Ricardo Muñoz, one of Mexico's leading chefs and author of the absolutely incredible sDiccionario Enciclopédico de Gastronomía Mexicana has two restaurants on the campus. I'm even luckier that we are so close.

So here's the approach to the main one in the Cultural Center of the University. The University is a pretty amazing place. It ha about 400,000 undergraduate and graduate students. No I have not added an extra zero. The Campus must be five miles by five miles, perhaps more.

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Turns out a play's being performed today and lots of people are gathered to watch. Mexico City is a bit short on green spaces and the huge University City, as it's called, turns into a park with people bicycling, walking their dogs, playing with their children. Turn your back on the play and you can see the restaurant above a bookshop and behind a fountain.

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There's also an outdoor terrace and that's where I'm going to perch. The building in the background is a new art museum.

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The menu.

Starters

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Salads

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Pastas

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Main dishes

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I order a horchata and a tamalito de acelga and sit in the sun enjoying the world.

Here's my horchata, one of my favorite drinks. I love that slightly sweetened thin pureed rice with cinnamon.

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Here's the tamal, which is for those who are not familiar with Mexican food, a kind of maize dumpling. There are hundreds of different kinds, different fillings and so on. One of the foundation stones of Mexican cuisine. The salsa is a slightly piquante tomato sauce.

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Here I've cut into the tamal and you can see the flecks of spinach and slight green coloring. It melts in the mouth and the salsa just adds that extra touch.

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I pay the bill which with tip comes to about $5 and stroll back towards the car. Wow. It's not such a bad life.

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Edited by caroline (log)

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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OK I'm on my way out now. Time to pack for the early departure tomorrow. If we leave by 8am, we can get out of the city in forty minutes, in Guanajuato by noon. An hour or so later and the traffic is impossible.

The car is loaded with everything I've purchased and I'll settle down to photograph it and cook with it on our return. And I know there are still unanswered questions.

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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The young girl who walks around selling shelled green peas, habas (broad or lima beans) and sometim

What a swell blog! It sounds like a cliché but I really feel like I'm there with you. I have a question about the bean names.

I always thought habas were fava beans. Is that the same thing as a shelled broad bean? I don't grow them (old world) so I'm not that familiar with them. Is term interchangeable for limas?

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Jose Iturriaga was also a winner of the Slow Food Award for the Defense of Biodiversity a few years ago.

Great to see you today, Rancho!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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Am I allowed to answer questions?

Habas are Fava beans are broad beans: all old world. Limas are not this same bean, but I don't know much more about limas. Rachel or Rancho Gordo can tell us more, perhaps?

cg

3 colors of dried 'habas':

http://www.mariquita.com/images/photogallery/favaseeds.jpg

youngish favas in their shell:

http://www.mariquita.com/images/photogallery/fava.jpg

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Am I allowed to answer questions?

Habas are Fava beans are broad beans: all old world. Limas are not this same bean, but I don't know much more about limas. Rachel or Rancho Gordo can tell us more, perhaps?

You are not allowed to answer questions until you come back to the ferry plaza farmers market. Ladies of leisure have no business answering questions. Or something like that. (Come for at least a visit, please! We miss you. I don't care that you have the resemblance of a life now.)

Limas are Phaselous lunatus and definitely a new world variety (from Peru, hence Lima) but I wonder if they don't use the word habas for both. I'm trying to recall a time I've ever even been served a lima bean in Mexico, but that darn tequila can play tricks with the memory.

Docsconz wrote:

Great to see you today, Rancho!

You too! And your wife. It's always a hoot to see you. I'm doing my best to follow chardgirl's example and slowly retire from the markets but my plan isn't quite working out.

But back to Mexico. Rachel, are limas eaten often? Fresh or always dried. You know I'd have to ask you more about the beans!

Edited by rancho_gordo (log)

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

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"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Next stop.  A Sanborns.  Sanborns, founded in 1903 by Americans, is a Mexican institution. 

You want Elle or the Harvard Business Review. Off to Sanborns. You want an unusual medicine, a good tobacco, a fancy watch, Sanborns.  It was the first place in the

last century where nice women could eat away from home.  The model was a soda fountain with sandwiches, hamburgers, milk shakes etc.

Today it's where ladies lunch, where businessmen hook up to the internet and have their meetings. Really, the social and business life of Mexico might grind to a halt without the Sanborns scattered across Mexico City and the provinces.

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Anyone want to guess who now owns Sanborns?

You already provided the answer, but I was going to say that Sanborns sounded like a cross between a coffee shop and a drugstore -- or more accurately, it sounds like what US drugstores used to be like (surely I'm not the only eGer old enough to remember drugstore soda fountains and lunch counters) -- so my guesses would have been eithter Starbucks or CVS, and I see from Wikipedia that in the past, CVS would not have been a bad guess, though still wrong, for Walgreens owned Sanborns from 1946 until 1985.

I was also going to ask if the Sanborn in question had a business partner named Chase. Wikipedia answered that question for me as well (No).

This Slim fellow sounds like one fat cat.

I'd kill for a lunchtime chat like the one you had in Sanborns, mediocre food and all. But I wouldn't even have the faintest idea who Mayán's son is.

Edited to add a comment about English-language names in the Spanish language: I cannot resist a chuckle whenever I see references to things like "Avenida O'Higgins" in a South American country (after one of South America's great liberator heroes, Bernardo O'Higgins) or the Mexican department store chain Liverpool. Something about these people and place references just seems...wrong...no matter how appropriate they may be -- more out of place, in fact, than the English-language words the Académie française fights assiduously to keep out of the language. OTOH, I guess this just goes to show that globalization is really nothing new.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

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Saturday night dinner. Quick and dirty. We have lots of lovely vegetables from the market that will be a treat with good bread, salt and a bit of butter.

So, first disinfect your veg.

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This is a new disinfectant to me and I hate it because it has to be rinsed. No wonder I need so much purified water. Here is the first batch soaking.

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And here's everything with the bread.

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But my husband didn't have a tamal for lunch, so he needs something. I boil some fideos, tiny noodles, kind of like short angel hair spaghetti. This is not what you normally do with them in Mexico, but they turn out OK and they are quick. We are at 7000 feet and everything thing boiled takes a long time here.

Then I chop that that lovely bit of filet into finger tip sized cubes.

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Turn it in a frying pan for a few minutes until it is colored and nearly cooked. Then add a bit of bought salsa morita (rather like chipotle, smoked) and a spoonful of crema (I prefere Aguascalientes to Lala but it wasn't in Superama).

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Stir

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Y ya. And there you are.

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And the tiny avocados have an intense flavor. Some people eat them skin and all but even scooped out, as we are eating them, they have a lovely anisey taste.

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Edited by caroline (log)

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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rachel-

can you speak about the influence of sephardic jews on the mexican cuisines since some made their way to the new world?  do you feel it had any influence or was the moorish the more pronounced?

Suzi, I wish I had something definitive to say. No doubt that Sephardic Jews came in numbers to New Spain. Clearly there were some things they did not eat that Christians did, such as pork. But did they have specific dishes. That's so much harder to answer. Some people up on the border with the US suggest semitas, a slightly sweetened bread. I spent some time looking in to this and you can find more than you ever wanted to know on my regular blog under Food History Articles.

The answer, in a few words, is that undoubtedly Jews, like everyone else in New Spain as Mexico ws then called, ate semitas (or cemitas). But they were not specifically Jewish. The term Semite as a code word for Jews did not appear until well into the nineteenth century. The word semita comes from seed (like semen or semilla in Spanish). And everyone in the Spanish world ate semitas.

So clearly the Sephardic Jews, like the Moors, the Italians, the people from the Netherlands, and all the other people from Europe and North Africa who arrived here made a contribution. But sorting out who contributed what is simply not known at the moment,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Jose Iturriaga was also a winner of the Slow Food Award for the Defense of Biodiversity a few years ago.

Great to see you today, Rancho!

Yes, and it was rightly much written up and a source of great pride among foodies here. The connection between a series of books and biodiversity was a bit obscure, but never mind that,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Am I allowed to answer questions?

Habas are Fava beans are broad beans: all old world. Limas are not this same bean, but I don't know much more about limas. Rachel or Rancho Gordo can tell us more, perhaps?

You are not allowed to answer questions until you come back to the ferry plaza

But back to Mexico. Rachel, are limas eaten often? Fresh or always dried. You know I'd have to ask you more about the beans!

Sorry, I was sloppy. These are habas, not limas. I don't think limas are eaten here. Sopa de habas (dried habas) is one of the great Lenten dishes in Mexico though how long fasting dishes will survive now after the dismantling by John Paul of most of the fasting requirements is not clear. It's much discussed among my walking companions. Fresh habas are obviously used too but I've not heard them talked about much. I adore them and prepare them English style with parsley sauce,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I'd kill for a lunchtime chat like the one you had in Sanborns, mediocre food and all. But I wouldn't even have the faintest idea who Mayán's son is.

Edited to add a comment about English-language names in the Spanish language: I cannot resist a chuckle whenever I see references to things like "Avenida O'Higgins" in a South American country (after one of South America's great liberator heroes, Bernardo O'Higgins) or the Mexican department store chain Liverpool. Something about these people and place references just seems...wrong...no matter how appropriate they may be -- more out of place, in fact, than the English-language words the Académie française fights assiduously to keep out of the language. OTOH, I guess this just goes to show that globalization is really nothing new.

Edited by caroline (log)

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I'd wanted to sing the joys of the Mexican countryside as we whizzed thorough it today, the wonderful barbacoa we picked up to serve as combined breakfast, lunch and dinner, and offer shots of all the lovely purchases in Mexico City. Is it Telmex or is it Image gullet. No idea. But no way to upload photos at the moment. So I'll leave you for today with two menus.

These are from Juanita who house sits for us when we are gone. She comes from a big pottery making family in Dolores Hidalgo thirty miles away, is a divorced mother, finishing her degree in French at the University here.

Menu for daughter's birthday shower yesterday (birthday showers are big news in Mexico)

Russian salad

Elbow macaroni with ham and mayonnaise

Celebration cake

Horchata or soft drinks

Lest you fear that Mexican traditions are being lost.

Menu for her 50th birthday party next week

Mole con pollo

Arroz

A special Dolores dish of garbanzos, cabbage, potato, carrot and onion served hot

Cake

Agua de jamaica or soft drinks

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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