Colonia La Cascada, Oaxaca City
Believe it or not, turkey and potatoes are commonly served throughout Mexico; not typically in the way we Americans see it arrive to the Thanksgiving table, but those main ingredients are present in many dishes. You are more likely to get shredded turkey atop tostadas in the Yucatan than pollo. Nonetheless, chicken is everywhere in this country and on a side note, I highly recommend watching the show “Documentary Now” Episode “Juan likes Rice and Chicken.” Fred Armisen nails it, so funny and well done. I went into “Crispy Pollo” the other afternoon and like a dummy asked if they had any grilled chicken to which she stared at me blankly. Thinking it was my Spanish I asked “What is the style, the preparation of your chicken?” to which she announced “Kentucky!” I repeated what she said in my head until it was clear and then I laughed, ah yes, Kentucky fried chicken. As sometimes happens after my inquiries, I said, “I’m getting my friend, I’ll be right back!” Never to return.
The best dishes here in Oaxaca are of course, the moles (pronunciation Mo-lay.) Brown, green and red, you can get mole of a dozen varieties and so far I’ve stuck with the traditional deep, rich brown mole sauce, as shown below. Throughout Mexico anything served before 12pm is considered breakfast even when hearty and including chicken and come with these choices: fruit – cut up or juiced, choice of main dish, coffee – regular or con leche, and always a little basket of warm white corn tortillas. They serve warm tortillas if you order spaghetti or grilled fish. It is the starch of this nation.
I chose papaya juice (though usually I get cut up fruit), the chicken enchiladas covered with mole sauce and a cup of coffee. It feels like a decadent Senior Citizen offering and I love it! These set meals are usually between $2 and $3 US dollars. The lunch offering, referred to as the Comida Corrida is a choice of soup, main dish (usually 4 to select from, always chicken and rice as one option), agua fresca (fruit water of the day such as mandarin) or iced tea and a postre/dessert.
Cafe La Fonda, Chicken Mole Enchiladas, Oaxaca. Delicious.
I want to write about many things, but most of all to send “Happy Thanksgiving” wishes to all!
I will tell you my top 5 amazements and observations in the next post. For now, I’m getting settled into Oaxaca City, and while quite far south I’m about 15 degrees cooler than the Yucatan and renting a beautiful little casita at the base of a 3 level home in the hills of Colonia La Cascada for the next month. It’s a 30 minute walk into El Centro and once again I get to meander through neighborhoods of varied economies and see life unfold; from an elderly woman sitting on a stoop selling toasted pumpkin seeds and a basket of tomatillos while knitting, to professors of fine arts sipping espresso at the hip Café Brujula, this region is rich in culture and natural beauty.
I went on a walk this morning in the opposite direction of El Centro, choosing to go up a hill climb behind my apartment. There are a set of steps to rival any Seattle urban workout. I reached the top and looked across the way – so many houses tucked into the hillside, in a way that appears just firm enough they won’t slide down. The range surrounding is the Sierra Madre Norte and I was fortunate enough to hook up with an expat hiking group and this past Friday joined them to hike an area called La Cumbre. Fresh air, pine trees and some new friends and I was beyond content. Tomorrow I’m going on an urban walk to a big park and meal out with one of the gals from the hiking group who recently moved here from Portland, Oregon. In these parts it’s completely typical to just say ‘Yeah, I moved to Oaxaca City from Berkeley, been here 22 years now.”
I feel a bit blue today and it only dawned on me an hour ago that it could have to do with Thanksgiving being tomorrow.
I’ve always known I am strongly pulled in two directions: a nester and a wanderer. I love home. I love decorating and setting out little candles shaped like turkeys and cloth napkins my Grandmother gave me, and being with loved ones. I also greatly enjoy seeing the big vistas of new places and turning down little winding roads with no idea what to expect and coming upon something I didn’t know existed, or if I did know of it, I couldn’t have imagined it looked or tasted or felt quite like this. I look forward to these two modes of living merging more and more as opposed to feeling an either/or.
Con mucho gratitud / With much gratitude
Rooftop with a view to behold