Thursday, November 18

seasonal depression

I think I have opposite seasonal depression. I miss the cold. I miss the changing climate (and NO, Mexico...65º morning weather instead of 80º mornings is not a real change). I miss the exciting connection of colorful leaves! then snow! then holidays!

After almost a year and a half in Cuernavaca - I can tell the difference between the sweltering August and the cool-ish November. However, the subtle changes don't orient me. They don't help me realize & get excited that Thanksgiving is right around the corner!! And they don't inspire me to listen to Christmas music, decorate a tree, bake cookies and all those most amazing winter activities. Boo!

Monday, November 8

little fatties

If a Mexican calls you "gordito" or "gordita" (harshly translated: kinda fat) - don't necessarily take it as an insult. Weight is a very common thing to comment upon down here and people shouldn't take it too to heart. It's not fun - but it's not that big of a deal either.

Gordito/a is a fun word because there are various foods with the name - and each and every namesake is destined to make you a little gordito if you eat too much. Gordita example 1...cheese or meat stuffed in a thick fried tortilla. Gordita example 2: day of the dead cookies traditional to Arcelia and other real deal pueblos (the towns where you still happen to see grandpa riding his horse down the street...yeah - I saw him). 
I had a moment of "uh oh - I'm too adapted" when I arrived to Arcelia for Día de Muertos weekend. I said hello to Jaime's relatives and then immediately asked where the gorditas were. My Mexican craving wasn't disappointed...a treasure chest of fall-apart, perfect-to-drink-with-a-cup-of-coffee cookies were waiting for me!  
Yes - I did notice the grease marks on the paper - you know what you're getting into before eating something called "little fatty". The incredible thing about this treat is not only that it's delicious (best description I can think of is the offspring of a corn muffin & a cinnamon graham cracker) - there's an amazing & tedious tradition behind it that people are still abiding to in 2010.  

First - get to the market to buy some corn kernels. Boil it up - then go ahead and put that out in the sun to dry. No big deal - just take your dried corn to the local mill so you can get your corn flour. Oh but gotta put your flour out to dry again. (Jaim's uncle said he tended to the drying process up on their roof for TWO DAYS!) Now get that extra dry flour to the mill again cuz you're gonna want it a little finer. OK! Flour's ready - take it along with your other ingredients to your friendly baker down the street. They'll let you use their industrial size mixers so you can whip up your 10 kilos of cookie dough. (Only 22 pounds this year, Tía Yolanda, what happened??) Roll out the little gordita balls and stamp a little design to squish them down. Take your who-knows-how-many trays over to the wood-burning brick oven and a nice man who's probably been working in the family business since he was 11 will tend to the baking process for you. If you're lucky, the line won't be too long with the other ladies in your neighborhood and you can head home with your tub-o-goodness before nightfall. 
All sassiness aside - customs like this really inspire me. Jaime and I casually walked into the bakery where his aunt had made her cookies two days before and I got to see the process 1st hand. I even got to try one of Doña Choya's gorditas. With her 40 years of experience - this lady has got it down.  

Thursday, November 4

the dead's day

You know how you hear that Mexicans laugh in the face of death and all that? I've spent my second consecutive Día de Muertos in the country and I haven't seen laughing per say - but they definitely do things around here that might make a girl from Wisconsin shiver a tiny bit. Like the annual exposition of Catrinas - aka larger than life female skeletons (or in Jaime's English... "skeletors") dressed up in their Halloween best.  And you also have the ofrendas (offerings) to the dead in your home. You can keep it simple with a small altar with pictures, candles and flowers. Or if you're up to it - you can set up something like this:
Complete with a live angel and an invitation for everyone in the pueblo to come and see. I actually found the tour around Arcelia's offerings to the dead quite cool. It's only a little eerie when you see the "Welcome to your home, Dad" sign... the million marigolds marking the entrance (the smell is supposed to help the dead find their way back)... the inclusion of dad's favorite foods and drinks (tacos, candy, bread, beer and coke never fail) on his altar... I do start to wonder/worry - is their dad really coming back?! 
I guess I shouldn't have culture shock - I mean, please... coming from a place where we leave milk & cookies out for a jolly old fat guy and his magical flying pets...