Tuesday, October 11

The Sum

I haven't cooked much recently. A few friends and I did brunch, but afterwards there was (are) a chingo of dirty dishes, piled in a filthy, colorful, abstract-sculpture kind of way, so I'm able to convince myself that it really would be wrong of me to disturb them.

Something I've realized, more now than I did before, is that when I think of myself or my personality, I don't separate my family from that concept. Obviously, there are variations, (Dad is the hypochondriac, Mindee is the type A (love you, don't get offended, hormones), Ian is the eccentric, Benjamin is the shrill one at campfires, etc. :) but I imagine it kind of like a mole; there are all these separate ingredients, and you taste the variations of the chocolate, ancho chiles, cinnamon, garlic, and a mess of other ingredients, but combined they've created a totally distinct flavor--that is a whole unto itself, and while hints of the former ingredients are there, they can be hard to identify and separate. (Think Top Chef name that ingredient challenge).

Someone told me once that I confused them with the way I used the pronoun "we". I use it without specifically mentioning the "others" that are contained in it, and consequently hearers would assume it was a you(listener)-and-I (speaker) "we", but it really is a my family-and-I "we".

I keep wanting to write about Murray. About all the things we (my sense of the word) think about and feel when we think of him. Things he loves, has done, stories he's told or been a part of--the time he found the perfect Jelly-Belly combination that tasted exactly like cleaning out the grainbins, the color of our new "chemical" Norvee 500, him falling in the river at Indian Bluffs and having to wear my pants back to Iowa City, his face when he told the story of lifting heavy objects without making noise--but like ingredients and my language have done, my memories and feelings meld into a whole, larger than just one ingredient represents, and I can't convey the depth with just one. All the mornings with obscene amounts of coffee, all the picnics, all the meals, lawn games, holidays, rides in the car...

“I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I'm gone which would not have happened if I had not come.”
Midnight's Children Salman Rushdie

Friday, September 30

3 Years

Just over 3 years ago I moved to Oaxaca. Just over 3 years ago, late one night after a party sprinkled with cacahuates con chilé de arbol and drenched in palomas, that post-party malaise crept up, probably exacerbated by the neighboring cantina's blaring "music."

I doubted being in Mexico, I missed my family, I wanted to have them to my apartment and explain things that I was just learning, and I wanted to tell them about delicious new things I had eaten, drunk, and seen in the market. So in my sporadically used journal, I wrote to them, but about them too--because while we are wonderful, intelligent, amazing, loving...all these positive things and many others, we are also vain as shit. So I wrote to them, and about us, and about the things we love, because they are things we do together, and share with each other. Then I started this blog, so I could share these things with them as they happened.

In three years, my life has changed dramatically in ways that I guess I knew it would eventually, but never really believed or understood--and that I still don't. In three years, I have written consistently less and less, but gone home more and more. In three years, I've shown friends and family around Oaxaca, and took them to eat in my favorite spots, played the knowledgable tour-guide/translator, and loved every minute of it. In three years, I've lugged suitcases full of mezcal, chocolate, and chilied bugs to the North--the anticipation of sharing these things and being with my family giving me much joy, even before the actual trip. In three years, I have had more compliments about looking beautiful or happy just after these visits than at any other time...and I get a lot of these (See?, I wasn't joking about that vanity thing). In three years there are some things that still haven't changed--I still doubt being in Mexico, and I miss my family all the time. In three years, I'm hoping that writing it down will still help share things with my family when I can't be there with them.

Thursday, January 13

Would you Say I Have a Plethora of Possibilities?

When I'm feeling pessimistic it feels hopeless that I could ever make the right choice about what to do with my life, where to live, sometimes even what to eat for lunch. Possibilities are bogs of primordially evil smelling mud that are slowly dragging me down and suffocating me, and worst of all the slow and painful process smells like shit.

Those are bad days. However, it's not always like that and some days I feel feverishly optimistic about all the choices that lie in front of me. Instead of stenchy-mud bogs, it's like I'm back in a Mr. Bulky's sampling their delicious wares, but this time without the threat of getting yelled at by an employee who realizes I'm not going to buy anything. It may still be something that will eventually drag me down and suffocate me, but instead of sludge it's Jelly Belly's, butter mints, gummy fried eggs, and coke bottles.

I think a lot about choices and possibilities over the holidays. There are the unpleasant, stenchy choices; what clothes will keep me warmest in temperatures for which I've grown too soft and wimpy? Why do stores in the US have so many varieties of everything that I stare unfocused at bright colored boxes like someone who has just had a frontal lobotomy? How can I keep living in Mexico when my family lives in the Mid-west, but how can I move back to the Mid-west when my Mexico has no -14º (celsius or farhenheit) and aguacates are $1 per pound?

But then there are those delightful choices that pleasantly roll around in my mind--what non-Mexican food will I be eating for lunch? Which can get a little out of control on its own, because I want everything, but feel confident I can do no wrong. I think about all the things I pine for during the year in Mexico and then I devour mass quantities of them. Blueberries, sushi, barbecue, breads with the perfect chewy crust, stinky and sharp cheeses, and much, much more.

Even with that plethera of pleasant choices, my return to Mexico always has a certain relief to it. The one brand of olive oil, the one lady who sells ginger, the one food option--Mexican.

Of course, there are lots of choices within that spectrum, but the one I miss most when I'm away, that I would happily eat during vacations in the US--the tlayuda. It's huge, it's grilled, it's stuffed with meats, beans, quesillo, veggies, there is talk of lard, it's un desmadre. Yum.

While I've never tried my hand at replicating and it's probably a little cold for grilling, I'm guessing you could use a 400-450ish oven and maybe your lowest rack. Start with a large corn tortilla, dry or slightly toasted, top with black bean puree, quesillo, your choice of cooked meat (it's usually chorizo, cecina, or tasajo--a lean salted beef (my personal tlayuda favorite), chopped cabbage, cilantro, avocado. Fold in half (they don't always fold, but my favorite place does and so you should too) and grill or toast on both sides until tortilla is warm and crisp. Slice in half and serve with salsa, rajas, spicy pickled carrots.

What other choice do you need?