Wednesday, December 31, 2008

part three

3) Do something you've never done before. Repeat as many times as possible.

Oh yeah

I've never taken a cooking class before and neither has Jesse, so we decided to take one together while we were in Oaxaca.

We decided on a traditional Oaxacan menu. We arranged for a class with Nora Valencia through, Las Bugambilias Bed and Breakfast. Nora took us to a local market nearby where we shopped for our ingredients. She explained how to find the freshest and best of the market.

Nora shopping at the market

This vendor lives in the hills around Oaxaca and had fresh picked her ingredients of squash flowers, herbs, and corn early in the morning before coming to market.

I was enthralled with the families working the booths together. Even the booths I normally wouldn't find tasty were attractive.

Sausages anyone?

Sausages anyone?

Then Nora took us into her lovely home, the highlight of which I must say was the cucina. A dream kitchen in any home.

Noras' cucina

We made tamales in this happy, and many times blessed, tamale pot.

Happy Tamale Pot

We also made moles, a soup and the stuffed squash flowers seen above. They were gone so quickly I don't have any pictures of the rest. But we enjoyed eating them very much in Noras dining room.

Noras' Dining Room

A lovely experience, one our friend Alvin has written about much better in this article. We've already attempted to recreate the tamales here at home, while not quite as good as the ones we made in Oaxaca, they were tasty enough to keep trying. I'm hoping for many more culinary adventures in the New Year.

(Doesn't Jesse look cute in an apron?)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

part two

2) Bring two of your best friends along with you.

Looking out

Even though I had thought of celebrating la Dia de los Muertos for my birthday as a kid, I forgot when I grew up. Opie reminded me. She called me to say, we're turning 30. It's a big deal. We should do it together. She was right.

Opie got her first passport to make this trip! Here she is admiring a mermaid at the Santo Domingo Museum. Aren't they both lovely?

Opie and I have been best friends for 15 years. In high school we used to dream about going on trips like this, to see first hand what we were learning about in Art History. This was our chance to do that together.

Jesse is up for going anywhere, that doesn't have assassin bugs, that is. So I knew he'd be on board. Here he is in the Santo Domingo library which contains Pre-Columbian codices.

I know this isn't what the bookstore he works in looks like, but this is how I picture him at work. Surrounded by ancient leather bound manuscripts with a little smile on his face.

Jesse and Opie both have adventurous appetites, for music, food, language and culture. I'm so glad they wanted to go on this adventure with me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How To Turn 30, part one.

or at least How I Turned 30.

1)Find a country that celebrates a holiday on your birthday.

I've wanted to visit Oaxaca, Mexico since the age of 9 when my childcraft encylopedia told me that November 2 is Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. It's much more fun than it sounds.

Celebrating this holiday means you remember those who have died and celebrate their lives. While keeping in mind that our days our numbered too and we should enjoy the ones we have. Part of the celebration is staying overnight in your families cemetery. We were lucky enough to visit two. One that is the main cemetery for Oaxaca, which is huge and old and another that was smaller and more intimate.

candelit aisle

skull grave


There was music and marigolds, a carnival atmosphere with food stalls and rides outside of the cemetery. Everyone seems to come out. Families stay all night with their loved ones, playing live music and drinking to them.

I found myself getting teary thinking of my grandmothers and grandfather who have died. Seeing people grieving and celebrating at the same time. It was really touching. I wish that we did more in my family to make a point of remembering those who have died.