March 27, 2011
As I write, a guitar strums in the background. The air is warm and I am filled with bbq'd pollo and the best mint helado ever (with pieces of mint leaves!) The food has been amazing: chilies, pozole, guacamole, and tortillas in an incredible number of forms. Art galleries, mercados, and museos are around every corner. I have actually been meeting other travellers, and no longer feel like the only foreigner in town!
I met Grace at a cafe and we set out to the Sunday mercado in Tlacolula, about 30 minutes out of town. The aisles were pleasantly wide and endlessly long, filled with vendors selling modern tshirts, traditional woven fabrics, carved bowls, coconut-cinnamon juice, chocolate, coffee, vegetable seeds, frutas, grasshoppers spiced with salt and chili, honey, and the list goes on. Especially fun was sampling all the different kinds of mezcale (liquor made from the agave cactus)!
Cooking class with chef Alberto: Rachel and I learned how to make mole rojo (a red mole sauce), flores de calabaza sopa (squash-blossom soup), and stewed guavas. In Oaxaca, there are 7 different kinds of moles, each one a complicated mixture, traditionally made for special occasions. Chili peppers, sesame seeds, hazel nuts, plantain, onion, and of course chocolate are just a few of the ingredients. After frying everything together, we were sent on an excursion to follow one of the cooks carrying our bucket of mole. Completely clueless as to where we were going, (because the class was all in Espanol!), and still wearing our aprons, we end up at a shop with machines that blend it all into a smooth paste. It was fried again, thinned with broth and poured over chicken. Then we ate our 3-course creation.