Feb 24, 2009

Fresh Air Food...and Drink.

In the two weeks Gail & Walter were here, we ate all our meals out in the fresh air.
Our now functional palapa eating area is where we had our breakfasts, and most of our lunches, dinners and snacks. The TV has become a lonely old friend.
After eating, we would retire to our comfy couches and chairs and settle in for more chat and reading time. I consumed two novels these last two weeks, a real measure of relaxing for me.

Taking it to the Street...
It is a common fear of travelers to Mexico that they will, or might likely at least, catch the dreaded Montezuma’s Revenge, Tourista, or more precisely, traveler's diarrhea.
We decided years ago on our first trip deep into Mexico, that we would not deprive ourselves of the tasty local Baja specialty, fish tacos. We held out until the second day, then indulged and became addicted, eating them virtually every day for the rest of the trip.
Since that time, 8 years ago, we have continued to enjoy the local street food, sometimes at open air eateries, but often from the sidewalk vendors. They prepare and dispense a wide variety of flavorful food, with regional variations -- usually tacos, but also barbeced-whole-fish-on-a-stick (Guayabitos), variations of Mexican corn-on-the-cob with all the trimmings. On one trio to Guadalajara, I tried our over a dozen new, different edibles and drinkables, my favorite being a slightly fermented corn brew, tejuino, nutritious and refreshing.
There are few things I don’t care for, such as chicheron -- deep-fried or even worse, stewed pig skin. A lot of street food can be fatty and starchy. To make the popular empanada take a circle of corn dough, fill it with meat or cheese, deep fry it, and then add some salsa and thick creme. Can you say “myocardial infarction?”
A Mexican style sandwich, “torta”, usually starts with a fresh bun, slathered with mayonnaise, which is grilled before adding a variety of fillings, always ending up very tasty. Even the lowly hot-dog is a flavor treat mexican style. When we were in Catamaco last spring, we treated ourselves to several of these hand-made delights with about six condiments over the weiner, all for 7 pesos: about 50c US.
Here around the city of Playa, there are portable lunch stands on many corners, busy with the local workers and passersby. I have my favorites that serve salbutes, and panuchos. In the evenings, many little restaurants feature pastor, pork and/or chicken barbecued-on-a-spit. Even right here where our PaaMul road joins the highway there are two busy taco stands, that have a wide variety of familiar and mysterious fillings including chiles rellenos.
Our neighbors Bob and Dot have a rule never to eat at any food stand that is not permanently bolted down. Maybe I am just lucky, or have slowly insulated my internal systems, but in these 7 years, I have had exactly one instance of overnight purging. (Susan’s number is three.)
So when our Canadian visitors came here for their first trip, we were a bit wary on their account. We have heard the stories of the dreaded ailments that really put a damper on a holiday.
However, they were game to try the local food, and every second day or so, we stopped somewhere for lunch or dinner. (I think food just tastes better in the open air and it is a bonus if you have your feet in the sand.)
We tried a couple of “nice” restaurants, but our favorite was the the busy and economical El Fogon. (See photo from previous post) My prairie-dog brother-in-law even out-hotted me in the spicy salsa too! “Hotter, hotter...!”
The punch line is, we got an e-mail that they are home, safe and sound, full of good memories, and as far as we know, no bugs. Yay!

Feb 14, 2009

Open for business... of relaxing.

Now that we were on our own, we scurried around getting the palapa in some semblance of order for our first visitors -- my sister Gail and her hubby, Walter from Regina, Sask. This was their first trip to the warmer climes of Mexico and we wanted the visit to be enjoyable.
We got a coat of sealer on the stucco, installed a few more lights, and switches. The waterworks had a couple of annoyingly slow leaks around the tenaco and pump and these were brought under control. Saturday afternoon, before they arrived, I gathered up all the tools and parts which were spread out over two tables and every available flat surface, and secluded them in the bodega. Suddenly we had living space.
The couple of weeks at the end of January were unseasonably cold and windy here -- bringing out our long sleeves and often jackets. One afternoon as I was working up on the roof, I even dug out my toque! (I don’t like getting my ears cold) and survived the ridicule.
This week though, nature has reverted to its pleasant self.
We have our outdoor kitchen functional, and have been enjoying our morning toast and fruit plates, afternoon snacks and evening barbecues outside on the palapa deck.
Monday we had a reconnaissance mission to the tourist shopping zones in Playa. It was our first trip down to 5th Ave. this winter, and it was lots of fun. We had a nice fish lunch right on the beach.
To get the full experience of Mexico, eating out at the smaller restaurants is a must. Nothing quite like sharing a plate of chorizos, chuletas, cebollas, quesadillos, tacos, and all the sauces with the ambiance of the other diners, roving singers, and the passing parade of pedestrians and traffic next to your open-air table. The blurry photo posted here is to record that the prairie boy Walter, out-hotted the rest of us on the hot sauces. Says they aid digestion and cleanse the bugs which might be around our food. So far so good for everyone.

And finally we are giving ourselves some beach time. We have been collecting shells and getting wet in the waves. Gail and Walter are trying out the mechanics of snorkeling and this week we will try out Akumal and Yal-ku, a couple of the prime snorkeling spots around here.
Yesterday we toured the Tulum ruins. We hadn’t been there since 1990, when we first spent a week in the Yucatan. I could see that tourism in this area had grown immensely, taking account of the crowds around the site. Still it is awe-inspiring walking on paths among the many stone buildings where the original inhabitants had walked more than a thousand years ago. We also share the paths with dozens of gray and wrinkled iguanas that probably have lived here all along. Oh the stories they must share with their grandparents and baby iguanas.

Feb 1, 2009


The work crews finally left. The digging and drilling, mixing, tiling, grouting is finally over. A bunch of the tiles had to be cut by the electric grinder, as we had all the floor tiles set on a 45 degree bias. Of all the jobs on the site, the noisiest and dustiest were the blocks and tiles being cut by the grinder. Not unlike getting your teeth drilled by the dentist -- not as painful perhaps, but unrelenting, day after day.
I used this same grinder to cut the spaces for our electrical outlets. Usually the breeze would carry the dust away.
My most gruesome task was modifying the underside of the bano counter. The style of counter they build here is a concrete slab of 3 inches with a thick layer of adhesive and the tiles on top. The tap we bought was to stand beside the sink. While I had left a hole for the tap, the apparatus had threads for a two inch counter. I had to lie on my back in a close space, grinding above me. I would take a deep breath, grind for about 30 seconds, and then bolt out of the room for air. When I was done, I looked like a ghost, my face and hair thick with gray dust. More clean up...

On the quieter side, we have installed the living area furniture. Mmm, the couch and seats are wonderfully comfy. They are a resin rattan with weatherproof fabric that is made for patio use. Now I just need to take some time to sit in them.