Happy New Year!

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/792/28152803/files/2014/12/img_5638.jpg

Advertisements

A Letter to Mexico

Dear Mexico,

Happy anniversary!  I wanted to write you to thank you for what you’ve done for me.  It was three years ago that I came to meet you–and I remember my loneliest New Year’s Eve in a hotel listening to fireworks booming outside.  I was nervous to say the least.  I had heard the worst stories about you!  In fact, that night in the hotel, I huddled beneath the blankets with great trepidation.

They said to be careful.  After all, my countrymen were disappearing by the dozens.  They said to watch what I ate and drank, and I admit, I was worried too those first few days!  They encouraged me to try to communicate with you–but it took me a few weeks to open up to you.  They weren’t always right about you, but they said what they said with the best of intentions.

Mexico, I have to tell you, they don’t really know you like I do.  They are used to walking around with their noses stuck in their smart phones.  They don’t look up enough.  If they did, they would see the curiosity on the faces of your people.  They would see the colors of the buildings (just as bright as Charleston’s Rainbow Row).  They don’t know you very well, or they wouldn’t write so much about the scary things.  And they most certainly haven’t had enough of your street food and lemonade with questionable ice.  You offer so much more than cartels, mass graves, and dishonesty.  There is a side of you that they don’t get to see enough of–and it is time you let that side show!

You have been good to me.  He used to say, “Give me your tired, your poor…” but he doesn’t really mean it.  I know.  I left when I was poor and broken– and YOU are the one that healed me.  You picked me up, and dusted off my britches.  You put band-aids on my wounds, and told me that everything would be alright.  You helped me stop looking at what I had left behind long enough to see what was ahead of me.  And the wooing… oh, how you wooed me!  Before I knew it, I was your’s for the taking.  YOU did that, Mexico.  You helped me to love again.

The first year with you, I found my heart.  What a gift you gave me in my sweet husband!  The second year you stretched my capacity to love even more–and that sweet man gave me a sweeter hijita.  She shines with the brightest of light–and I know that God’s plan for her is great.  Finally, in year three I became permanently yours–free to go and work where I will within your borders.  What will this year bring me?  What do you have in store for me now, Mexico?

I am ready.  If I have learned anything in three years, it is to embrace you with open arms.

Your’s truly,

Jania

No More Shortcuts in the Kitchen

I remember when I moved to Mexico, I had the hardest time the first two weeks.  I didn’t know what to eat–and resorted to a daily diet of beans, tortillas, fresh cheese, and Valentina hot sauce.  It didn’t take long for me to adjust, and now I miss fresh cheese, tamales on demand, and more fresh cheese.

I’ve become a little spoiled here in the north.  I can buy most items I would buy in the States.  What I can’t buy I have learned to live without, or I make it the long way!  This has actually been something I revel in, and I have a list I have been compiling of what I will not go back on.

  1. Popcorn:  It has taken me 30 years of my life to finally make real popcorn.  We have lived microwave-less for two years, and that also meant popcorn-less.  Until now.  Now I am unstoppable.  I am a popcorn making machine!  I love the flavor, and I am afraid I may never return to bags of popcorn with questionable ingredients.  I also love anything that I get to choose my own oil–olive oil popcorn tastes just as delicious!
  2. Salad Dressing:  The other day, I had to share my recipe for honey mustard dressing with the ladies at school.  I was almost embarrassed.  I mean, they were RAVING about how amazing it was, and I was over there saying, “Three ingredients.  That’s it.  Mayo, Spicy Brown Mustard, Honey.”
  3. Pancakes:  This was new for me, because I am not a big pancake person.  These were the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted in my life. Recipe  Simple ingredients.  Easy to make.  Fresh taste.  Now, if only real maple syrup didn’t cost an arm and a leg…
  4. Taco Seasoning:  I remember making tacos with my family.  We scrambled meat and added this package of taco seasoning.  Without it, tacos just weren’t tacos.  Well, it should come as no surprise that Mexicans don’t actually season meat with packages of powder.  My suegra mother-in-law and my husband make the tastiest meat you’ve ever tasted.  They do it with onion, garlic, salt, and tomato.  That’s it.  I, however, do find myself occasionally wishing for the tacos of my youth.  And when I do, in goes a little garlic (powder), fresh ground pepper, cayenne pepper, chile pepper, fresh sea salt, and pepper flakes.  Yah.  That’s it.  Just go easy on the pepper if you are sensitive to spice.
  5. Mixed Salad:  This is embarrassing.  My grandmother would die if she saw the money you spend on bags of salad.  Basically, I could make a “fresh spring mix” for a fraction of the cost for the bag of salad.  The other thing is the flavor.  I think I may be more sensitive to flavors now–because the taste of lettuce in a bag is strange.  It also smells strange.  Now I buy a couple different kinds of lettuce, wash it in cold water (in my case soak it in disinfectant), then I put it between pieces of paper towel or regular towels and roll it up.  I store it in a plastic bag in the fridge, and it stays nice and crispy!  Making a mix of lettuces, cabbage, fresh veggies–no big deal.  Salad in minutes.
  6. Granola Bars:  Do you know what is in granola?  Basically the most basic ingredients in the world–then a bunch of stuff I can’t identify to preserve it.  I love making granola.  I can put whatever I want in there, and I don’t feel guilty about sharing it with my baby.  I love making granola with oats, honey, olive oil, dried cranberries, pecans, almonds, peanut butter, chocolate chips, and chia seeds.  Yummo!  Here are two good sites:  Inspired Taste and Running With Spoons
  7. Muffins, Rolls, Other Breads:  Bread used to be my unicorn.  It was some mystical being that I hadn’t personally been introduced to.  Victor and I occasionally buy bread, but we usually stick with corn tortillas.  Once upon a time, we bought a bag of bread, then we went on summer vacation.  I am not kidding: it didn’t mold.  I know we live in the desert and that there isn’t much moisture, but bread that doesn’t change in appearance after a month is a little scary.  I love making bread.  It feels like I am really giving my all to my family and guest when I feed them a warm out-of-the-oven roll.  It isn’t that hard, but I have found that, yes, you can leave bread to rise for too long.
  8. Cake:  Don’t buy cake in a box.  Yuck.  It tastes bad.  Enough said.
  9. Chicken Broth:  It is so simple to boil a chicken in water.  Yes, you can add some veggies to add flavor, but just chicken in water does the trick too.  Especially if you leave the skin on that guy.  You can make your broth skim by cooling it afterwards and removing the fats from the top.  But the fat gives flavor, so I suggest you leave it.  I mean, it is mostly water, after all…
  10. Flavored Oatmeal:  We used to fight over the Strawberries and Cream oatmeal packets when we were young.  This is before Quaker got smart and started selling boxes of ONLY Strawberries and Cream.  Then, when I was expecting, I read this article that suggesting making your own fruit and oats to avoid extra sugar.   Oh my.  Oh my!  I cook the strawberries first with sugar.  Then I add water, milk, and oats.  Sometimes I slice apple and cook it with cinnamon and sugar.  This is so good.  And so much better than a packet of dehydrated fruit, flavored powder and sugar, and quick oats.  I use real oats, people.  It starts my day off with a bang!

I think it is clear that I have a love affair with food.  This isn’t even about preservatives, all organic, non-gluten mumbo-jumbo.  This is about flavor.  It tastes better if you do it right.  The fact that it is healthier is a side-benefit!  Provecho!