Monthly Archives: February 2017

A Day at the Beach

It’s Kristin here – still on vacation, enjoying winter sun in the Yucatan. Most of the people we meet are other tourists and they too hail from places where the weather is not so kind this time of year. Most too live inland, so the water is a treat and sunsets with palm trees are a sign one is on holiday. Add in the heat and the tropical flavours and we all feel we are living the good life.

As I lay in the sun yesterday listening to the waves I wondered if my reverence for the sea comes at least in part from never living near it when I was a kid. A day at the beach was a part of vacation time, visiting relatives who lived in Vancouver.

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Third Beach at Stanley Park, our most-often visited seaside spot in my childhood  it’s still lovely for families  

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What better way to celebrate a good dive in Cozumel than with a margarita while laying over the ocean…

We would pack a picnic lunch, and sand-castle building gear, and a huge beach blanket and umbrella. My mom would read, my dad would meditate and think himself brown, and my brother and I would play and swim and muck in the sand… and flop down to rest and do it all again.

My mom’s masterfully made sandwiches were the best (don’t add mushy things like tomatoes till the last minute). Popsicles from the concession never tasted as good anywhere else. Beach time was quality time enjoyed together.

As an adult, lazy days and quality time are even more valuable and more cherished. I don’t just swim but scuba dive now, and the zen of being underwater is magic or my soul. To do it with my soul mate is the best feeling ever.

This trip we have seen turtles, rays, eels, crabs, lobster and sharks – not to mention more kinds of fish than I can remember. When we get back to the surface we relive our moments of excitement and share them with others. And we relax.

 

 

 

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The Build

I live in a house in the Bahia in San Carlos that is about 10yrs. old. It was built to specifications by the fellow I live with by a local contractor. It is sparse, designed to maximize heat in the Mexican winter and prevailing winds in the summer. There is magnificent light all year round. There is an ocean view, now being slightly obscured by trees which cause the owner to mumble somewhat and stunning views all round of the surrounding hills. Over one ridge is the estuary that is a run in for the arroyos that feed into the Bay of San Carlos. Great blue and grey Herrons, Roseate Spoonbills, all the Sea of Cortez Pelicans hang out there at some part of the day or other. img_0002_2-2

There is not much landscaping here; lady beside us is a doctor of landscape architecture plus a galleried painter in the US so her cactus, bushes and palms are very artfully arranged. Dirt is mostly just worn down rock and not very nutritious. Great composting takes place in the strip of garden we maintain. Most homeowners don’t have gardens either flower or vegetable; a pot on the patio and mostly just cactus, a wild grass or other local something with prickly bits and thorns in areas that are not tiled. In fact, most yards in this area are built from one boundry to another. The great outdoors is everyone’s yard. It’s the naturalness that I love. img_0003-2img_0002-2

Mostly for me, but as an offshoot to have a separate place for company (my people and old cruisers in and out provisioning or drydocking their boats aka his people), there is an extention being built this winter in what was the carport. Existing garage but being away a fair bit of time means the best automobile should be under a roof. Very hot summers hard on everything out and vehicles seem to wander here without measures to keep them grounded. No repurposing the garage. The original contractor is still in business and even more of a local institution. Hired again. Already a bond, and someone who will respect the integrity of the original idea even for just a room. A beautiful doe eyed, Spanish gentleman in the old colonial style he is such a delight. Plus we are all of an age so this is not so much work as enjoyment. For Hector, mostly retired now, keeping his crews working and providing for families, teaching a trade WELL so it will endure and fulfilling his word is just maintaining his lifeline. For me I want, even for just a room, to maintain the lines and integrity of the design of the house. It should be sinuous not an add-on. I am interested in design, the owner is a mathematician. It is a struggle sometimes to mesh on similar issues simply because the language is different. But the lines of the house are maintaining. Hector sees to that.

The rest of this post is pictures. We are just past having the concrete roof cured. Workers will be back tomorrow to continue. Electrical is in as it is encased in concrete. I will try and limit my incredulity at the methods of construction. It amazes me.  However, you can see what the view will be out toward the esturary. There will be a bathroom with handicap toilet height for us old guys, sink but industrial as a project space plus coffee etc. No shower as two in the house already. We toyed with patio…there is already existing. Bless Hector’s heart, there will be every window requested with improvements. We are still dickering with the glass block/solid enclosure for the toilet. My thinking is whoever is inhabiting will not mind the openness and certainly I won’t. The other option to me claustrophobic. A cubicle with elbow room only…yikes. All so we can function quietly!!

I’ll keep you posted.img_0004

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Empalme Tianga

Empalme; old railway nexus for northern Mexico, pass thru for anywhere south on the inside Pacific Coast. Huge local fishery. New infrastructure in an old decrepit town creating a desalinization plant as an offshoot of the new electrical plant powered by the US natural gas pipeline. Spanish engineers, new young Mexicans wanting to get ahead and jobs for the general community. Even if only service for something or someone. It feeds the family. Fuels the burgeoning middle class.

No real stores in Empalme. Yes, the torterilla, grocery of sorts, many ‘I can do it’ establishments. The Ferreteria, the Pharmasia. But Sunday, every Sunday is the Tianga. It is the street market which happens in every Mexican town sometime during the week. Everything is available. It is the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, the hardware, the furniture store. Used clothing abounds, some with the Value Village tags still attached (illegal to import used clothing into Mexico don’t you know). The Mexican Department Store. Those not selling the above have attached themselves to the cheap Chinese import of everything and anything, the salespitch attached to huge speakers blaring loud music. And, of course, one must not forget the market gardeners and the food vendors. They are spectacular.sweet-toothfruit-vendor

I love the art of the stalls. Most do ready made bags. Others weigh and bag. Rarely do they just weigh. These are the local market gardeners. Design is creeping in but Empalme not so much. The natural complement of colour suffices. Greens are tougher. There is no drip watering as in greenhouses. But the taste! Green beans are delicious, snap peas have to be deveined, tomatoes to die for, squash even in season a tich bit dry. Peppers of all sort abound and whether hot or sweet they are marvelous. Can’t count on the heat of anything except the habaneros; sometimes a caribe is blistering. Potatoes are delicious, very wet whether red or white. Bakers are what?truck-vendor

We eat a lot of pork here but I don’t buy it at the open market. Yet I know from the stalls which are the freshest. The head is on the table. The pork is there to buy fresh to take home or cooked in a variety of ways for take out or eating there. No roast loin here; all carnitas (pork confit aka pork slow cooked in it’s own fat), deepfried pieces or a stewed something for tacos. Kristin mentioned that on the East Coast they too favour chicharron (deep fried crackling). I buy mine every Wednesday on my solo trips to the market. My mother loved it. I love it. It is a guilty pleasure, only a few curls to be indulged solitarily as it grosses out most. The texture and taste however I explain it has never done it justice. Sonoran cuisine does a thinly sliced beef on the charcoal grill that is then sliced again very thinly horizontally for  tacos. These stands abound. Even most grocery stores have grills that will cook your purchase to order. Chicken is done at home or comes off the spit at a small takeout establishment. Rarely found at street markets. And altho Empalme is shrimp, clam and octopus territory, those vendors for fresh or cooked are separate. Adjacent to but not at the market. It is only Guadalahara or Mexico City in my experience that mix fish/seafood and meat. And those are covered, controlled environments.the-pork-vatspork-productsonoran-beef-for-tacos

It was a nice wander. I bought peas, strawberries, some tiny zuchinni, tiny tomatoes. I have my eyes wide open now for squash blossoms! None on Sunday. One purchase I wish I’d completed: the double yolk eggs. What fun! Next time.

So Cheap It’s Almost Free

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‘so cheap it’s almost free’

Sometime from Friday night to yesterday evening our little freezer went down. There is still some home grown from last year and other assorted that freezers collect but we were struck by how little we have on hand. Although a lot of what you buy up north is grown here, that’s just what happens to most of it…it goes north. On occasion as with all growers, growth exceeds demand and produce of whatever being grown for the export market floods the grocery stores and it is ‘so cheap it’s almost free’.  Well, here anyway. And like anywhere, no tomatoes or they are so tasteless and expensive you do without. The freezer is a wonderful hedge.

Today in the grocery store tomatoes were approximately .25$ Cdn. per kilo.These are not the ones at the fresh street markets grown in backyards, delicious and just off the vine. These were all Roma, uniform ripe and unusually this time, very, very tasty. We thanked our lucky stars at our 9kilos and roasted half and stewed the other half. Our version of canned tomatoes. No salt or preservatives and very little effort. Yes, electricity (which can be iffy here and costly) plus the freezer. Supermarket cost usually of tomatoes is about 1.5/2$ per kilo. Markets are less and how the farmers stay alive I don’t know. Minimum wage has just risen yet so has the cost of gasoline and other consumables. Globalization is here but as always, only a few really get to partake.photo-1

We eat according to the market. The Mexican diet is not heavy on vegetables except as an additive or salsa. When your diet is the opposite, a little meat and mostly vegetables sometimes it’s a strain. Unexpected tomatoes are a delight but we do grow our own. Plus chard, arugula, dill, oregano, mint, basil, squash, beets and I notice this year, a volunteer sunflower. Always a welcome addition.  Fruit here takes space and concentrated watering; there are orange plantations, lemons like mandarins, grapefruit (all with a gazillion seeds), mangoes, strawberries and from the south papaya, bananas, pineapple and much more. Markets are seasonal so we are back to eating seasonal rotations. Everything tastes better and it travels little. It is also economical.

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I am very fortunate. The sun shines, there is lots to eat and the people of Mexico are charming.  I travel when the sun gets too hot (I hear you groaning!) and I live the same in Europe as I do here, whatever is available at the market is what’s for dinner. And it’s always a delight of experience.

 

 

Master of cheap eats

I’m making a quick entry tonight – nothing fancy, but certainly worth noting. 

We got stuck in the dinner rush last night and ended up wandering through town looking for a place to grab a bite. Finally we hit upon a redneck Mecca – Guy Fieri’s Kitchen and Bar. It’s not what you’d call a local place, featuring more hamburgers and Mac n’ cheese than tacos and ceviche. But it does have some Mexican dishes and it is a solid concept. (If you don’t know of Guy Fieri, he’s a celebrity chef known for his road trips featuring hole-in-the-wall restaurants that offer down-home dishes with their own flair. His TV show, “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” – or Triple D as his fans call it – is a favourite with Canadian and American foodies that love low-brow food.)

We tried to stay in theme, so I had tortilla soup and Martin has ancho lime wings with the seasoned fries. All of it was tasty, hot and fresh – they hit the spot. After all, what more can you ask of comfort food?


Then just to really top the night off, we shared the churros which come warm with Mayan chocolate and dulce de leche dipping sauces. Sheer heaven! 


It wasn’t cheap by usual Mexican standards but it was cheaper than the prices at his Vegas or New York location, I would bet. The server mentioned their new spot will be in Dubai – another place expats will likely enjoy a taste of home, not to mention those curious about American comfort food. 

I want to talk more about simple food done right in future posts – a meal doesn’t always have to be impressive or innovative to be spectacular. Sometimes you just want to be satisfied in a heartening sort of way. I know I went to bed with a happy tummy last night! 

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