Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Oaxaca Living:Food

mole negro, fresh salsa and guacamole
One of the reasons that I chose to spend the spring in  Oaxaca this year was cost. This is my fourth year of travel and I need to consider the lower value of the Canadian dollar. In Oaxaca, I can live well for very little money. In fact, unless I buy something exceptional, my costs are averaging about $30 Canadian a day. This does not include my rent but I am eating in lovely restaurants and choosing healthy food.
un omelette saludable (healthy)
In Oaxaca, the middle class people (for those are the people who eat in restaurants) have coffee and a light snack upon rising. I have some yogurt or a multigrain bar in my apartment. Desayunos (breakfast) in a restaurant is served until 2:00 pm and involves, meat, beans, tortillas, cheese, eggs and fruit with optional sweet rolls, juice, coffee or the regional hot chocolate. I usually skip this meal but on week-ends, it is fun to watch families sharing desayunos. If you look, there are healthy options. My omelette,
with unlimited coffee and fresh grapefruit juice cost under $10.
The restaurant is beautifully decorated with flowers, paintings and springtime cutout banners.
The restaurants that I choose are all nicely decorated with bright colours. They are excellent spots to watch people or quietly read my book as I wait. Many of the waiters in Oaxaca speak English as they have worked in the United States. Since there were few jobs in Oaxaca, many left but have returned and  outside many restaurants, shops and bakeries, there are signs seeking employees. Remember the minimum wage is 66 pesos (less than $5 a day).  My omelette cost 85 pesos.
fresh citrus salad with zucchini flowers
Although it has just started to rain a little. Oaxaca usually is dry from November until April. I don't see greenhouses anywhere so the greens and fish that I tend to order must be trucked in. So much for  the 100 Miles Diet.The zucchini flowers are served with just about every dish here so they must be local.
fresh salmon with salsa and vegetables
The coast is about 5 hours away by road that winds through the Sierra Madre Mountains so my salmon,probably imported from Chile, is one of the more expensive dishes. I eat fish at least once a week and it is always prepared with fresh salsa made of chopped vegetables sprinkled with citrus juice. Carrots and broccoli are served frequently. Mexico exports more than 100 million dollars worth of broccoli annually.


poblano en nogada
Oaxaca is famous for its moles, complex sauces usually served over chicken or beef. I have tasted most of the moles and so this visit I am avoiding them. I did, however, visit La Azucena Zapoteca, a restaurant known for its poblanos en nogada, a roasted pepper stuffed with chicken, nuts and fruit, served with a creamy sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate and nuts. I couldn't finish the dish but it was delicious.
I was served a complimentary mescal.
Oaxaca is  also known for its hot chocolate and its mezcal. Tequila is a mezcal that is made in the state of Jalisco. Mezcal is made from the agave cactus. You drink it in one gulp (for me two).  I don't usually drink hard liquor but the orange was juicy sweet, the cayenne was spicy and the mezcal burned on its way down. The contrast of tastes and sensations is the basis of much of Oaxaca's cuisine.
pastries
At home in Oaxaca, I have very simple meals but today my brother is coming from Canada to visit. I will go down the street to Carmelita's pastelería to pick up pastries for tomorrow's breakfast. Pastries cost 6 pesos (about 40 cents Canadian).  We won't have them every day but after a day of travel, my brother might be hungry tomorrow morning.

Yesterday, I asked my mentor at the library, a lady who has lived here for more than 20 years, about food and sanitation. The people selling food in the street have no running water or refrigeration. They wash their utensils in buckets of water. She does not eat street food for this reason. Food right off a comal (grill) is probably safe but I really don't feel like taking the chance.
My "expert" says that this is probably safe but the added sauces are not refrigerated.

My brother has never been to Mexico before so I will enjoy introducing him to all the sights, sounds and tastes of Oaxaca!

6 comments:

  1. So much colourful food -- healthy and reasonably priced (although not so much for the locals, I guess)-- and with lively spicing.I think I'd like this, and I think, like you, I might want to try some of the street offerings but wouldn't want to risk getting really ill. Have a good visit with your brother.

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    1. You can get ill anywhere but there is no point taking chances. Janet and I got sick from a very inviting looking Chinese take-away in Montmartre and I encountered a killer salad in Barcelona. Happy, healthy travel is my goal right now! It will be fun to introduce Mexico to my brother.

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  2. The original Azucena Zapoteca is located in the town of San Martín Tilcajete, and is owned by Jacobo Angeles, a master carver of "alebrijes". I was there in 2010, and the "chiles en nogada" (my favorite Mexican dish) were superb. Since then he has opened the restaurant in downtown Oaxaca. This January, we went to the downtown restaurant and ordered the "chiles en nogada". They were very good, but the sauce tasted more of cream cheese than of walnuts... I suppose because it is not the season for fresh walnuts. (Most restaurants only serve the dish in late summer and autumn.) The dish originated in the city of Puebla, and because its colors are red. white and green... the colors of the Mexican flag... it is traditional for Independence Day.

    Hope your brother enjoys Oaxaca!

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  3. Madame the food looks superbly fresh and healthy, nothing like the Tex-Mex which is all we can buy here (in Australia) as Mexican food. Would you be able to deconstruct the salsas so that we might try them at home? I can see the vegetable inclusions but wonder if they have chili or other spices added? I would love to know what the white topping is on your citrus salad? Seeds perhaps?

    Have a good time with your brother.

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  4. This salsa shown is chopped tomato, onion, serrano pepper and cilantro marinated in lime juice and seasoned with coarse salt. There are lots of different salsas but this is a very basic one . The white that you see on the citrus salad is cheese. Oaxaca has a number of cheeses. This one is almost like a feta. If you google Pilar Cabrera who runs a cooking school here, you will find some typical recipes. Buen provecho!

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    1. Oh madame, thank you! I thought to look back at this entry today, I shall have some fun with salads.

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