El Sabino

 

The Way

The Way

 

When Felipe’s family arrived in La Tigra, all the ejido land close to town was owned by the town’s founding families. Thus, the plots his family was allotted for planting, though ample, were far up the mountain. Because of the distance, they lived there during the growing season.
Felipe’s father built a shack of sunflower stalks covered in a tarp for the family to sleep in during the season’s heavy rains. It’s difficult for me to imagine this. I’ve weathered the spring rains in my “tank of cinder blocks” house, and felt fear that comes from awe at their force. I shake my head in wonder thinking of him as a child with seven other people inside the tiny structure, made, essentially of sticks, during a deluge.
He says it was cozy and dry. His father and brothers dug a trench around it to divert the water. Every afternoon, his mother smoked it. He recalls the small thuds as scorpions fell from the walls, dizzied by the smoke, as he puts is, they were easy to kill.

 

Under El Sabino

Under El Sabino

Felipe, Socorro and I spend our Sunday afternoons together. Occasionally, they like to trek up the mountain to El Sabino, the piece of land they lived on, to look around and reminisce. I pack a lunch. This week’s menu was tostadas de picado de res , and trail mix. The land is called El Sabino for the huge Sabino that lives there. It’s an odd place for a Sabino, generally they grow on the river bank. Socorro thinks there’s an underground river below it and its companion, the biggest mango I’ve ever seen. Both trees require three sets of arms to encircle them.

Soco demonstrates her baking moves

Soco demonstrates her baking moves

The tour includes a hike through the land as Soco shows us the trees they planted, guajes, limones… and laments the guayaba that died. A tumble of rocks was once her bread oven. She sold bread to the workers who cut a road into the mountain side. The family never needed a road, they came on burros, packed with all the household items they’d need for the season, on trails too narrow to walk abreast.
We pick up garbage, do small repairs to the fence, and fantasize about having a cabin here, like the city slickers from Cuernavaca with a vacation cottage in El Mango, a tiny town even deeper in the forest, which can only be reached by burro or four-wheel drive.

Prodijiosa

Prodijiosa

Socorro grabs a handful of prodijiosa* on the way out and Felipe encourages me to taste it, but I remember its remarkably bitter flavor from our last visit and ruin his trick. Soco tells me she’ll make a tea to clean her blood. Felipe recalls the annual ritual; she made him drink a tiny cup for nine days in a row, and if he threw it up, he had to drink another.
Faithful bocho creaks down the “barely a road”, Felipe waves other travelers coming from El Zapote, the “barely a town” on the Cero Frio’s plateau, around us. It’s rumored the road is soon to be paved. El Zapote residents commute to civilization is a jarring, and sometimes treacherous hour, each way. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to have a fast, smooth commute. I wonder if anyone will feel as I did , happy for the convenience, but saddened by civilizations encroachment.
Concrete or no, we will still have the sabino, the mango and Soco’s stories of life in the campo in the house made of sunflower stalks.

• As usual Soco’ remedy was confirmed by “modern” information.

 

Good and Good for You

Havesting Nopales

Nopales are a super food.  We have a stand in our garden and I prepare them as a side dish, a salad and a taco filling. Nopales can be purchased ready to cook in most latin groceries both here and in the U.S.  Lucky you, because cleaning them is sort of a pain, but I don’t mind because they’re easy to grow, delicious and free!

Nopales al Vapor (this recipe is roughly from Dianna Kennedy’s Essential Cuisines of México)

2 Tbles vegetable oil

2 cloves of garlic chopped

1 pound nopales, cleaned and cut in strips or cubes (I prefer strips)

2 Tbles chopped onion

1-2 serranoes thinly sliced

Salt

2 large sprigs epazote or cilantro, roughly chopped

2 eggs

Heat the oil, fry the garlic until translucent and then add everything but the epazote. Cover the pan and cook over low heat, stirring from time to time until the nopales are almost tender: their viscose juices will exude.

Uncover and raise the heat a bit cooking until the sticky liquid has dried up.  At this point I like to whisk in a couple of eggs, though it’s not traditional. They make the nopales hang together and easier to eat, also the richness offsets the acidity of the cactus paddles.  Add the herb in the last couple of minutes, stir, and fill your tortillas.

Nopal Tacos

I chose machine made tortillas this time. The traditional condiments are queso fresco, and a dollop of sour cream. I also added Salsa de chili Arbol, which I buy because it’s brutal to make. The frying and blending of chili arbol chokes the air with capsicum!  But the tacos don’t really need salsa, I was just in the mood for major heat.

Probecho!

 

 

 

How To Eat a Live Bug

A jumile is a stink bug and they are in season for about eight weeks, from mid-November through the first of the year.  They are’ in season’ because during this time they eat exclusively oak leaf litter and it makes them taste spicy.

Jumiles can be foraged on the Cerro Frio or bought in the markets from Doña’s with writhing baskets full with a straw down the center, or in this case a paper cone.  The bugs crawl up the cone and then fall back into the basket which keeps them from flying away. They are also sold  in small bags with a bit of leaf litter and pinholes pricked for air, because you see, the jumiles are eaten alive.

Jumiles in the Pente De Itzla Mercado.

Jumiles in the Pente De Itzla Mercado.

How to eat a live bug:

Pick up a bug with two fingers to keep its wings from flapping…which is a really creepy feeling in your mouth.  Place it between your molars and bite down.  Be careful, because the weirdness of this act can cause you to chop down and bite your own fingers if you’re not careful.  I have done this.  Masticate the bug well before releasing it into your mouth, because wings can be texturally unpleasant, like choke in your artichoke bottom.  After you get the hang of it you can just place a bug on your tongue and flip it back to your molars.

Jumiles are delicious.  Sometimes they are so spicy they burn your tongue and cause the affected area to go numb. I must say I don’t at all agree with the descriptions I have read about what jumiles taste like, cinnamon, tutty fruity chewing gum, but I can’t really come up with a description of my own. They taste like jumiles; you will just have to try one.

Felipe is positive that bugs are the protein source of the future, and though I don’t necessarily agree with this, I do believe that the United Nations study that suggests one feasible way to combat world hunger is by reducing meat consumption, bugs are a viable option to that end.

Here in Morelos, we also eat grasshoppers, sautéed with salt and lime.

I was amazed when I researched this article how many bug eating blogs there, this is my favorite(girl meets bug). The link will lead you to an unbelievable list of bugs that are eaten worldwide. I was shocked, and honestly, especially in relation to food that is not an easy thing to do.  What a delight to be amazed, surely it is one life’s vsvevg pleasures.

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If you happen to have access to some jumiles and cannot eat live bugs but don’t mind blending them up, this is a delicious salsa.

Salsa de Jumiles

2 oz. live jumiles(eat one to see how spicy they are)

1-3 chili serrano depending on the heat of the jumiles

½ pd roasted tomatillos

1 clove garlic

Salt

Blend In your bug ‘o’ matic!

Probecho

Favorite Forage

The month I was away in the US(aug/sept) both of my favorite foraged foods, hongos azules(blue mushrooms) and ilamas were in season. It was a bummer. I consoled myself with the wide variety of good cheap wine available in the US.

This is a photo of last years’ mushroom harvest. VSVEVGs ’logo is also a photo I took of the spectacular mushrooms, which are so blue they bleed blue when you break them, unfortunately they turn the color of a regular mushroom when cooked.

Blue mushrooms taste like tilth, really good dirt, such as I imagine Iowa farmers are hoping to taste when they sample their fields in the spring.  One might even convince kids to like mushrooms if they were umpa lumpa blue, though a friend of my says they are more pitufo,(smurf) blue.

Wild mushrooms are harvested at a higher altitude than where we live, requiring a day trip up the mountain. Every family has their own secret spot in the oak forests of Cero Frio, just like when I was little girl hunting morels with my Mom and Dad in the Iowa woodlands. Hunting mushrooms is for me, a ritual of nostalgia.

I was lucky with ilamas, my sister- in-law has late fruiting trees, she knows I love them and saved one for me. They come in this pink, which is my favorite, and also a white variety which is good but doesn’t have the complexity the rosas(pinks) do. They taste like raspberry custard. They’re fun to eat, very similar to a bread fruit, you remove the segments each of which has a large seed and suck off the creamy flesh. They really are fantastic, especially if you delight in messy fruit eaten with your fingers as I do.

Finally, this strange and entertaining treat we enjoy  in October, I have no idea what it is, Felipe calls it peineta.

Each of the orange flower sprays sits in a  tiny cup of nectar, you press your face to the stamens and suck out the juice, it tastes like thin, light, fruity honey, and because the flower is pollinating when you’re done your face is covered in bright orange pollen. I never feel more akin to the insect world than when sipping peineta, unless I’m eating one!Don’t miss next month’s forage installment, I will teach you how to eat a live bug! Which is amazingly,  Very Simple, Very Easy and Very Good.