I Moved To Oaxaca

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Biscuits, glorious biscuits!

Jeez, I just realized I'm pretty much down to one, maybe two postings a week. Will work on that. But back to the biscuits, or bisquets as I keep trying to spell it. (I'm also having trouble remembering whether it's virgin or virgen.) I made a batch this morning because I have been craving real buttermilk biscuits since Monday. Let me explain.

Two weeks or so ago, Greg screwed up his courage and went over to the center where we attended a demonstration ceremony put on by Jorge, Osvelia's brother (you remember -- the one who cleans houses). He's got a shamanic arts center near our school. Greg told him he wanted to learn more about local practices, so Jorge asked to have a breakfast meeting with him and I on Monday, so after class we went over and ate with Jorge, his wife Barbara (who knows some English) and Jorge's apprentice Oscar (who also knows English). I'm not a big breakfast nut -- I usually don't eat it at all -- but to be companionable I ordered coffee and biscuits with butter. What the fuck was I thinking? The "biscuit" -- let's just call it a bisquet -- was a roll of pan dulce pan-toasted in butter. Mexican butter. Ugh. Like eating Wonder Bread fried in Imperial margarine. So during the week I bought some flour, a tin of baking powder, and a box of baking soda. And a product Greg calls "animal shortening" -- commingled vegetable shortening and pig lard. Whatever. And I didn't find any buttermilk so I used some of the happy yogurt from the El Pochote tianguis and made 8 big biscuits, which we with some of that good New Zealand butter from Gigante. Mmm.

I've also been jonesing for tlayudas, and seeing how we're just around the corner from the Best Tlayudas in Oaxaca it shouldn't be that hard, but with a 7a class I just find it too difficult to wait until 10p to eat dinner, so I usually bail out well before Sra. Marta opens up. And El Chepil, the tlayuda place around the corner on Constitucion, hadn't been opened on the nights I checked. They also open fairly late for dinner, 8:30p, and it was either Wednesday or Thursday when we finally went down there and found them open. As it was 8:15 they were still setting up, so we went back up the street to the miscelanea and bought a six-pack of Modelo then walked back and sat down at a table to wait. We had just ordered our tlayudas con cecina enchilada y salsa pasilla when a guy walked by; looks of recognition all around. A week or so ago he'd been in our usual coffee shop while poor Greg was listening to me work out the last bits of insanity. (Well, we hope it's the last few bits.) We'd chatted briefly as we were deep in conversation and he was heading out to tour the botanical gardens. But here he was again, without any plans, so we invited him to join us. Henry from Montana had yet to have a tlayuda, so we handed him a beer, asked the cook for one more tlayuda, and found out a little about each other. He teaches architecture at the university in Boseman, and was down with his family and students studying the local architecture. He also paints watercolors, and had been working on some pieces while in town. (I often see people doing just that.) All in all, a very pleasant evening.

During that Monday breakfast meeting, Jorge asked if we wanted to go do some stuff out in the countryside to see whether we really were interested in doing stuff with him, and we said, sure! Friday's practically a day off since I only have that one, 7a - 8a class. So we made plans to meet at 9a. Greg had a class Thursday, and while I didn't I decided to go in and get my weekly dose of required lesson planning out of the way because we really weren't sure how long this little excursion would take on Friday. And when I get to school I find out from Greg and Cesar that I have two afternoon classes on Friday. So I immediately launched into a filth-laden tirade then with that out of my system marched into the directora's office to say, No Can Do and, Why Is It Impossible To Get A Weekly Schedule Around Here? No good answer to the latter question, though I did extract a verbal promise to provide on on request on Saturdays. And I got them to schedule the classes for another teacher. As a fat man once said, The sun don't rise and set on the corner grocery. And neither does it on that stupid daily schedule at Berlitz.

So Friday I hustled my students out of the classroom and hightailed it home to change, grab some water and a hat, and head back to Reforma to the center. Jorge and Oscar drove us out first to a town, which I will have to find on a map and update, to tell us the story behind a shrine to a rock, and to work with the rock. (If you want to know more about this, I suggest you check on Greg's weblog for details.) We then went across the dirt street to a house where the ladies of the house were making tortillas. It looked like a house, but Jorge talked to the oldest woman, and soon chairs and a table appeared and we sat down and were served amarillo tlayudas, and a couple of queso fresco quesadillas each. Oh. My. God. Fresh off the comal, and oh so tasty. I thought it was a bit on the early side for lonche, but then we were back into the car and off to Yagul, where Jorge showed us some more cool stuff, but that had us tramping up and all over the hill behind Yagul for several hours. Even with a hat I got pretty pinked. But on the way back to Oaxaca we stopped in at Santa Maria Tule and got fruit ices to perk ourselves up. And I know this seems awfully food-centric, and that was not the purpose of the day at all, but I will leave this for Greg to explain.

Hermit crab update: I was pretty tired after running around with Jorge and Oscar all day, but after we got home from our outing I dragged myself over to Conzatti tianguis to get my hermit crab. But the aquarium people didn't have any! So disappointing. So I walked over to El Pochote tianguis to buy some happy yogurt, and Emma was out! So disappointing. She said she'd be at the market Saturday, and after I told her I work Saturdays until 2p, she promised to hold me a couple of containers of strawberry yogurt. Yay! Slightly revitalized, I walked up the hill to the Chicken Place to get a roasted chicken for comida, but it was late enough in the afternoon that they were sold out and shut up. So disappointing. So I rolled back down the hill to the Internet cafe, and consoled myself by reading about hermit crabs. I'm glad now that the aquarium fonda didn't have any, as I see now that it takes more than a cute plastic habitat with plastic palm trees and colored gravel to satisfy a congrejo hermitano.