I Moved To Oaxaca

Friday, May 28, 2004

So while I was out wrangling snakes and perspiring like nobody's business, Greg signed up for Spanish lessons at a place down the street from Moderate Shangri-la. We'd visited it about a month or two ago and liked it (and their prices), and now that he's got three weeks of Spanish under his belt he still likes the school, so in June when he's in the States I'll be taking classes in the mornings.

Well, as part of their curriculum they do little excursions around the city and valley, so today Greg, Dale, and I (never hurts to chum for potential customers by allowing tag-alongs) went with his class out to one of the colonias I haven't been to before to watch a very small, very old señora show us crazy gringos how to make tortillas and then memelas and quesadillas. Like any Californian wouldn't know how to make a quesadilla! But still. So Dale and I walked down to the school, then down to the bus stop on Independencia. The place is somebody's house -- a nice house -- and we plunked our stuff down in the courtyard under a very nice palapa (it's roasting today, so any and all shade is greatly appreciated) then grabbed the bucket of hominy, which they insist on calling nixtamal, and went off to the molinos to grind it up. We came back with a plastic pan of ground-up corn, aka masa, and while half the group shredded quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese), I and some of the others watched La Señora stoke up the charcoal under her comal, then make little patties of masa to squish into tortillas using her wooden masa-squisher, which she insisted on calling a tortillaria. So it was pretty fun making masa balls, squishing them, then flapping them onto the comal to cook, turning them so they wouldn't burn, etc. And very funny to watch the guys sorta fling their tortillas onto the comal, almost as if they were afraid of it. Except G-man, of course, who is firmly in touch with his feminine side and gently placed his tortillas in the center of the comal. La Señora got a huge kick out of that. Then she showed us how to crimp the cooked (and burning hot) tortillas so that the stuff you put on top stays in place (neat trick!), then we made memelas:

crimped tortilla
slather on some aciento (liquid pig fat with little crunchy bits of cracklins)
spoon on some Oaxaca-style refried beans (black and watery)
queso fresco (or if you rebel like I did, quesillo)
epazote, also for the rebel (an herb they add to refried beans, rajas, and some other dishes)
back on the comal to melt the cheese and toast the whole thing up real nice

I think I ate four memelas, so I'm still stuffed, plus we had jamaica to drink and gelatina for dessert since one of the students has a birthday coming up real soon. And the jello was lime, strawberry, and nuez (which means "nut" but is mostly used to refer to pecans). Then we took the bus back home, took a quick nap, then went to Berlitz to do lesson plans (me) and teach a class (g-man). Then I came here. If I'd seen my favorite raspados duo I would've gotten one of those, but no such luck.


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