Where is the online game starring these birds NOT the latest craze? A couple of weeks ago, Mexico Cooks! took a small group tour to Mexico City's enormous Mercado de la Merced and was not the least surprised to find Angry Birds® piñatas in every party goods stand. Red, yellow, blue, black and white birds were all there--but there was not a single green pig in sight.
The great violinist don Pepe Martínez, director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán--the self-described best mariachi in the world. It's true: there is no other mariachi that compares with the 114-year-old group founded in Tecalitlán, Jalisco by don Gaspar Vargas López. We were up-close-and-personal with them this past March, when we sat in the third row at their concert at the UNAM.
Just in case you haven't heard Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, listen to one of Mexico Cooks! favorites: Entra en Mi Vida (Come Into My Life). Part of the lyric goes like this: "Come into my life, I beg you! I started out missing you, then I needed you, now I don't want anyone else...I want you to be the owner of my heart." Of course I think the entire song expresses my feelings for my beloved wife.
This enormous Judas figure hangs in a stairwell at the Museo de Arte Popular (Popular Arts Museum) in Mexico City's Centro Histórico. Paper maché figures representing Judas Iscariot are traditionally hanged and burned in parts of Mexico on the Saturday night before Easter Sunday. They normally measure from this guy's shoe to his knee. This fellow is a giant, not to mention a fashion statement.
Can you look at the photo without tipping your head sideways? The green wall of plants, bringing a refreshing touch of the natural to downtown, makes up one side wall of Restaurante Padrino on Calle Isabel la Católica, Mexico City. The bicycle is parked on the--lawn? The doors lead into individual shops on the balcony of the former Palacio de los Condes de Miravalle, built in the mid-18th century. The former palace, which is now home to two restaurants (Azul/Histórico), a soon-to-open hotel, and some charming shops, is one of the Distrito Federal's oldest buildings.
Just when I think I have seen just about everything sweet or salty that people snack on here in the city, I learn about something I could not have imagined. A vendor outside the Mercado de la Merced sells these by the measure. I could not guess what I was seeing, can you? Click on the photo to enlarge it for a better view--but the who-knew secret is that these are salted wild cherry pits. Suck one for a while, then break it open and eat the tiny almond-shaped kernel inside. I regret not asking to try one.
Sometimes a person just has to show off a little. Mexico Cooks! was expecting company and decided to prepare a tortilla española--a Spanish omelet with potatoes and onions. This simple dish, served chilled or at room temperature, is a classic from Spain.
In Mexico, February 2 is el Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas Day). Candelaria marks the official end of the Christmas season; it comes forty days after the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. It's said to be the day that the Virgin Mary took the newborn Jesus to the temple for the first time. Here in Mexico, the feast day is celebrated by dressing a figure of the Niño Dios (Child God) in all sorts of finery and taking him to church like a babe in arms to be blessed. These Niños Dios representing various saints and traditions are for sale in shops along Calle Talavera in Mexico City, as well as in a number of other spots. There are a number of other customs for the day, and the celebration always includes eating tamales and drinking atole. Candelaria is linked to the Day of the Three Kings (January 6), when we eat rosca de reyes (a kind of sweet bread) that contains a tiny plastic figure of the Baby Jesus. Tradition says that the person who gets the little figure in his or her slice of rosca throws the tamales party on Candelaria.
Speaking of tamales, a gentleman vendor at our neighborhood tianguis (street market) gave me these on February 2 this year. They are made of typical corn masa (dough) and filled with refried black beans. Each tamalito (little tamal--that's the word for just one!) measures about three inches long by an inch in diameter. The little clay dish that holds them is about three inches across. The vendor told me that he makes them twice a year and he promised to invite me to the tamalada (tamales-making party) the next time the day rolls around. Rather than being twisted or tied closed, the ends of the corn husks are pushed into a dimple at the end of each tamal. These are a specialty of Milpa Alta in the southernmost part of Mexico City.
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