Monthly Archives: November 2010

Ollas de Barro

Do you have any clay cooking pots – ollas de barro? They are inexpensive, not-too-durable but once you have seasoned them, your favorite recipe will come out tasting better than ever before. Now, a lot of my friends worry about using them… stories of lead poisoning frighten them away. I’m sure there is some metal in the glaze but I’ve cooked in these pots for decades and have not suffered any ill effects. I believe this is because I followed my mother-in-law’s instructions for proper preparation.

Doña Bertha says there are certain steps that must be taken to ensure your barros are safe. You need to undertake the “seasoning” I spoke of in the preceding paragraph. And, I don’t mean a sprinkling with salt, pepper and herbs!

When you bring a new pot home, wash it in lots of soapy water, rinse and then allow it to completely dry before seasoning. 

To season, coat the entire inside of the pot with cooking oil (you don’t need to use a high quality oil). Put the pot over a medium flame for about 15 minutes or until it begins to smoke.  Remove the pot from the heat and wipe it as clean as possible with paper towel. Allow it to cool, and then repeat the process about three more times. You will be able to see the pot is seasoned when it has a nice shiny patina. My mother in law told me that this procedure removes the lead and that it “seals” the surface. If your barro is well seasoned, your food will not stick and you’ll notice the special flavor it gives to food…  Here are a few tips for the proper care of your barros.

After a few months, the surface may start losing the sheen. Repeat the whole seasoning method.

One thing I never do is to put anything really acidic in the pots like orange juice, ceviche,  or chile.

Do not bang the pots they will crack easily, especially if they are hot. And once they crack, you can no longer use them to cook in.

Don’t put the hot pots into water, again, this will cause them to crack.

But the good news is… cracked barros make great plant pots!

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Poinsettias

For me, the poinsettia is the unmistakable herald of the Holiday season. I remember how my dad would bring one home as soon as they came available and Mom would place the cheery red bloomed plant on the wide ledge of the front hallway window. Throughout my childhood, the exotic star flower was a part of the anticipation of Christmas.

As a young girl, little did I know that I would one day live in the land of the poinsettia.  When I first arrived to live in Merida, I did not realize that the thriving lanky limbed bush on the far side of our fledgling garden was a poinsettia. In late October, before my startled eyes, the green leaves on the tips of the long branches began turning color. By mid November they were scarlet.

The Latin name is Euphorbia pulcherrima. Endemic to Mexico’s central valleys, in the Nahuatl language it is called Cuitlaxochitl. The Aztecs used it to produce a red dye and also discovered that the resin was a powerful drug to lower fever.

The plant’s association with Christmas began in the 16th century in Mexico, where it is said that a small child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the side of the road and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson “blossoms” sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. The leaf  reminded the colonial priests of the star of Bethlehem . During the XVII  Century, they baptised the plant with the name, “Noche Buena” and were the first to use it as an emblem of the Christmas season.

In 1828, Joel Roberts Poinsett, the United States Minister to Mexico introduced the plant to his countrymen…  and as they say, the rest is history.  

Although we no longer have the poinsettia shrub in the garden, several (red, pink and white) potted plants are on tabletops and tucked into corners of our home… letting everyone know that Navidad is not far away.            

 

Poinsettias decorate the gardens of Chapultapec Castle in Mexico City

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 The images of the poinsettia are from my albums and  www.victortheflorist.com

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La Virgen de Guadalupe…

As November draws to a close, all of Mexico gears up to celebrate December 12th… “El Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe” – the feast day of the patron saint of Mexico. The devotion that most Mexicans have for La Virgen is not understood by many residents not born in this country. Those who are not Catholic have a particularly difficult time with the whole concept.

The Virgen of Guadalupe is not merely an icon, she is considered to be “the Heart of Mexico”. If you want to better understand Mexico’s culture, a good place to start is with the story of Guadalupe and her apparition to Juan Diego, a poor peasant in 1531.



The defeat of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital occurred just ten years earlier and the indigenous central Mexicans were very confused with the “New Order.” The religion of the colonial priests became an obligatory part of day to day life. So when Mary appeared before Juan Diego, in Tepeyac, (a site that was sacred to Tonansin, the Aztec mother goddess) she was fully embraced by the people.  Her dark skin and familiar features further fostered acceptance. The conquered citizens of New Spain felt that La Virgen de Guadalupe was their own saint.

And throughout the violent, turbulent history of Mexico, the image of La Virgen has been the one carried on standards, leading the way to a better future. For many, the allegiance is absolute. When there is trouble, prayers are directed to Guadalupe and when situations are resolved, this is very often credited to her intervention.

Belief in the Virgen of Guadalupe is not a logical phenomenon. It is a matter of the heart. Is that not what faith is all about? Faith does not require proof. It doesn’t need thoughtful assessment – it just IS.

I have been to the Basilica de Guadalupe on several occasions and have been awed by the examples of this basic faith the La Virgen instills. It is quite amazing to witness. Although I do not possess this unshakable faith, I firmly believe this unquestioning belief is one of the Mexican people’s sources of strength.

I will post more on the Virgen of Guadalupe on some of the days leading up to December 12th. But if you wish to know more now, here are some informative links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe

http://www.yucatanliving.com/events/the-day-of-the-virgin-of-guadalupe.htm

http://www.explorandomexico.com/about-mexico/4/210/

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/world/mexico/stories/DN-guadalupe_1125tra.ART.State.Edition1.4702a1e.html

The image of the Guadalupana shrine is one I took last December.

The image of the antochistas is from www.yucatanliving.com

I downloaded the most well known image of La Virgen de Guadalupe from: http://killuminati2012.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/virgen_de_guadalupe.jpg

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The Rose

Someone forwarded this to me a long time ago. Through all my computer meltdowns and purging, somehow it has never disappeared from the hard drive. It popped up out of seemingly nowhere this afternoon, and I decided to post it. Maybe it will become a keeper for you too?

 The Rose                                                                                                                                                                                                        

The first day of school, we were challenged to speak with someone we didn’t already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder.

I turned around to see a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, “Hi handsome. My name is Rose. Can I give you a hug?”

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” and she gave me a giant squeeze.

“Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked.

She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids…”

“No seriously,” I asked. I was curious to know what motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

“I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!” she told me.

We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this “time machine” as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went.

She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our farewell banquet.

I’ll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor.

Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, “I’m sorry. I’m jittery ‘cause I gave up beer for Lent! I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know…

 There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success:

  • Do not stop playing because you think you’re too old; we grow old because we stop playing
  • Laugh and find humor every day.
  • Have a dream. Never let is go.
  • There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. 

If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight.

Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets.

The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets.”

Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago and one week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.

Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.

Image found on Google Images. Here’s the link to the photographer:

http://www.artsjournal.com/culturegrrl/rose.jpg

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Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

An earlier Thanksgiving feast in Merida

 

Today is Thursday the 25th of November.

We gather together and can’t help but remember,

Far away loved ones and those loud football games

Played  between colleges with most famous names.

Mom and sibs aren’t here, neither is Dad.

We’re not in the north… no snow will be had.

In fact we’re sweating – copiously

Pool-side with our chosen “fam-mi-ly.”

There’ll be turkey, stuffing, hot gravy and cranberries

A golden glazed ham, from J’s oven, not Mary’s

Bean casserole, carrots, and yams, I’m told –

And yes… mashed potatoes!  That does it, I’m sold!  

 But, before the delicious eating fest will begin,

We’ll have time for botana – we’ll dig right in.

And to toast the occasion – what could be better?

Than sipping margaritas, as I read this letter… 

A letter? You’re puzzled, and most rightly so,

This isn’t part of the program – it’s a BIG no-no.

But what to do? My muse has jumped up

 With this Thanksgiving message… to be read, pre-sup.

 Thanks  G and J, kind and wonderful hosts

So brave, seeing you’re just back from the west coast

With P who I’m always delighted to see

I’m told his pumpkin flan will be offered to me!

 Guitar playing J, and B his remarkable wife

Are dealing with a reno’ but that’s part of life.

She is also Santa Elena’s fervent guardian angel…

In her car trunk, she’s got a hundred bags to sell !

 I’ve never seen T or D and not felt happy

But don’t you two worry, I won’t get all sappy!

G and C always look handsome and fine

And their creative spirits are just short of divine

Today is special ‘cause I is here too

Come sit and talk, I’ve heard great things about you!

Last but not least are D and L

They always have new projects – come, do tell!

What a fabulous group! Jorge and I are so proud

To share this day with such a fabulous crowd

We’re feeling so mellow, as to the table we toddle

This friendship should be the new NAFTA model !!!

 Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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A new favorite…

Before I became a writer, I spent half a century reading. Now that I write, I’ve turned into an even more voracious reader. But I read differently than I used to. It once seemed to be all about enjoying the story… now I’m also very analytical. I still love to settle down with a good tale, but all the while I’m trying to figure out, How did the author do that? /  Oo-oo-oo! What an opening! / That’s the best use of metaphor that I’ve ever seen!

I’m a blogger, I read other blogs. One I go to every day belongs to Nathan Bransford.  My favorite of his postings has always been “Digging for Mushrooms” (Dec. 1, 2009)

Today, I must replace my old time number one friend with Nathan’s post for today, “The Nine Circles of Writing Hell”

I’ve logged a chunk of hours on the computer this year and my book is to be released on December 4th I couldn’t be happier. On Nathan’s 2009 post, you’ll see what I’m referring to when I say, “Someone recognized my MATSUTAKE !! ” (Bless you David Bodwell and Richard Grabman…)

Then read the “Nine Circles of Writing Hell” to see what I endured this year!                                                                                                    

Actually Nathan Bradsford read the first thirty pages of a novel I am still working on. He made me see that I need more practice writing fiction and he sent me scurrying into my favorite non-fiction genres… essay, chronicle,  and memoir. “Magic Made in Mexico” is the result of my return to the womb. So a big “Bless you!” goes out to Mr. Bradsford as well.

Maybe next year, I’ll be publishing that long-agonized-over novel?

MATSUTAKE! Stranger things have happened…

***

Link to Nathan Bransford’s blog and the post “The Nine Circles of Writing Hell”

http://blog.nathanbransford.com

And to “Digging for Mushrooms”

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009_12_01_archive.html

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Leonore Carrington in Merida

Leonore Carrington was born in England to a very wealthy family. She was however a rebel of the most strident style. Governesses, tutors and nuns all did their best to tame the young Leonore; she was expelled from two schools for her rebellious behavior. In desperation her family sent her to Florence where she attended Mrs. Penrose’s Academy of Art. Her father did not want an artist’s career for her, but her mother reportedly felt that it was better than some of “the alternatives”.

She returned to England and was presented at Court. She shocked the other debutantes because she brought a book by Aldous Huxley “Eyeless in Gaza” and read it avidly when she was supposed to be gaga over the royal audience. In London she attended the Chelsea School of Art.

The Surrealist painters of the Left Bank in 1927 (who she first met when she was ten years old), were her first mentors, especially Paul Eluard (best known as the author of Liberté)

 Leonore Carrington found England to be extremely constricting although it was in London in 1937 that she first met Max Ernst. They became lovers and together they settled in the south of France. The couple stimulated each other’s artistic development. With the outbreak of World War II, Max Ernst was arrested by French authorities for being a “hostile alien”. Thanks to the intercession of Paul Eluard and American journalist Varian Fry, he was released.

Once the Nazis were in charge, he was arrested again but managed to flee to America with help from Peggy Guggenheim

After Ernst’s arrest, The devastated Carrington fled to Spain. Terrible anxiety and growing delusions reached the crisis point at the British embassy in Madrid. Her parents intervened and had her institutionalized. While under the care of a nurse who took her to Lisbon, Carrington ran away and sought refuge in the Mexican Embassy.

She arranged passage out of Europe with a Mexican diplomat Renato Leduc, a friend of Picasso. To help Leonore, he agreed to marry her. That tumuluous period affected her work forever. She lived in New York during the 1960s but otherwise has built her career and spent her life in Mexico City

Even though she married Emericko Weisz and had two sons, in 1983 she said, “I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse… I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.” Their son Gabriel Weisz is a controversial intellectual and their other son, Pablo is a surrealist painter and a doctor

From June 17 to September 12, 2010 as part of a season of major international exhibitions called Surreal Friends, celebrating the place of women in the Surrealist movement. Her work was exhibited alongside pieces by her close friends the Spanish painter Remedios Varo (1908–1963) and the Hungarian photographer Kati Horna (1912-2000).

Carrington is one of the last living Surrealist painters of her era. In 2005, Christie’s auctioned “Jugglers” for $713,000. This set a new record for the highest price paid at auction for a living surrealist painter.

In Mexico she authored and successfully published several books.

  • La Maison de la Peur (1938) – with illustrations by Max Ernst
  • Une chemise de nuit de flanelle (1951)
  • El Mundo Magico de Los Mayas (Museo Nacional de Antropología, 1964) – illustrated by Leonora Carrington.
  • The Oval Lady: Surreal Stories (Capra Press, 1975)
  • The Hearing Trumpet (Routledge, 1976)
  • The Stone Door (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1977)
  • The Seventh Horse and Other Tales (Dutton, 1988)
  • The House of Fear (Trans. K. Talbot and M. Warner. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1988)
  • The Hearing Trumpet (Boston: Exact Change, 1996)
  • Down Below ( Chicago,Black Swan Press, 1972; renewed edition 1988)

An exhibition of her sculpture (lent by Fernando Chico Pardo) is currently on display along Merida’s Paseo de Montejo.

An important Mexico City journalist / novelist (not to be named) who is a friend of Carrington is currently writing her life story.

I predict that once the public becomes more aware of this important artist and the originality of her work, she will take her place alongside other innovative Mexican female personalities such as Frida Kahlo.

Links:

Black and white image of the young Leonore: www.mezclacultural.blogspot.com  

Image of “Jugglers”: www.christies.com  

Black and white image of Leonre Carrington and Max Ernst: http://4.bp.blogspot.com

For readers who want to see some wonderful photographs of Carrington’s sculptures currently on display along Merida’s Paseo de Montejo, go to Bruce & Mary’s:

http://escapetomex.areavoices.com/2010/11/14/leonora-carrington-comes-to-town/

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