Hello, it’s been quite some time since I’ve written a blog. Our vacation to America was absolutely fantastic. I honestly don’t think I could have asked for a better trip.
It was great to be back in Austin and hang out with friends and try new vegetarian restaurants and take Tom to old hangouts and favorite places. And yes, we both put our livers to work and they did a great job, though they’re probably a bit tired now.
The highlight of the trip, however, was definitely Oaxaca. What a freakin’ fantastic place! The weather was perfect, the people were friendly, and it was just absolutely beautiful.
I got such a kick watching Tom in Mexico. He’s always absolutely loved Mexican food and he’s been really interested in Mexican culture so it made me really happy to watch him explore. It was funny seeing these tiny little four-foot something Oaxacan Indian women practically break their necks as they stared up at this 6 ft 4 man walking past them. And whenever we asked if we were allowed to do something, one example was we wanted to know if we could take our beers out onto the street with us, the answer was usually (in Spanish) “No, this is not legal to do, but he is very white so it will be okay.”
Tom decided that he was like a god in Oaxaca.
Tom and I are going to move there and open an AirBnB…..one day…..at least that’s my plan.
I was struggling a bit for the last week, trying to figure out how to write a blog post about the entire month-long vacation. We all know I like to talk (type) and I could easily go on and on and on. So I decided to write a list in order to keep myself from prattling on too much.
So here it is…
The Things We Brought Back
1.This Crazy Lil’ Alebrije
This little dude comes from Oaxaca. I put him on a shelf with the Underbedz creatures Tom brought back from Japan and the picture of Austin that I bought when I was in Texas last year. Like my mom said, the many-eyed creature on the left is saying, “What is THAT?!” while the devilish guy on the right is saying, “Dinner!” and the little alebrije is going, “Where the hell am I?! This ain’t Mexico!”
Alebrijes are animals or fantastical creatures created as the result of a mash-up of animals. They come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes, materials, and prices but are almost always patterned in vivid colors. Here are some other examples of them….
Alebrijes can be found all over Oaxaca,and all over Mexico, for that matter. Many people (including myself until my trip) think that Alebrijes are a long-standing Mexican folk art tradition but that’s actually wrong. They came about relatively recently. A guy named Pedro Linares got really sick back in the 1930’s and was having fever dreams. In his dreams he saw a variety of crazy little brightly colored creatures and they were all yelling “alebrije! alebrije!” When he woke up he started making the creatures out of papier-mache. His work gained the attention of both Freda Kahlo and Diego Rivera and eventually their popularity spread all over Mexico. It’s quite rare to go into a shoppe in Oaxaca and not see them displayed.
Tom and I happened upon an art gallery/coffee shop called Voces de Copal that had some really great artwork. There were a lot of large alebrijes on display, a bit more monochromatic than they normally are, but absolutely breathtaking nonetheless. You weren’t allowed to take photos in the art gallery but I found this picture of one of their alebrijes online….
I don’t know exactly how much this one costs but judging by the price tag of a few others we looked at I’d say it’s at least a couple hundred.
I absolutely fell in love with alebrijes, I think they’re beautiful, and I plan on getting one (design to be decided) as a tattoo in the future. Sorry mom!!
2. An Appreciation For Mezcal
Our Air BnB host left us three bottles of Mezcal, lots of limes, a bowlful of chapulines (grasshoppers), some smoked salt, and two boxes of Mexican chocolate for making hot chocolate. I hate tequila. I might be the only (half) Mexican on this planet who doesn’t like tequila so I didn’t think I’d like Mezcal. But you know what? It’s actually not bad. I found the flavor to be much smokier and a lot more smooth than tequila. We took quite a few shots with lime and salt.
It wasn’t until about three days into the trip that my brother finally told us that the salt in that glass is sal de gusano, a worm salt made of rock salt, chili peppers, and ground up gusanos (worms). Pretty gross, right? I thought so too.
Tom and I did try the chapulines, just one each. Tom actually didn’t think they were that bad, just a bit salty. I couldn’t get over the idea of what they actually were and found them disgusting.
People in Oaxaca love them! They put them in tacos, on tlayudas (huge, crispy tortilla covered with beans, cheese….you name it), or just snack on them like nuts or candies. My aunt from Tijuana, my dad’s little sister, took a bus to come stay with us for a few days and she’d sit at the dining room table looking at her phone and absentmindedly putting handful after handful into her mouth. It grossed me out, but I’m sure people think my tofu consumption is disgusting, so to each their own.
They are all different sizes, from little tiny ones that you sprinkle on things like salt up to big, giant ones that are like an inch long.
Anyway, I was not a fan of the worm salt (only after learning what it was) or the grasshoppers, but the Mezcal was quite nice….and the chocolate too.
3.Mezcal Shot Necklaces
On Christmas Eve day, my mom and another aunt, her brother’s wife, and I went and took a five hour cooking class. I thought it would be interesting, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be as much fun as it was. When we first walked into the house the host put wooden shot glasses tied on strings around our necks and told us they were for the mezcal.
He then showed us the cupboard where there were four different bottles of mezcal and showed us the refrigerator that was stocked with beer, all included in the price of the class. I waited about 30 minutes into the class, after we finished making two really yummy salsas, to break into that mezcal. It was only about one in the afternoon, but hey it was a vacation in Mexico and Christmas Eve!! Before long, my mom and my aunt and I, plus the four other really friendly people who were taking the class with us, were having an absolute blast.
At one point I was helping myself to the Mezcal and I asked my aunt if she wanted another shot. She was holding a beer in one hand and her phone in the other and she said, “No thanks, I don’t have a free hand.” Then she slowly looked down at the shot glass necklace and looked up at me with a big grin and said, “But wait, I have a neck!”
That day we made the two salsa, empanadas with epazote leaves and quesillo (Oaxaca-style string cheese), guacamole, memelas (homemade corn tortillas topped with refried beans, crumbly cheese, and salsa) and THE BEST mole I’ve ever had in my life. I love mole y’all so I’ve eaten a lot of it in my life, but this was by far the best. That stuff had over 30 ingredients in it and I will never ever in a million years attempt to replicate the recipe, but maaaan……it makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
It was a really great cooking class. We started off shopping at the local markets for food and ended up drunk and happy and eating the best mole ever. I highly recommend contacting Agustin and Esparanza before taking a trip to Oaxaca and booking a cooking class with them. It’s such a fun and delicious experience.
I will say that trying to stay in a house while a giant pile of chilies is being roasted and then intentionally set on fire is pretty much a death sentence. The cooking instructor was a little too nonchalant when she warned us about the amount of stinging smoke that would result. It was like a chemical war in that kitchen. I have a video of everybody reacting to the burning of the peppers. People were outside coughing, retching, gagging, tears streaming down their faces….the ten-year-old son of one of the other women, who was hanging around but not actively in the class, took off his sneaker and put it over his nose so that he would “smell something yuckier than that stuff”. I wish I could show y’all the video, it’s so funny, but I don’t have permission from all those other people.
No one seemed interested in taking the mezcal shot necklaces with them so I collected them and they’re now hanging on the wall in the kitchen near our bottles of booze.
4. Some Really Great Photos
Tom thinks it’s weird to put pictures of yourself in your house, but I stomped my foot so we’re going to get this one framed and hang it up somewhere. I did however, come down a bit on the size I originally wanted it to be. I’m a fantastic compromiser.
This was at Monte Alban, some really amazing Zapotec ruins in the mountains about 20 minutes outside of Oaxaca.
There was a lot of really beautiful and really cool street art all over the buildings in Oaxaca. Tom took this photo, the painting was on the side of a building, and I plan on getting it professionally printed and framed. I think it’s freaking awesome. It’s an homage to Miyazaki, the Japanese dude who makes animated movies like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. I think his movies are fantastic…whimsical and imaginative and weird. The skeleton is wearing a Totoro costume from the movie….
I took this photo of my parents on Christmas Eve….
And these are a few of my pops I really like….
*Side note* My dad is doing really well. To look at him, you wouldn’t even know he has cancer. He tires out a bit faster than usual, but he was getting around just fine in Oaxaca. And his specialist said the chemo is really doing good things for him and his blood count is looking great.
5. A Luchedor Mask And A Beard
The luchedor mask is still here.Sadly, the beard is gone.
6. A Spinning Wheel Tattoo
I got this in Austin, not Oaxaca. It’s in honor of my mama who is forever spinning,knitting, quilting, making lace, sewing…you name it. I don’t know how it is that I didn’t inherit ONE SINGLE CRAFTY GENE, but I didn’t. I can’t do any of those things. My mom pretended to be horrified that I got another tattoo. But when I told her it was a spinning wheel in honor of her, she still ACTED horrified, but she took a picture of it to show her friends. So I think that secretly she was kinda touched.
My next tattoo is either going to be a domino or a playing card which will be just touching the bottom leg of the spinning wheel. That tattoo will be in honor of my pops.
Our tattoo artist (Tom got another tattoo too) was such an interesting character, a “loose unit” as Tom would say. He was loud and friendly and inappropriate and hilarious and I just loved him. I’d really like to write a post about him one day….
And last, but DEFINITELY not least….*fanfare trumpets please*…..
7. A Lemur Onesie!!!!!
My friend, Gina, obviously loves me more than the rest of you do. She got me THE EXACT onesie I posted about in my Christmas list blog. I put it on immediately and ran around swishing the tail and freaking out her dogs. It made me so damn happy!
Anyway, I could go on and on and on about our trip but this post is already long, and probably super boring to most of you, despite my attempts to keep it short.
It’s a beautiful Monday afternoon here so Tom and I are gonna go swimming at Charcoal Beach. It’s Auckland Anniversary today….New Zealand has birthdays for their biggest cities and the residents don’t have to work. So it’s beach time!!