Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22

Mea Maxima Culpa.  Well, maybe Minima might be more accurate in the greater scheme of things.  I have neglected you:  Lo siento!  (= I'm sorry.)

First, the cooks among you are probably waiting for the newest recipes.  Despite the three-week interval since the last one there are only two new ones, since Yurina and I took a week off.

Chiles en Nogada

Maestra de Cocina Yurina Peralta, el 3 mayo, 2011
San Miguel de Allende

Recipe for 5 people

This is the most traditional Mexican dish.  In September, the month of Mexican independence, it is served with pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top:  red (pomegranate), white (sauce), and green (pepper), the colors of the Mexican flag.

5 sweet chiles poblanos (or green Bell peppers)
Olive oil
1 lb ground meat, half beef and half pork
2 eggs
1 to 1-1/2 cups mixed nuts and dried fruits, diced if necessary (don’t dice
 blueberries or raisins!)
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups light sour cream (crema)
½ cup pecans
6 prunes
Pomegranate seeds (if in season)

o     Sear the chiles on the burner flame (or blanch briefly in boiling water). Place in plastic bag to steam for a while (make meat mixture in the meantime), then peel off skin.  Be sure to keep stem on.  Slit one side and remove seeds.   Set aside.
o     Heat the olive oil in pot.  Add meat and brown evenly.  Set aside to cool.
o     When cool, mix 2 eggs and fold into meat mixture. Add garlic, nuts and fruit.  Fill chiles with this mixture, pushing it down full.  Close the open side with a toothpick.  Place in pyrex pan.
o     Bake chiles in moderate oven for 30 minutes.
o     For the sauce, put the crema, pecans, and prunes into a blender.  (Reserve a few pecans for garnish.)    Add a little milk to thin if too thick.  Microwave a minute or two to warm slightly.
o     Place one chili on each dinner plate and spoon sauce over.  Add pecans or other garnish.  If in season, sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top.

Pollo a la Jardinera

Maestra de Cocina Yurina Peralta, el 10 mayo, 2011
San Miguel de Allende

Recipe for 4 people

4 thigh quarters or breasts
Any vegetables you want for taste and color.  We used:
1 large carrot
1/3 lb string beans
2 potatoes
1 chayote squash
1 zucchini squash
3 tomatoes
6 to 8 garlic cloves
kernels of one corn on the cob
1 serrano chili
1 medium onion
salt and pepper
capers to taste

Dice all vegetables in small pieces.
Brown chicken.  We used the wide paella pan over two burners.
Add vegetables over small-to-medium fire.
Add water.
Cover with tin foil.  Simmer about 1 hour.  Check partway through:  if water hasn’t mostly boiled off, remove tin foil.
About 10 minutes before serving, add capers.

I guess the big news is that Rick and I have decided to alter our relationship a bit. We've come to the conclusion that we will be happier if there's a little more distance between us.  We mean this literally.  We have started to search for a place to buy here that has a casa and a casita (a house and a little house) on the same property.  The house will be big enough to have a guest room in it, so you all will have a place to stay when you come visit, and we'll share the property ownership, car, laundry facilities, and other things to be decided.  But we'll each have a separate home.  Since we made this decision we are much happier with each other than before, and hope that actually getting into this space, wherever we find it, will make us happier yet.  We understand that it's an unorthodox way for married people to live but what the hell, unorthodoxy never stopped either of us before.  Where is it written that married people MUST live together?

So we've started looking at properties.  We saw one that we are sort of nuts about.  It has three buildings on it:  a casa with a bedroom and dressing room (!) upstairs and a little room downstairs that could be used as my study plus living/dining/kitchen, a casita with three rooms that we're thinking of making into two rooms by knocking out a wall, and a good-sized room with a nearby half-bath that could become a guest room and full bath.  The property has a lovely view over San Miguel, is not terribly far from Centro, has a good amount of land, has an OK price that we would reduce, and is in a decent neighborhood.  The trouble is that it looks like how Sleeping Beauty's castle and garden must have looked after her 20-year sleep.  Derelict doesn't begin to describe it.  But the buildings seem solid and there are two huge jacaranda trees for shade.  We are making appointments with architects, contractors and garden designers to find out how much money and time would be required to make this into homes we'd want to live in, at an affordable total price.  We should be able to make a decision about it this coming week or so.

I have bought two homes in my life, both in Seattle, and for both of them the market was so hot that it was a matter of Decide on the Spot or lose it.  I am reveling in the luxury of taking the time to make up my mind about this place!  Rick's mind too, of course.

The weather continues to be horrendous, at least for a girl from the Pacific Northwest.  Temperatures are in the low to mid-90s every day, strong sun every day, until the rains start probably next month.  Old-timers here say this is the hottest summer they can remember, but maybe this will become normal.  I carry an umbrella for shade, use the hand fan David and Shree gave me when they were here, and always have a bottle of cold water with me.  I have bought something sold locally here, a cloth tube filled with water-absorbent granules of some sort.  You soak it in the morning and it holds the water for most of the day.  You wear it around your neck and the coolness is wonderful.  

And I never thought I'd ever in my life consider this, but we are thinking of installing a small pool in the place we buy, as a relief from the heat.  As we all know, only rich people have pools, so this is a conceptual and financial stretch.  We'll see if it's possible to do it here for a price we could afford.  It bears looking into because labor is much cheaper here.  There's a good place in the Sleeping Beauty property for a pool, and in addition it would be easy to create a sleeping porch there for each of us.  The nights are deliciously cool, down to the upper 50s, but the houses retain the day's heat:  sleeping porches would be ideal in the hot months.

The adult education program I proposed to the Biblioteca is not dead, although it sometimes seems so.  After trying to work with the Biblioteca Board of Directors and a Board member who volunteered to work with us on it, I came to the conclusion that they are absolutely so awful to work with -- slow, bureaucratic, micro-managing, intrusive, counter-productive -- that I'd rather not do the program than do it with them.  My friend Luba, with whom I'm working on this, suggested an alternative place to hold it.  We have made a presentation to the Director and think that the signs look good, but there's no conclusive answer yet.  We hope to have one soon, maybe this week.

I have a Mexican medical story to tell you.  I got my annual mammogram at the San Miguel public hospital, the Hospital General.  It is entirely free, apparently subsidized by the government, but it took five trips.  1) Go to the hospital and learn that I have to come back between 10:30 and 12:30 to make an appointment.  2) Go back between 10:30 and 12:30 and make the appointment.  3) Go back for the first appointment:  give them my name, address, age, etc.  This takes about 3 minutes.  4) Go back the next day for the mammogram but the doctor has left even though I haven't yet had my appointment.  5) Go back again and this time get the mammogram:  sophisticated new digital equipment, apparently knowledgeable technicians.  But when I changed into a hospital gown I saw this was is a shared resource; it looked clean but the idea is yukky.  I will have to go back for a 6th time to get the results, in a month.  In a nutshell you have the advantages and disadvantages of Mexican medicine:  excellent and priced right (can't be more right in this instance) but so inefficient.

Rick went to San Antonio, TX, last week.  A friend of ours, Louis Cargill, was going to take a bus there and fly from San Antonio to Boston for his semi-annual VA Hospital medical care, but Rick proposed driving.  It took about 12 hours, not too bad.  Rick took with him a long shopping list of stuff, and he got his hearing aids adjusted at the Costco audiology department.  We have two Costco stores near here but they don't have audiology departments.  He also got a vision exam and brought the prescription back here to order the glasses locally:  less time but not cheaper.  As often happens, at the border coming back he got a green light, which means go right on through, so everything in the car was effectively brought in duty-free.

People in the US keep asking if I feel safe here.  I must tell you that I feel 100% as safe as I did in the US.  Actually, considering comparable-sized cities, I feel safer here.  It is true that I wouldn't be comfortable living in a border city, god forbid, or in some port cities where there's been drug violence, but this place feels like a small town in Iowa.  And it's just fine to fly into Mexico City (or Leon, a closer but more expensive airport) and take a luxury bus to San Miguel.  So from someone with direct experience, the stories of how dangerous Mexico is are starting to sound like the stories about New York, where you're mugged every day, and about Seattle, where it rains 100% of the time.

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