I’m in Cuernavaca, Mexico on a different sort of trip than usual. This time a friend, Donna, and I have rented a house for a month and are ‘cooking Mexican.’ I had always wanted to do this and, years ago had gone so far as to work out menus in a ‘mix and match’ way, with references to recipes in three Mexican cookbooks.
In Mexico, of course, one has access in the markets to wonderful fresh produce, fish, meats, cheese and flavorings that are authentic to these recipes, along with access to fresh warm tortillas. We also shop for more mundane items at a supermarket.
Our house is a pretty structure on a property with seven other rental houses along with the proprietors’. There is a pool and each unit has a terrace, where we like to have our cocktails each afternoon. Our routine has been to have a hearty breakfast about 9:30, cocktails about 4:00, and dinner at 5:30, with fruit snacks. This way we can have more caloric meals (two, rather than three) and hopefully not gain weight!
The first few days we mostly spent planning and choosing menus, and finding the appropriate market, tortillaria and supermarket, along with the taxi stand and bus stand. We had intended to rent a car at the airport in Mexico City but were discouraged from doing so by several people who report that, even with a GPS, Mexican roads are hard to navigate. Also, Cuernavaca is built on old lava flows with twelve barrancas (ravines) in the city, which makes for very few roads going across the city (and the barrancas) and, of course, has very heavy traffic along with severe parking problems. Once we discovered how available and inexpensive taxis are, and that we could use the bus to go downtown, we discarded the idea of renting a car. At the suggestion of our landlord, we may also hire a taxi by the hour to go sightseeing out of town.
So far we have cooked huevos rancheros (eggs with a Mexican tomato sauce over tortillas) and huevos con chorizo (-with Mexican chile-sausage) for breakfast, but our most successful was huevos flor de calabaza, which are scrambled eggs with squash blossoms, with tortillas. For dinner we liked the sopa elote (corn soup) along with huanchinango veracruzano, which is red snapper cooked ‘Vera Cruz style.’ Unfortunately it was missing the capers that we found so easily in the supermarket but somehow didn’t get home with us!
Our first sightseeing outing was taking a city bus downtown, asking help from another passenger to put us off near the Cathedral. The Cathedral is huge and was in the midst of a Mass when we arrived, so we slipped in and sat down. As we observed the congregants, we noticed that some seemed to be carrying white baskets with white satin covering what looked like dolls. Then a special ceremony required people to come up to the front and sure enough, they were carrying all sizes of dolls, some in baskets, but some not. There appeared to be a special blessing conferred on these dolls and their owners, and soon Mass was over. We wondered if this was in remembrance of babies that had died—? perhaps.
Right across the street from the Cathedral were the Jardin Borda (Borda Gardens). These are elaborate formal gardens with many fountains and a riot of foliage, and give an idea of how the 16th century elite enjoyed nature.
Around the corner was a real treat—the Brady Museum. We spent several hours in this very old, beautiful big house, converted from part of a convent by a transplanted Iowan in the ‘60s. The kitchen was especially intriguing (hey, maybe we can rent this one next time!) He had obviously collected objects from all over the world and had arranged them in such an interesting way—-Balian masks next to amulets from North Africa next to Mexican pottery figures. There were also many paintings by the likes of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and some of Roberto Brady’s own.
Sunday afternoon we joined many Mexican families in having dinner at Las Mananitas, a wonderful boutique hotel and restaurant with extensive grounds right in the middle of Cuernavaca. I first experienced this in 1966 on our first trip to Mexico when a man that
Burt met in a car dealership while we were waiting for a bus took us there for
Planter’s Punch. In subsequent years when our family and my sister’s family took many trips to Mexico over Christmas vacation, we often enjoyed this place. In those days there were peacocks and parrots, along with monkeys, although I didn’t see any monkeys now. The peacocks and parrots were there—perhaps offspring of the 1966 ones? The Margaritas and the dinners were fine. A group of mariachis provided musical local color.
We are really enjoying this kind of vacation—-stay tuned for more good eats!