Donna and I flew to Oaxaca, Mexico and took possession of our rented apartment for the month of March. The apartment has a lovely view (day and night), and is very roomy with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The kitchen is more than adequate for our cooking adventures. On a typical day we have a big breakfast about 9:30, such as huevos con chorizo (eggs with Mexican sausage), with beans and fruit, which we enjoy in our dining area. At 4:00 we have cocktails in our rooftop gazebo, and then have dinner—quesadillas, or chicken in peanut sauce, or picadillo, etc. We brought my sister’s BIG Diana Kennedy Oaxaca cookbook, but haven’t started our research on the Oaxaca chiles yet, which seem to be quite daunting. So we’re starting out quite easy with dishes that we’ve made a million times.
We followed this with a long trek through the market buying various provisions for our cooking. Then we taxied to the supermarket to buy a few cans of things, and other supplies that we couldn’t find in the market, such as gin and olives. The good news about this third floor apartment is that it has a colossal view; the bad news is that we have to carry our groceries up three long flights of stairs.
Another day we made the mostly downhill walk about eight blocks to the Church of Santo Domingo. On the way we enjoyed the street art on our street—Panoramica del Fortin. When we arrived at the Plaza Santo Domingo there was a band playing, apparently for the five-day fiesta that is going on.
The church is spectacular—built in 1570, its interior is covered with three-dimensional ornate gold curlicues and saints; it’s huge and these decorations go on forever! After our necks were fully cricked from looking, we continued on for four more blocks to the Zocalo, the plaza that is at the heart of the city. We had a much-needed beer under the portales, watched two marimba players, and then taxied home.
That evening we again walked to the Santo Domingo Church to see it during an evening Mass when it would be ‘lit up.’ Actually the lights were not very bright so it didn’t photograph well, so we walked down to the Zocalo again, which was really busy—Oaxaca’s living room! Again there were men playing two large marimbas, and many people dancing. I think this is part of a five-day fiesta that is in progress.
When we met our landlord, he mentioned to us that the Mexican singer, Lila Downs, her husband and four-year-old child live about 50 feet away from our apartment in a large house that also houses their coffee shop. Lila Downs is quite a successful singer who sang in the movie, “Frida” several years ago. Since then she tours quite often in the USA and, of course, in Mexico. AND my daughter and son-in-law, Cookie and Ulises, are good friends of theirs. Donna and I had a cappuccino at the coffee shop yesterday morning, preparing to introduce ourselves, but alas, Lila and her husband are touring, so not at home. Additionally, Donna happened to mention a few days earlier (before this all came up) that Lila Downs was performing many years ago when she visited Oaxaca—small world!
Another jaunt to the market to buy fresh produce (papaya, mangos, salad fixings, tomatoes, etc.) gave us our exercise. We also got fresh tortillas from the tortillaria. They were still so warm that they almost burned my arm as I carried them as I couldn’t put them in the shopping bag with the produce. We also bought some Oaxacan Mole Negro, which we had that evening on tortilla chips with a little cheese.
Time passes! Things change! The original Margarita recipe has always been lime juice, Cointreau, and tequila in 1-2-3 proportions. In the USA, this got modified to something else that was quite sweet and made with lots of shaved ice. I was so looking forward to a REAL Margarita here. Well, Cointreau is a thing of the past. We asked in at least six liquor shops and not only did they not have it, they didn’t know what we were talking about!! We also looked for Triple Sec (another orange liqueur, which one can use in place of Cointreau) but no dice! Time passes! Things change!
Friday we cooked a really good breakfast of Huevos con Flor de Calabaza (eggs with squash blossoms) and then walked to Santo Domingo Church to tackle the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. This is a wonderful museum of pre-Colombian history of the area up to the present day. The displays were breathtaking, especially the highlight which was the treasures of Tomb Seven of Monte Alban, a city that was flourishing from 500 BCE. The funeral statues, the gold ornaments and the jewelry were wonderful to see. We didn’t nearly finish looking at the museum, but will return for another foray, another day. It is all displayed in the Santo Domingo Convent, which is even bigger than the church. They have done a marvelous job of displaying not only the treasures, but the convent as well.
In back of the convent is the Jardín Etnobotánico, a huge garden of local plants, especially cactus. This garden has only been growing since the mid-‘90s but makes a beautiful sight from the convent windows, especially with the lovely mountain backdrop. Finally when the sundial on the convent roof pointed to 2:00, we headed for home in a taxi. I have been fighting a cold, so we have been taking it pretty easy.
Next week we’ll probably switch into higher gear, both with our cooking and our sight-seeing. Still we are partaking of OAXACA and loving it!