Posts/June, 2011/

Etla Market and Cooking in the Oaxacan Countryside at Seasons of My Heart

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Thanks for your interest in my recent nine day trip to Oaxaca City, Mexico. I’ve broken the trip into eight parts loosely organized by the central activity of the day. Want to see the other posts? Browse the Oaxaca category.

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Wednesday was a day of food. It started innocently enough with bean sauce enchiladas before spiraling wildly out of control.

At 9AM we joined a group of people in a van for a full day of market exploration and cooking class.

Seasons of My Heart is a cooking school run by Susana Trilling, a woman known for her passion for Mexican cuisine but who is surprisingly not able to eat spicy food. You might recognize her from such multipart cooking series on PBS such as Seasons of My Heart or SOMH 2: Judgement Day Class.

For $75 each, we had a whole day of activity.

Our first stop was the village of Etla for a guided tour of its Wednesday market. Our host, a friendly woman whose name escapes me, guided us through the market and thoroughly explained a variety of ingredients from the different chilies to herbs and spices. Once we got into the main building, the tasting began. First six different types of tamales, the most unusual tasting like root beer due to sarsaparilla leaves. Next, Mexican breads. Then three types of Oaxacan cheese: queso fresco, string cheese, and a ricotta type version of the fresco. Onward, we sampled ice-cream, a slimy warm goo beverage, cold tejate, and Oaxaca’s favorite snack: grasshoppers pan fried with chili powder and lime.

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Courtyard in Etla.
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Lavado sign.
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Square bananas.
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Kinky toy display.
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Sugar, cocoa beans, corn, and chilies.
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Vibrant chilies.
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Tarps!
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An 87 year old, adorable peanut vendor.
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Mangoes and mamey sapote.
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Gutter fruit.
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Green ceramic earthenware.
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Hombre in the shade.
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A limestone vendor bagging her stone.
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Spices.
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Holy herbs.
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Quackery?
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Cafeteria style food.
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Maybe there is a beast….maybe it’s only us.
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Brain empanadas.
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Smallest woman in the world.
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Flesh trade.
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Feet.
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Perfect color combo.
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Mole tamale.
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More food for sale.
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Smaller spiced crickets for munching.
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Breads.
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Nicuatole, a jelly-like dessert made from corn.
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Tubers.
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High tech distractions, but sadly no Time Crisis.
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Seating in the ice-cream area.
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Little woman spins a fresh batch of ice-cream.
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Cheeses. In the foreground are balls of string cheese. Fresco cheese is in the baskets.
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Green foods for sale.
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Taking care of business.
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Flower vendor looks at one of our group as he samples tejate.
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A big, weird looking bowl of jetate being cooled with ice chunks.

For lunch, we plopped down at one of the cramped booths and had a choice of meat stuffed tortillas with red mole, black bean, or a watery tomato sauce. The dish was topped with cheese and cilantro. To drink, we had chocolate with either hot milk or water.

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The little restaurants booths on the upper level of the market.
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My lunch: enchiladas.
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J’s: enfrijoladas.
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Ra! Ra! Go team!
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More produce.

On the way back to the van, I learned that the tuk-tuk style motor taxis cost less than $4,000 new. I want one.

From Etla, it was a short drive into the countryside to Aurora Ranch. The facility consists of massive domed dining and cooking space and a small residence surrounded by cactus studded hills. Beautiful.

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Who can resist Prophy, the happy condom?
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At Aurora Ranch.
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The class building hidden in the greenery.
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Rare cactus blossoms.
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Looking off the porch.
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Our cooking space looked like something out of a TV show.

To start, Susan introduced us to the ingredients in the six dishes we would prepare. Then we broke off into groups to work on separate dishes. The massive kitchen was full of activity and energy as we all figured out what to do as our host floated around to guide us.

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Ingredients for chocolate chiles in nogada
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Local pomegranate.
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Roasting chilies.
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Roasting nopale paddles on the comal.
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Wild mushrooms.
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Photobug.

The dishes we prepared: prickly pear cactus tacos with yellow chili sauce, chilled chayote bisque, blessed beet salad, refried black beans, and chocolate chiles in nogada. The latter dish was a show stopper. Traditionally made in September, this red, white, and green stuffed pepper dish has everything but the kitchen sink in it. For dessert, corn pudding with orange mescal sauce.

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Prickly pear cactus tacos with yellow chili sauce.
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Chilled chayote bisque.
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Blessed beet salad.
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Chocolate chiles in nogada.
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Corn pudding with orange mescal sauce.

Dinner was served, and by the end everyone had become friends, especially a broadly smiling and jovial actor from Chicago and a pixie like Londoner who wore an almost translucent yellow dress that revealed her white underwear.

After we got back, J and I walked around after getting some coffee and sweets. We both agreed that it had been one of the best, most gut-busting days yet.

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