New website...

Hello readers, I have been trying to figure out how to create a link between this blog site and my new website but unfortunately, have not been able to import one into the other. So, my new blog is found at
Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 6, 2011-- Assignment #2....Waking Up

Waking Up

I pour coffee beans into the grinder and press the button for thirty seconds. The whir of the blades sends the cats scurrying for the door and the lovely smell of coffee fills the kitchen. I put the kettle on to boil and let my mind wander back to where I purchased this coffee, at the coffee museum in Chiapas, Mexico.

I followed the smell of roasting beans down the narrow cobblestone side streets of San Cristobal de las Casas to find the museum, located on the ground floor of an old hacienda. The entrance was through the small café that sold cups of freshly brewed coffee, bags of beans, and a variety of souvenirs. I ordered a small mug of decaf, paid the twenty-five peso entrance fee, and entered the first room. A large mural on the wall depicting the history of coffee from its arrival with the Spanish conquistadors to the present day was the first thing to catch my eye. As I sipped the rich brew, I wandered slowly from room to room, reading the signs in Spanish. I looked at old photographs of coffee trees in bloom, Mayan natives bent almost double from the weight of lugging giant canvas bags full of beans on their backs, and maps of the different coffees grown in Chiapas. 

The piercing whistle of the tea kettle brings me back into the kitchen and I hurry to turn the burner off.  I fill the one-cup filter with the ground coffee and pour a small amount of the hot water over the grounds, just enough to cause them to swell and bloom. They turn frothy white as I wait for the water to drip into my mug. When the water is gone, I add some more and wait again.

I remember looking at displays of coffee equipment in the museum, such as a coffee bean sorter, numerous bean grinders as well as the rake-like tools used to harvest the beans. In one of the last rooms, there was a display on Fair Trade coffee. It showed how selling their coffee via the Fair Trade business has helped the local Maya people earn more money which they use to provide better food, clothing, and education for their large families.

My coffee has finished dripping into my mug and I place the filter in the compost. I inhale deeply and sigh…the bag of beans is just about empty and I have no idea when I will get back to San Cristobal to buy some more.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 4, 2011-- The Tastes of the Yucatan Peninsula--second attempt....

The Tastes of the Yucatan Peninsula

Located in the eastern part of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula is known for its sandy beaches, varied wildlife and birds, Mayan pyramids, and its regional cuisine. This cuisine developed from the ancient Maya traditional dishes made of corn, beans, tomatoes, wild turkey, seafood, and chocolate. With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, more flavors such as pork, chicken, capers, olives, rice, and black pepper were introduced into the diet to form new complex savory blends. Modern Yucatecan restaurants now serve a wide variety of regional specialties highlighting the unusual combinations of the old and the new. So, if you think all Mexican food consists of guacamole, salsa, and white flour tortillas filled with ground beef and shredded cheese, come learn about some typical dishes found in the Yucatan Peninsula.

For those who like a hearty breakfast, try huevos motuleños. A corn tortilla is covered with refried beans and a fried egg, then chopped ham and green peas are added before the mix is covered with a tomato sauce and shredded cheese. This one will need extra napkins to eat!

If you enjoy a light lunch, try panuchos. A slightly crispy fried tortilla is covered with cooked shredded chicken, and garnished with shredded lettuce, slices of tomatoes, pickled red onion, and sliced avocado. A quick squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of salt create the perfect zesty dressing for this meal. A variation on this is the salbute which has refried beans stuffed inside the tortilla before the chicken and other toppings are added. 

One of the most popular dishes found in restaurants is cochinita pibil or roast suckling pig that’s been marinated in a rich sauce made of achiote paste, sour orange juice, garlic, cumin, and salt, then wrapped in banana leaves and baked until tender.

Poc chuc is another pork dish frequently seen on menus. Slices of pork are marinated in a sour orange sauce before cooking, then served with a rich, slightly spicy tomato sauce and pickled red onions.

Sopa de lima is the Yucatan’s idea of chicken soup. A fresh chicken broth filled with shredded chicken, strips of fried corn tortillas, and lime juice. A basic fill-you-up dish that will also help settle your stomach when you’ve had too many margaritas the night before.

Tamales are a typical Yucatan dish. Wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks, the steamed cornmeal dumpling can be filled with just about anything from chicken to pork to rabbit with figs and green olives.

For dessert, try the flan. Every restaurant has its own variation on this dish and owners vie for the best flan in the area. A slightly browned sugar syrup is poured into custard cups, then a rich egg and milk mixture is added and baked or steamed until set. When served, the sweet sugary syrup cascades over the sides of the creamy egg custard in a delightful blend of flavors.

Or head to one of the many pastelerias or bakeries in the area where you’ll find all kinds of sweet treats from sugar cookies covered in sprinkles to slices of cheesecake to coconut macaroons.

And if you’re thirsty, be sure to try some freshly squeezed orange juice, or a licuado-a fruit puree, water, and ice drink made from the local area fruits. Try watermelon, strawberry, tamarind, hibiscus flower, or pineapple…any are sure to quench the driest mouth. And don’t worry about the water or ice—all restaurants are required to serve bottled water as the limestone in the area makes the water hard to drink even for the locals.

Regardless of where you eat, a meal in the Yucatan will certainly surprise and delight you with new flavor combinations that bring new meaning to the words “Mexican food.” Buen provecho!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 1, 2011--Rabbit, Rabbit...

And another month is gone, just like that. I know in essence what I did during the month of August but at odd moments, I reflect on where the time went and all the things I didn't do...more kayaking, another swim in the lake, a trip to the coast for steamers...little, summery things that got put on hold while we focused on preparing for winter, which is why our woodshed is completely full right now (an all-time first).
I also know I have worked hard at taking more time to write each day and more time on promoting myself as a writer, both of which are beginning to pay off. I have three places to write book reviews for with the potential of another site in the near future. I won't get rich by any of this work, but it does bring me one step closer to my goal of being able to support myself and my family on just my writing. And I am reading all kinds of interesting, thought-provoking books, which stir my creative juices in big ways.
So, although the days are definitely getting shorter and the early mornings and late evenings cooler, I am not really saddened by it. Long winter evenings curled in a chair by the stove, reading and writing doesn't sound like such a bad thing right now.