Thursday, September 3, 2009

Touche, Kathleen Walker!

A little while ago my friend Kathleen posted this gorgeous picture of the fresh produce she picked up at the farmer's market in San Francisco. It made me salivate and and a wee bit jealous. See, it's been a bit of a challenge cooking here in Tulum.
I love Mexican food. It goes without saying that the ingredients at the grocery stores and markets here are full of anything you may need to make great Mexican food. However, we've been eating out a lot. And why wouldn't we since we can buy the worlds best tamales from Angelo at the Oxxo station for less than $1 a piece. His chicken and green salsa tamalitos are to die for. The same goes for Angela's sopes, Urge Taqueria's mixto ceviche, and Charlie's enchiladas poblanos. So, why would I cook Mexican food when everybody makes it so much better than me?
Now, if you want to make something other than Mexican food, it's a bit of a challenge. Not only are there large bags of mystery spices and piles of unknown herbs and produce to navigate, most things are unlabeled. Even armed with my trusty pocket dictionary, and grabbing every bag and shoving it in my face for a good whiff, many items are unidentifiable. What I can identify is black pepper, ground oregano, chile powder, cinnamon, and cloves. That is the primary spice selection at our local store. So along with the 95 degree heat and the bicycling from store to store to find basics like a real loaf of crusty bread, fruit and veggies, cheese and meat, I've been feeling rather uninspired to cook.
Hence, I've still been feeling like a tourist and not like I actually live here. We usually eat breakfast and lunch at home, but there is something so homey and grounding and downright domestic about cooking dinner.
I had a breakthrough the other day. I learned from Lorena at the Italian bakery that there is a store called Frutas Y Verduras Pool. They have actual fresh arugula and basil!!! Granted you have to know it's in the back and ask for it (which was an adventure in pantomime and trial and error). However, my creative juices started flowing, and I spent a good long time looking at every bag of dried hibiscus flowers, mystery spices, coconut milk, olive oil, and root vegetables and thinking about actually cooking.
Here's what I ended up with: Arugula, basil, chayote, zucchini, red pepper, local avocado, a carrot, cucumber, big bananas, and tiny cute ones, penne pasta, capers, anchovies, a can of tomatoes, oolong tea (the first black tea I've seen!), real tasty wheat bread from the Italian bakery, a croissant!!!, and to top it all off, fancy food for Tugboat because I finally found the one and only bona fide vet.
This may seem like a totally normal and average shopping list, but to me it's the beginning of really living here and being able to cook.


Kate Larsen said...

JACKPOT! ...can we stop by sometime...for supper?

Kathleen said...

You found some awesome stuff, too! Love it. I'm glad you've been cooking a bit, even if it is an adventure to do so!