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Wednesday, 30 June 2010


You may have gathered from my blog that food is a significant part of the cultural experience I am enjoying during my year in Mexico. One especially delicious part of the food here is Mole - the name for several Mexican sauces (and dishes based on these sauces). There are many different types of 'mole', some quite different from one another, including black, red, yellow, green, and one of my favourites pipián (made with sesame seeds).

Perhaps one of the most famous of these sauces is Mole Poblano, which as its name suggests originates from the state of Puebla (luckily for me where I am living). Mole Poblano is found on almost every menu in Puebla and is a spicy chocolate and chilli sauce usually served over chicken or turkey, eaten with rice - and of course tortillas!! Although you can buy the sauce commercially, there is nothing like the home-made mole or the mole which is also home made, but sold in the mercados. Check out the picture of the different moles for sale in the mercado at Santa Ana. The beauty of the mole sold in the mercados, is all you need to do is mix and heat it with chicken stock to prepare. So it is tasty and convenient.

Due to to myriad of ingredients in Mole Poblano and the time it takes to prepare, people tend only to make it at home for special occasions. Recipes vary from family to family, however typically, Mole Poblano contains dried chilli peppers (ancho, pasilla, mulato and chipotle), ground nuts and/or seeds (peanuts, almonds and/or sesame seeds), spices, Mexican chocolate (cacao ground with cinnamon, sugar and sometimes nuts), salt, and a variety of other ingredients including charred avocado leaves, onions, banana and garlic. Dried seasonings such as ground oregano are also used. In order to provide a rich thickness to the sauce, crushed toasted tortillas, bread crumbs or crackers are added to the mix.

At a recent fiesta I attended for a baptism, the baby's grandmother prepared mole for the fiesta which was attended by well over 100 people. Although she had assistance from family and neighbours, it still took several days to prepare the Mole Poblana. The result was delicious and included below is a photo of the massive cassarole dish of Mole Poblano plus a plate of mole served with chicken and rice. Following this dish too were the mandatory frijoles. All absolutely delicious and very filling - and that was before the gigantic cake was served!!

I would love to enjoy Mole Poblano back in Australia and can learn to make it here, however I am not sure I'll be able to locate all the ingredients required. So please let me know where I can locate the special ingredients, especially the dried chillis.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

15 year Old Girl's Birthday - La Quinceañer

While Mexican's have many reasons for celebrations, perhaps one of the more important ones is when a girl turns 15 years old. She celebrates her birthday dressed like a princess at a Thanks Giving mass and typically a grand fiesta with music, food, dancing and a cake in the style of a wedding cake.

In some ways it is like a "debut" sometimes celebrated in Australia, in that it publicly announces a girl having become a woman. However, instead of sharing this occasion with other girls at a debutante ball, the 15 year old girl's "Quinceañer" is dedicated only to her.

The dress is very grand, again akin to a wedding dress, however instead of white it is usually in a bright colour of taffeta and tulle. There are probably as many shops selling these dresses and all the required accessories of tiaras, gloves, cushions, bags, shoes and the like as there are shops selling wedding dresses in Mexico.

The birthday girls may have numerous female attendants, like her bridesmaids and at her fiesta she will have a dance dedicated to her. The dance is called the "vals" and might be performed be her "bridesmaids" or by boys (as is probably the case for the girl in these photos) or by both.

It would not be uncommon for well over 100 guests to attend the Quinceañer. So with the dress, the cake, the fiesta, the band, the food and all other things
associated with the celebration can add up to a very expensive event for the family. So the girls
normally have God mothers and God fathers who are invited to pay for various parts of the fiesta on behalf of
the family.

These photos were taken outside a church where a Quinceañer was starting in the village I
was visiting on the weekend.

See this article for more information about La Quinceañers:ñera-a-celebration-of-budding-womanhood

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Painting and Construction

I am sure that these photos are not typical of all construction or painting sites in Mexico, they are certainly representative of most of the work I have witnessed here. The finished product is usually good, but the methods are quite different from what I am used to.

One key difference is the approach to safety, which seems fairly blase. Recently for example, a tradesman was doing some work at our house and he was squinting from the concrete dust he was generating, so we gave him some safety glasses to wear. He seemed amused, but put them and started to use them, however half an hour later when we returned he had discarded them and was back to squinting again. I have not seen anyone here using a safety harness at heights, not are hard hats a frequent sight. They get the job done, in what I suspect might be less time than if they adhered to some of the safety procedures I find normal, but at what human cost I am not sure.

The other difference is that fewer tools and aides seem to get the job done. Take a look for example at this guy painting a house. His only tools to paint the entire house have been a ladder, his paint buckets and two brushes. He hasn't used rollers and because he only has one ladder, he has to climb up and down the ladder carrying the paint bucket the whole time and he has to move his ladder all the time to move along the house.

The other photos of the guys doing some construction on a house in our street, show a great blend of the approach to safety and ingeneous use of materials at hand to complete a job. Note the lack of any harness at height and look at what has been used to construct the "scaffold"!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


According to Wiki, "Mariachi is a genre of music that originated in Guadalajara, in the State of Jalisco, Mexico... The mariachi ensemble generally consists of violins, trumpets, an acoustic guitar, a vihuela (a high-pitched, five-string guitar), a guitarrón (a large acoustic bass) and, on occasion, a harp. "

Mexicans love Mariachis and they frequently appear for special occasions such as birthdays or weddings. Mariachis work any time of the day or night and are often called upon to perform outside the house of someone very late at night or early in the morning by their spouse or admirer ... especially if that person has had a bit to drink.

I love the Mariachi music and the costumes they wear, but what I love most is when they pop up when you least expect it. For example, the other night when going to bed at about midnight, just down the street above the local dry cleaner, someone had ordered Mariachis for their Mum who was having a birthday. How cool it was to fall asleep to the sound of serenading Mariachis?

It must be the week for Mariachis in our Colonia too, because only a few days later when attending a birthday celebration, more Mariachis appeared. This time they had been organised by the son of the guy whose birthday we were celebrating. He absolutely loved Mariachi music, which is very emotion filled and as you may be able to see from one photo below he was moved to tears as he sang along with the Mariachis.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Humble Wooden Chair

An item that seems to exist in every Mexican household is a small wooden chair, similar to the type young children use in preschool. The design of these chairs is nothing particularly special or unique to Mexico, but the use of them certainly is.

Although these chairs are clearly designed for young children to sit on, I only seldom see them used for that purpose. Rather, these chairs are used mostly by adults for purposes including, but certainly not limited to:
  • sitting at a local taco or memela stand to enjoy some food;
  • standing on in the kitchen or shed in lieu of a step ladder;
  • as a chair to sit on in a public (or private) shower;
  • as a small ladder or stool for a tradesman;
  • as a portable chair to take to the local baseball game; or
  • to help older, less able or shorter people to climb into a tall vehicle like a 4WD or a large pick-up.
So perhaps you don't need to throw out that small chair you have in the spare room after all?