Saturday, November 14, 2009

Food and Death -- It's All Connected

Long time, no write. Today I will start with food. Israel is the cook in our household. We tend to eat fresh things. Guayaba, watermelon, and my favorite: mango. My acid reflux has been acting up lately, so he prepares me a mixture of papaya and milk. It's very bland, but tends to neutralize stomach acid. Israel loves to pulverize things in the blender, so guava nectar is a mainstay.

This morning, Saturday, is the day that street vendors drive up and down the streets of the colonia, either in pickups with loudspeakers blaring, or lone men with carts calling out their trademark greetings. The gas man's tune is the first few bars you hear at racetracks before the race starts. So far this morning, they've come through with fresh shrimp, tamales, gas for cooking and another man collecting empty soda cans. A few minutes ago, someone came through selling strawberries from the state of Michoacan. Israel rushed downstairs and picked up two kilos for a little over $2.oo. He suggested that we needed to rinse them in water with a drop of bleach (as his mother in the Dominican Republic did when he was small). I was out of bleach, so poured a tiny bit of spray cleaner with bleach in the water...sadly, all the strawberries now taste like Pato Anti-Fungal...

A couple of weeks ago, we were on the beach in Bucerias. We watched the oyster harvesters trudging through the water with sacks on their backs, feeling for the oyster shells with their feet. One of the oystermen came up on the beach and Israel bought four fresh oysters, which we sprinkled with fresh lime and poured down our gullets only minutes out of the ocean. These were my first fresh oysters.

Israel also harvests the long, razor-like leaves from a limoncillo (sp) plant across the road for a tea that's supposed to be good for digestion. I don't know about that, but it smells like lemon and tastes delicious.

Another of our favorite activities is to go to the small public beach near where we live. For some reason, the ocean spits out a lot of interesting rocks and sea detritus on this beach. Aside from the occasional dead blowfish, we also collect rocks with little coral plants attached. We now have a large collection.

About ten days ago, we were walking Bo through the neighborhood near where Nena, the dog was killed. As we passed a weedfilled vacant lot, a kitten greeted us. He demanded to be picked up and so...we have a cat now. He's been dubbed "kiikii" for the way Israel pronounces "kitty kitty." A really mellow little kitty who sort of goes boneless in your arms. Bo is adjusting.

A week ago, we went to Vallarta's old cemetary to observe Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) ceremonies. It was a hot, sunny day. Families picnicked on the graves and loudspeakers blared oldies by Elvis and the Beach Boys. It was a terrific thing to experience.

The weather has turned idyllic. Cool nights and mild, breezy days. The Americans are back in droves. I don't know if they are spending money, but time will tell.

I went into town for lunch with my former coworker Martha. She is working for an American hotel owner who runs a famous gay hotel in Vallarta. The man is also a social activist with various interests around town. His name is Paul. I met Paul at a dinner party given by my chef friend Seth. Anyway, Paul had a lawyer who handled all his HR issues and negotiated the ins and outs of doing business in Mexico. Anyway, I guess this lawyer knew a bit too much about the narco stuff here in town. He was kidnapped a week ago and it's assumed he is dead. Paul is terrified and may return to the US.

More and more of the hotels, nightclubs and restaurants here do money laundering for the drug cartels. The restaurant owners are paid to look the other way. It's a sad fact that in Mexico, everyone would rather get their slice of the drug revenue pie than do the ethical thing. Those who speak up are promptly silenced. It seems to me a losing battle.

The culture of death is alive and well in Puerto Vallarta. Early one morning, I was standing on the balcony of the apt., as a man with a pitbull allowed his dog to attack one of the mild-mannered street dogs who hang out on our block. The poor dog was yelping and screaming as the pitbull had him by the neck. I yelled at him to stop, and the owner of the other dog came out with a broom to chase the pitbull away...the pitbull owner just wanted to see how far he could take the bloodlust...

We have a three-day weekend ahead, thank heaven. Next week, we are taking off for Guadalajara. Trying to help Israel go into business for himself. Promoting restaurants on the street has turned into a dead end. Instead of cash, they give him food coupons. We get to eat at some nice restaurants, but Israel is disgusted by the practice.

Anyway, that's it in a nutshell.

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