It was interesting to see how the guests who came to spend some time with me in Oaxaca this summer really set the pace and determined what we would do. Laurie Smith, my dear friend and comadre, arrived with her usual exuberance, energy,and charm wanting to revisit villages we had been in during our various trips there in the 80s when I was doing research for my book The Food and Life of Oaxaca. On outing number one, our first stop would be El Tule, where we planned to have breakfast–an agua fresca, some fresh cut fruit, an empanada with squ ash blossoms and plenty of quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese), a pizza-like tlayuda, and a chicharron taco for Pedro who is thin as a rail even though he eats pork cracklings at every chance he gets.
Ever since we arrived in Oaxaca, Pedro and I had been looking for burnt milk ice cream tasted like it used to be. Alas, it was not to be, here, there , or anywhere. I’ve come to the conclusion that they must be using homogenized milk. Here is my recipe for nieve de leche quemada for those of you with access to unhomogenized milk.
The change in the town since I was there many years go is astounding. It used to be a dirty little stop on the tourism route. The magnificent tree was totally unprotected, the ground uneven and sometimes muddy. Now there is an iron fence restricting access thereby protecting the tree. It is punishable by law to take any cuttings to engender little illegitimate offspring of this state treasure,Perfectly manicured flower beds adorn the area. There is love in this place. And pride.
It’s too bad and almost shocking in this land of gentility and manners that the women at the market and the trinket shops were not nice, The men were, especially the gardeners who keep this place looking beautiful and sparkling clean were lovely. This was the only place in Oaxaca where we were treated rudely.
It was hot as hell by the time we got to Mitla.,”the city of the dead” as this popular archeological site was known in pre-Hispanic times. Fortunately, they have these nifty little taxis to take us uphill to the best stores for hand-woven textiles of all sorts.
They also have wonderful hand-embroidered huipiles (the traditional dress whose design varies from own to town) like the one Laurie is wearing here
We had a chance to see the weavers at their looms and Laurie (www.lauriesmithphoto .com) captured the essence of the process in her signature style.
The weavers often sell their work at heart-breakingly low prices. For instance a 3-yard long hand-loomed pure cotton tablecloth is only $250.00 Pesos, about $20.00 dollars. I wanted to buy everything just to help them out. But it’s good for tourists to be able to take back high-quality, handmade products like these and the weavers have a guardian angel, Remigio Mestas Revilla, working with them to develop designs in textures and colors that will be appealing to international travelers and which he sells at his very high-end store Los Baules de Juana Cata at ten times the price!