Author Archives: gubabbaboy

Racing The Weather

RACING THE WEATHER

It’s planting time in Central Mexico. For regular farmers like us, (“regular”, hah! Joke) it’s time to plant corn. If a farmer came out financially ahead on the wheat crop, there are funds available to invest in corn-planting expenses, and early June is the time. This year we began on the 6th. When we got out to the fields we were noticeably alone. There were no other tractors or planting teams with pickups loaded with fertilizer and seed. We’re in charge of seven fields, and they’re not all located adjacent to each other; we have a good view of the neighbors’ fields. Nada. There was no movement – only us. And we heard the talk (and jeers) about town. “Too early!”

Our team was headed by Chon The Guitar Player (boss), Me (driver), a tractor operator, and two loaders. Loaders load (duh) the pickup with the seed and fertilizer sacks, and then move that heavy stuff to the canisters on the planter behind the tractor. Each sack of granulated fertilizer weighs about 100 pounds. The seed sacks weigh less. It’s a heavy job but there are long resting times between the carrying and loading, and to me that balances it out – long hours, but a reasonably pleasant day.

That was the first day. It took us a week and a day (and then another two weeks) to finish the planting, and I won’t write a boring blow-by-blow chronicle for something that should have taken 5 days. Damp fields, hot weather, nightly rains, not-dry-enough leftover wheat stalks that got stuck in the planter wheels, lack of fertilizer (the supplier ran out!), but workers who wanted to Get Things Done by working at odd hours; all these contributed to a final acceptable outcome.

And then, like farmers do, we had to hope that the rain would arrive to keep the corn sprouts alive.  They were already poking up out of the ground in some areas. The most costly thing that could happen is for all the millions of sprouts to die of thirst. And if it happens to us, it will happen for most of  the farmers in our area.

If you were paying attention, the “Too early!” comment turned out to be true for nearly everyone. And by the end of the month (including on my birthday) many of us were re-planting. For three long weeks we waited for the rain we expected at the beginning of June, and with the exception of small sprinkles of rain in certain micro areas, they didn’t come.

A comment about my birthday – it was pleasant! We had casually planned a short-distance trip to somewhere new, thinking we’d just drive somewhere. Instead, since it was Tuesday, we decided – why not? – we decided to go to our go-to Tuesday place, where two-for-one is the magical word. For big plates of breaded fish filets served with rolls, salad, rice, and tostadas with chíle oil, and just about any kind of salsa you could ask for.

A dash to the ag supply place with money freshly withdrawn from the bank account preceded a stop at our tractor driver’s house. Yes, he said, he’d come to reseed a field.

And that’s what we did, until rain began to splatter the field, thunder sounded, lightning flashed, and – we finished the section of the field that had sprouted but not lived!

It was a day like many others, but somehow – just right.

Music Sunday!

OK, yes, it’s loud. We use our big speakers, and I’ve heard that it can be noticed in a town less than a mile away.

Right now we’re hearing The Eagles. People are on their way to mass. They just can’t miss it.

Time for breakfast of tamales at 5 pesos apiece. With beans, and café de la olla – check it out! Delicious!

Tenderete

 

 

You say you can’t imagine being interested in hearing a lot of hearty men’s voices singing in two-part harmony with acoustic instruments, or seeing middle-aged dancers in almost medieval costumes, moving gracefully to that same sound? A little bit Spanish, a little bit European, a little bit Middle Eastern?

We used to watch a very pleasant program on Saturday mornings, and then it got moved to a (much!) earlier time before it disappeared completely. Now it’s back in Mexico on Saturday mornings again, so we have a reason not to lounge around in bed when we’re not tending the crops.

Tenderete, a forty-year-old program from Spain, offers a varied palate of music to appreciate. From the Canary Islands, featuring local groups of singers and dancers, performing traditional music not just from Spain, but from many Latin American countries, it’s produced by Spanish public television.

Imagine your local university choir or chorale. Now put the group in traditional costume from Old Spain, which is very likely different from what you might imagine.

The harmonies may be simpler than you’re imagining – two-or-three-part instead of up to eight parts. But the singing is mostly excellent. The men’s voices especially, are good – manly and easy.

From wikipedia: “In the Canary Islands, Isa, a local kind of Jota, is now popular, and Latin American musical (Cuban) influences are quite widespread, especially with the charango (a kind of guitar). Timple, a local instrument which resembles ukulele / cavaquinho, is commonly seen in plucked-string bands. A popular set on El Hierro island consists of drums and wooden fifes (pito herreño). The tabor pipe is customary in some ritual dances on the island of Tenerife.”

There’s instrumental accompaniment. Mandolins. Guitars. Charangos. Timples. Percussion. Dancing. What’s not to like?

If you watch a video or a whole program, try not to be impatient. You’re probably accustomed to slick music videos with tons of effects. Just watch and listen. You’ll begin to hear things. (If you speak Spanish, even just a little, it’ll help.)

The pleasant and knowledgeable host of Tenderete, David Peñate.

You’ll hear song forms, and they’re OLD ones – perhaps hundreds of years old. There is musica tipica (folk-type) and popular music from other countries, including Mexico, Cuba, Peru. Try it. You might find that you like it, as I do.

But you have to persevere! You may think at first “Oh, this is boring.” If you want to win the prize you must listen. Pay attention to the instrumental playing. Really look at the dancing and costumes! Listen, really listen to the voices!

There are new and cached performances on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tenderete-TVE-en-Canarias-154748447901578/, and maybe you can find it on your local public access, as well. When we continue our Saturday morning on the same station we get news and travel from Spain.

Let me know if you like it.

Experimental Cooking Without An Oven

Long-delayed post, I know.

I do it all the time – nearly every day. I have  been without an oven for over 6 YEARS. It’s a difficult situation for a person who really enjoys baking.

Disclaimer – this is not intended to be a cooking blog. But in my everyday musings and archiving of events, it’s bound to happen, no?

Lately there are many online recipes featuring roasted vegetables, and they look so lovely (and so easy!) that they have a clear appeal. I was tempted by a roasted cauliflower recipe, and I decided to prepare a slow cooker version. I was fully aware of the differences and limitations of slow cooker cooking, but hopeful that I might end up with an edible and possibly deliciously satisfactory outcome. I was hoping!

This photo was my goal. I began with a lovely cauliflower purchased in a nearby town at a Thursday visit from a traveling vegetable vendor. You can check out the recipe at this pleasant site: http://karacarrero.com/how-to-eat-make-roasted-cauliflower-recipe/. I liked the idea of the butter and flavorings mixture, which would make a beautifully browned top in an oven. I used some room temperature butter, rubbing it onto the cauliflower, and then sprinkled all the exposed areas with a Penzey’s spice mixture called Mural of Flavor. You’re not yet acquainted with Penzey’s, you say? Check them out online. They have many scattered locations, as well as an inspiring business ethic. 

I had trimmed the stem end on the cauliflower and set it in the bottom of the slow cooker with a little water (about 1/2 c). I cooked it for about 3 1/2 hours on high, and checked it when we were ready to eat. It was ready too. It was not browned, just as you would expect from slow cooking.

But it was delicious. Let me know if you try it.

While You Are Preparing Your Braises

While you all are preparing your braises or rubs,  or planning your special seafood recipes for Valentine’s Day, I’ll be – can you guess? – soaking pozole corn. The day before Valentine’s Day, corn soaked and scrubbed of its skins and such, I’ll be cooking chicken for deboning, and blending chiles, onions and garlic to cook it all together. No big deal, huh? I’m only making it for 20 people.

Photo from Mely Martinez Mexico In My Kitchen blog.

We’re having a party at our house, and our band is playing musica romantica. Only love songs! How fun does that sound? You are cordially invited.

I’m a little nervous. I’ve only cooked pozole before, and I’ve never soaked the pozole corn or put it all together myself. Usually one of The Guitar Player’s sisters makes it, but this time I’m doing it on my own, with the help of one friend. I’ll let you know how it turned out.