Author Archives: gubabbaboy

Just A Thing That I Noticed Today

In Mexico where we live when a small town or rancho celebrates its annual patronal saint’s day, there are explosions in the early mornings – for maybe three or four days in a row, depending on how much money was collected from the townspeople to pay for the explosives. The more, the louder!

There are several ranchos around us. Two are on our sides, Guadalupe de Jalpa, and El Tecolóte. Each celebrates December 12th as the day of La Virgin de Guadalupe. That’s their big, special celebration, with special masses, vendors, and fireworks. This morning, at 5 a.m., there were loud explosions. From both sides – from the west and from the east! It sounded like we were in the middle of an army exercise.

Birthday Party


8  DECEMBER, 2017

We woke to very cold wind in the morning, and it turned out to be the theme of the day. Most of it wasn’t fun, but there were some bright spots.

I gave Chon a present when we woke up. He had told me that on one birthday, when he was a boy, someone had given him some Oreo cookies, and he had really liked them. I bought him a little pack of Oreos. He was  surprised.

When we came out of our room to our portal where it’s pleasantly warm, the phone rang. A sister, Chabela called to wish Chon a happy birthday, “But first”, she said, she wanted to rant at him and complain that he hadn’t opened the door to Juana, their visiting sister who came the other day to our little town. We had been dead to the world the afternoon that she came, after a brutal rehearsal in the morning. We hadn’t known about her visit – not that she was coming, and not that she came to visit her sister-in-law, who had suffered a fall and broken a vertebra, (that we also were not informed of). Then María called to say happy birthday, and that – just like that – she had done her duty. Chon is very sensitive to these things (attacks? and opinions), and he felt hurt and angry. We got to work.

We hadn’t carried even one of our many speakers and other equipment to the stage. No a surprise. We’re both procrastinators. The plan had been to begin to move the biggest equipment on Wednesday. It proved difficult to stick to the plan.

We began in the cold, windy morning. We took things one or two (or four) at a time, resting in between. Other times we had peónes to help. Not this time, and it was to prove disastrous, to me, anyway. About noon or later, all the equipment was up there except for my keyboards and various cables.

A niece, Nena, daughter of Elena, Chon’s sister, had said she would come at 1:30. But she didn’t come, and I worriedly began to prepare some things for the food for the guests. Later we’d find that she had had to make a trip to San Francisco, to sign papers for the family’s health insurance.

So – here was our menu, as planned:

Tacos de aire, a charming name for a way to serve folded, crispy tacos (you can buy them prepared, in large sacks). All you have to do to serve them is top them with liquified beans flavored with some garlic (important!), shredded lettuce and/or cabbage, salsa (the eater’s choice of red or green), and a lovely cream (thinner than sour cream). Tacos de áire, “air tacos” – no meat – gotta love the name!

Hot chocolate. We bought a big container of Nestle, which is to be prepared with milk. We sampled some made with only water, which was “OK” to us. I thought people would probably like it just like that (chocolate is a luxury here).

Cake ( to be brought by a friend, Sarita).

For the tacos de aire I wrote earlier “all you have to do is” to make the tacos de áire, but that involves preparing the beans (think a couple of gallons of “bean dip”), making the salsa (a couple of quarts of each), shredding the lettuce and cabbage, and having the cream on hand. (Sarita told us about a very good cream that she likes, brand “Aguas Calientes”).

So I was in the kitchen, making quarts of salsa and cooking beans. Chon was on the stage, setting up. But when I went out to see how he was doing, he was resting, and thinking that nobody would come to the party, because it was so horribly windy and cold. He didn’t do much to make all the electrical connections. He seemed shocked and upset about the weather. (And the earlier calls from his sisters).

I stuck to preparing the salsa, and was feeling worried because Nena hadn’t showed up. I really, really hoped she’d show up because I didn’t feel like I had time to fry, season and liquify gallons of beans. She did show up, about 5 p.m. (the invitations were for 6:30), and I was so very relieved

The stage still wasn’t set up, and I kept working, starting the water for chocolate heating, helping in the kitchen, carrying gallons of dish-washing water from the faucet outside, and generally keeping up.

Nena told me the chocolate would be better if we added sticks of cinnamon and some bags of specially prepared finely ground corn for “atóle”, a hot Mexican drink based on corn and flavored with a dazzling array of flavors to select from. That turned out to be a good decision. It made the chocolate thicker and tastier. You may feel sceptical, but it turned out really well. I liked it, and I’m a bit picky about chocolate. It had enough chocolate flavor, and it was thicker than “regular” hot chocolate. Very tasty!

Nena continued in the kitchen, making the thick, “smearable” beans from the beans I had cooked earlier, and the red salsa (she said the green salsa I had made was good – yay! – the first time I made a large quantity of salsa – I just used a much larger quantity of jalapeños than I would have made for myself – about 3 times as much, haha).

The stage still wasn’t set up. We carried my two keyboards over there, and set them up on the stand, but the cords still weren’t connected.

A few people trailed in – a friend Paty brought several relatives, and they sat waiting in the cold. They waited and more people came, and waited. Chon spent quite a bit of time teasing the flock of kids that had come in through the open doors. It seemed that he wasn’t at all concerned about getting the music equipment working. No sound check. No nothing.

I’m not sure what time we began to play, but I think it was around 9. It took a long time to begin after we LOOKED like we were ready to start. The amplifiers and the head still were not communicating. Un-technical music comments follow: when the sounds began to come, I could hear my keyboards, and I could hear the guitar, coming from different speakers. There was little volume from the drums, a dangerous thing – you can get completely lost if you can’t hear in particular the bass drum. But Chon couldn’t hear the drums at all on his side of the stage,  and he turned the volume way up. On my side of the stage I could hear sound from the drum machine that I had never heard before – offbeats with treble-ish high sounds. Extremely confusing and excruciating. Chon’s exquisitely-tuned ears weren’t hearing the same things my exquisitely-tuned ears were hearing. In several instances we weren’t playing the same chords, or even in the same key. It was horrible.

It did get better, but we only played about a tenth of our set list. It simply was too cold. My fingers felt stiff and clumsy. About half of the invited guests had gone, and a few die-hards were asking for special songs that they loved, so we were reluctant to stop.

At one point I did get off the stage quickly because one small boy was throwing rocks at the dove nest in our big pine tree. I was unpleasant, and so was he and his two friends (all uninvited).

The cake Sarita brought was very, very good. A favorite cake in Mexico is “trés leches”, made with a basic white cake, soaked with “three milks”, all canned, I think. It’s served at nearly all celebrations – something you have to get used to, and for me, still not a favorite. The cake Sarita brought was also the “trés leches” style, I but it wasn’t overly wet – a very moist white cake (I think it may have had some whole wheat flour in the mix) completely covered with roughly grated coconut – delicious! and with cajeta, a caramelized milk syrup, between the layers. It was wonderful.

Nena’s family stayed around afterwards in the cold, to chat about plans for the next harvest (her husband drives a tractor for us).

It was a day that was unsatisfactory in some ways, and pleasurable in small ways.

Here’s what we used for the party – recipe for a party of forty:

two big bags of tacos (there were lots left over)

two kilos of beans, cooked, mashed, fried, with garlic cloves

two salsas:

green: a kilo of tomatillos, about 20 fat jalapenos, 5 fat cloves of garlic, onions, salt

recipe: “salsa for 100”

red: a kilo of red tomatoes, jalapeños, onion, cilantro

two heads of lettuce shredded, mixed with one heavy head of cabbage shredded

two pints of crema Aguas Calientes

one big cake

one container of Nestle’s chocolate powder, 20 liters of water – mix into milk two bags of maizena, a type of corn starch, used for champurrado and atole.

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!




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:, 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: 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.