tumblingdays: (coffee)
I had an angry rant brewing, but a good workout kind of let the air out of it. Tis just as well. It's not a problem that I can fix, and I'm sure that rant will come along later.

I spent the last 9 days in Cancun. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect in Cancun. I knew it was touristy, but also, another country. My only significant experience with traveling to another country has been a few short trips to Canada (BC on a cruise ship and Ontario as a kid) and a summer in Bolivia when I was in high school. I was expecting something like Bolivia. I know Mexico is poor and the culture is primarily Hispanic.

Cancun is surprisingly like Florida. I heard more Spanish spoken in Miami than I did in Cancun. We stayed in a resort that seemed determined to ensure that there was as few reminders as possible that we were in a foreign country. Everyone spoke English, and if I stumbled through trying to speak Spanish to them, they responded to me in English. Granted, it was nice to be understood every where I went, just unexpected.

That said, it was a very nice time. The ocean in Cancun is beautiful. The blues are absolutely amazing. We swam almost every day and encountered all sorts of gorgeous sea-life. We went horseback riding in the jungle, and I enjoyed both riding again and the jungle. The trail lead past ruined haciendas and all sorts of birds. My horse was very calm. We trotted around some on the training grounds near a polo field, but she really wasn't interested in doing much and by then I'd been on horseback an hour and wasn't interested in making her go terribly fast. Horseback riding is always more work than I remember. The ranch cook made us an amazing lunch after our ride and then we headed back to the resort.

On Thursday, my husband and I took a cooking class. It was very cool. The chef opens up her home a couple of days a week to small group classes in her own kitchen. In addition to cooking, we learned a little about the culture of the Yucatan Peninsula and the traditions that go with the food. Our main souvenirs from the trip resulted from this class. We bought spices, chocolate, and, later, a Day of the Dead piece inspired by the chef's altar.

My least favorite part of the trip was a stop at the local tourist market. I don't like haggling for prices, and I don't like high pressure sales pitches. This market was full of both. There was a time when I would have had a hard time saying no to the junk that was sold there, but I had a much easier time of it this time around. I probably still paid too much for the two items I bought, but I had a price in mind, and I didn't exceed it, so I'm satisfied. I even walked away from one item I really wanted to get as a gift when the seller wouldn't lower the price as far as I wanted.

Customs was easier than I expected. Well, not easier- I didn't expect it be hard, just time consuming, but it was very fast both directions.

Mostly though, I'm just really glad to be home. I got up and walked in a local park this morning and then grocery shopped. I'm off work tomorrow, but starting this week, I spend 9 of the next 10 weeks traveling for work.
tumblingdays: cornbread (cooking)
Last night I successfully made my first jambalaya. It's not a fancy dish, but I have to balance the amount of protein that I need to be satisfied (again with the Intuitive Eating) with the right balance of flavors, and that can be tricky with rice and pasta dishes. Plus, I very, very rarely cook rice, so that was tricky too. I am pleased with my success.

I used Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" recipe to get an idea where to start, but I feel like jambalaya requires a certain amount of improv. Plus, he's clearly not a Southerner, and it shows in some of his traditionally southern recipes. It was missing a few key elements- like okra. Actually, it didn't have all the elements of the trinity either, but I left some out because I was using farmers market veggies, and we had no celery. Anyway, I have learned that okra isn't widely available outside of the South, so I'm not surprised a cookbook dedicated to the basics would skip it. I happened to have a whole passel on hand despite having pickled several quarts of it already. It's been a good growing season for okra.



I am not a purist in language or in cuisine. I get annoyed by people who think that "authentic" is the same as "good." This particularly annoys me with "peasant foods." All cultures have foods that are some variation of "leftovers." The Irish and British have "shepherd's pie." The French have rustic casseroles. Jambalaya is one of these things. It's rice plus whatever you have on hand that needs to be used. Over time, these peasant foods have been codified either because they become trendy and someone's particular recipe becomes famous or because someone writes them down and the written version becomes THE version. Folk stories follow the same process. Cinderella had a million different variations before it was written down. So, anyway, I made jambalaya using veggies on hand in middle Tennessee during this growing season and it was delicious and recognizable and not "authentic." Meets included smoked Kentucky ham, locally made andouille sausage (amazing), and shrimp.

tumblingdays: (coffee)
I learned something exciting in my kitchen this morning. Well, I wasn't in my kitchen- and therein lies the problem.

I put two delicious farm fresh eggs in a kettle of water in order to create delicious, farm-fresh hard boiled eggs. And then I showered and dressed and started putting on make-up. Somewhere after eyeshadow but before mascara, I heard a *POP* from the kitchen.

Egg.

The kettle boiled completely dry and the eggs exploded. It ended with the fluffiest egg yolk I've ever seen. Too bad it was smack dab in the middle of my kitchen floor. My cats were in hiding, my pot was singed, and I had to strip out of my business clothes in order to clean up the mess.

I actually didn't know that an egg would explode like that. Pretty cool, really.

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October 2011

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