violet stucco, emerald palms, sunset colored mangos, and black sauces. i find color to be synonymous with mexico, enhanced by the sun and embodied it’s invariably welcoming residents.
my last ten days have been spent in oaxaca, a few of them in oaxaca city, the rest in the beach town of puerto escondido. next to the mexican pipeline, it’s considered to have some of the best surfing in the world. that’s nice, but i was more concerned about the mole.
after a few recommended (by the white people in our hotel) but highly mediocre meals in the toursity zicatela beach area (i hate to admit it, but i even had french toast once), we found our way to the market. here was the source of oaxaca’s gourmet reputation. still writing crabs and still bleeding meat filled the stalls. a hundred kinds of chilis, bags of spices, mescal, and fresh tamales sold by the women who assembled them on their kitchen tables that morning.
i have never seen everyday fruit as brilliantly colored as that pouring from the tarped trucks and stacked precariously in jungle-like mercado stalls. a tropical honey cent lingers, an amalgamation of warm watermelon, pineapple, grapefruit, papaya, tempered with dried chilis and limes. though i doubt they contribute much to the divine wafts, washington apples can be found as well (even this fruit is cheaper in mexico).
cheese is simple and salty. queso fresco is rich and crumbly, but mild enough to eat solo. oaxacan string cheese can be found in fried quesadillas or eaten in literal strings like the cheese from my elementary school lunch box. or with a green chili sauce and grasshoppers (in the picture below, lower right). tortillarias can be found at consistent intervals throughout the town, ensuring that it is never necessary to go without fresh tortillas, even at the airport restaurant. for a head-shakingly small number of pesos, a giant stack of steam emitting tortillas can be had.
an early-in-the-day meal at an outside table on certain puerto escondido beaches reveal that the ocean is the town’s costco. men are pulling their boats – the ashley or the lila – to shore. women and children help unload, using hands or buckets, lugging sometimes tuna, sometimes shellfish, sometimes bonito or even marlin to the shore.
being somehow obvious tourists (the red hair?), we were offered fishing excursions every time we paused to scratch a mosquito bite. on our last day, we allowed ourselves to be hooked and were taken out by armandino (his brother’s name is mario…), though he warned us it wasn’t the best day for fishing (you want the water to be blue and clear so fish can see your lures; today it was green black and dense).
but were were in it as much for the boat ride as the catch. a 90-degree day feels best in boat; plus the water was teeming with giant sea turtles. we caught a bonito (i contributed moral support), a metallic relative of tuna. armandino filleted him on the beach for us, at the end handing over a bag of deep red meat.
more pictures can be found here: