Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Un Gringo Cocinero En Cuernavaca Parte 1

Yo era un cocinero gringo para una familia Mexicana de Cuernavaca.

How it started, below...

I first arrived in Cuernavaca to attend the Fénix Language Institute in February, 1992. The Institute lodged me in the home of Sra. Amelia (a later photo, to the left.) and Sr. José, their two older sons, Gustavo and Pepe; and sweet sixteen daughter, Liz.

The family had escaped México, D.F. after the earthquake of September, 1985, and bought a two-storey house, with rentable apartments behind in the northern part of Cuernavaca. Don José continued to work for some years in el D.F., coming home on weekends. Unfortunately,
at the time of my two-week stay he was in the hospital. I was not to meet him until a visit the next year. This memorable man deserves a blog post of his own.

The two weeks at the school was what I needed to help hone my Spanish skills, but the home stay provided a great environment to practice a more vernacular Spanish. Amelia liked to teach me refrains and proverbs, while Gustavo taught me some colorful slang.

Meals were included, but I was greatly disappointed at first by the bland, White Bread offerings. There was not a chile in sight. We seemed to be eating a great deal of white rice and milanesas (bread pork or beef cutlets, the Mexican schnitzel), and white bread toast. The reasons for this atypical diet soon became evident.

There were other student guests in the house, two young women from Minnesota. One was suffering Culture Shock while the other did her best to support her friend. Their food interests were unlike mine. The one with CS was comforted by peanut butter spread on sliced white bread. She wouldn't eat the clean, healthful salads the Amelia prepared. White rice and plain spaghetti were about as daring as she could eat. (It could be that she was also suffering "Las Turistas", but we didn't speak of such things.)

After three days of tough, boring milanesas and Midwestern-oriented White Bread Food, I was getting worried that I'd never get any really good comida casera Mexicana. So, I started a conversation with Amelia, expressing my food interests.

She asked me what of the Mexican repertoire I liked. She shook her head "No. Mucho trabajo." when I suggested tamales. Somewhere in the discussion I said, "cochinita pibil". At that, her eyes lit up. "Mi esposo es Yucateco. Me enseñó como preparar cochinita pibil."

My interest in this marinated, slowly baked pork dish, sparked her to begin preparing it over a 3 day period. I got to invite my principal language instructor, Marco. My two Minnesotan housemates absented themselves from this fabulous comida. At least one was aghast that I could contemplate eating something that had reposed overnight unrefrigerated in a basin of spicy, tangy marinade. They went out for more cocteles de aguacate and a margarita or two. (Too bad for them. More for us.)

The pork, swaddled in banana leaves, cooked slowly for many hours in a roaster on the gas grill on the patio. Meanwhile, Amelia made delicious frijoles negros. Cebollas moradas en vinagre and salsa de chile habanero (if I recall correctly) for a condiment. Tortillas were readied and heated.

Our meal began with shots of mezcal and we proceeded to the succulent, tender and aromatic
cochinita. It was easy to stuff ourselves. This was a dish that we could gladly eat over the next three days. The barriers were broken. I was keen to make some baked specialties, which I would do in the pre-dawn hours in the kitchen below my humble apartment.

Video how to make Puerco (Cochinita) Pibil; sexy, funny, not entirely authentic, but good. (Lo contiene algunas malas palabras)

Here's a link to Rick Bayless' recipe for La Verdadera Cochinita Pibil (serves 35).

Note that ours wasn't pit cooked, but was still delicious.
But, Liz' 16th birthday was approaching, and she was more than happy if I would make pizzas for her birthday dinner. The challenges were many, but I was flush with reckless enthusiasm. so I took on the task.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Tancho said...

Thanks, now I have to try this version, luckily I saw some banana leaves yesterday and know exactly where to get them in Maz.
keep em coming!