Category Archives: Food

Trying Something New

This week I did something I’ve never done before.  I bought my groceries online and had them delivered to my door.  We are a one car family and because of the fact my husband’s part-time work, many athletic endeavors, and hobbies require him to have a vehicle, I rarely have access to ours.  

This week Dave’s busy schedule left absolutely no time for me to go to the grocery store.  Since the nearest one is several kilometers away I was going to bike there and fill up my saddle bags with groceries.  But some unseasonably cold weather deterred me. I had often seen the Save On Foods van outside the door of my building so I figured some of my fellow condo dwellers were having groceries delivered, and thought maybe I should give it a try too. 

save on foodsIt couldn’t have been easier. I registered online, found the things I needed and put them in my ‘shopping cart.’  Then I picked a delivery time.  I noted that if you chose less popular delivery times the cost of delivery was as low as $4.95.  What a bargain! Someone would pick out my groceries for me in the store, bag them and deliver them right to my door for $4.95?  If I figured out my time shopping, gas for the car and monetized the effort spent hauling the groceries from my parking garage up to my condo I was even going to be ahead financially.  I also found I stuck to my list better shopping online and wasn’t enticed by other ‘deals’ I might have succumbed to shopping in the actual store so my weekly total was quite a bit lower than usual. 

Then I had the loveliest chat with the young man who delivered my groceries and realized I was helping to provide a much-needed job for him.  What a win/win situation. 

I’ve already started my grocery list for next week. I may never go to a grocery store again!

Other posts……….

Galileo’s Grocery List

To Market, To Market

 

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A Night at De Luca’s- You Have to Talk About the Food

dinner at de lucasThursday night I attended a cooking class at De Luca’s restaurant with my sister and two of her friends. tony our hostOur affable host Tony welcomed us to his well-known family establishment which opened in 1968chef mikeand introduced us to Chef Mike who would show us how each dish was prepared. tomato soup First up was a tomato soup served along with three kinds of fresh bread. owner de lucasTony was on hand to answer any questions we might have about ingredients or cooking methods. Television screens at key spots in the room allowed us to see the chef’s hands in action. He prepared a mouth- watering mushroom gnocchi next.  There was time in between each course for us to talk about travel adventures, work, our families and of course the delicious food. A chicken breast arrived next complete with pine nuts, a sweet potato sauce and kale. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite the tiramisu was delivered to our table , too decadent and delicious to refuse.

It was interesting to hear the chef talk about the food, our host talk about the food, and to talk about the food with each other.  Kurt Vonnegut was right when he said………..

You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too.”   

Other posts………..

A Chocolate Evening with Beatriz

Cooking Up A Storm in the Yucatan

Home Grown in Newfoundland

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A Chocolate Evening With Beatriz

Getting to know Beatriz the mainstay of a family business called Fela Chocolate was the highlight for me of a chocolate workshop we participated in one of our last days in Merida, Mexico. Beatriz is a highschool teacher, mother of three, grandmother of two and she runs chocolate making workshops for tourists. The business was the brainchild of her son who studies business and economics at a university in Idaho. Her son’s fiancée, Lisbeth, who is an elementary school teacher, helps her future mother-in-law by welcoming guests to the Fela Chocolate establishment, a business that has only been in operation for about six months. Lisbeth showed us pictures of Beatriz’s mother and grandmother. It was Beatriz’s grandmother Fela on the left in the photo who taught Beatriz how to make chocolate and the business is named in Grandmother Fela’s honor. Neither Lisbeth or Beatriz spoke much English but Elias arrived soon after we did and told us he was an engineering student at a Merida university and would be providing the English translation for our tour.

Dave and Rudy listening to Beatriz

You could tell Beatrice was an experienced teacher because she led an excellent, interesting and informative workshop complete with numerous relevant visuals, the opportunity to ask lots of questions, plenty of hands on involvement and a collection of interesting artifacts for us to explore. Here she is explaining that the cacao fruit grows on the trunks of trees not their branches. The colourful  fruit which is actually quite tasty is harvested for its seeds which are used to make chocolate.As Beatriz taught us about the cacao seeds we each had some spread out in front of us and were encouraged to experience them with our five senses. Beatriz gets her cacao seeds or beans from the Mexican state of Tabasco. Cacao is grown in the Yucatan but on farms owned by European business people. They ship the beans home to their own countries to make chocolate and don’t sell their cocao in Mexico. Beatriz talked to us about how important chocolate had been to the ancient Mayan inhabitants of the Yucatan. They made a drink from the cacao beans that they believed had many health benefits.  Beatriz told us the first step in the chocolate making process was roasting the beans.

Beatriz shows us the flat stone and other artifacts Mayan women would have used to prepare beans for chocolate.

Mayan women would have roasted the beans on a flat stone with a fire built underneath it.

Our friend Rudy stirs the roasting beans as another workshop participant Chris who hailed from Ohio looks on.  

We roasted our beans however in a small pan on a hot plate. Beatriz had us keep sniffing the air as the beans roasted. The smell of the roasting chocolate changes three times and when Beatriz gets the tell tale whiff of the third aroma she knows the beans are ready. Now it was time to husk the beans and remove the outer skin. This wasn’t as easy as it looked.  Beatriz asked us to save the husks because she uses them to make a delicious tea. She provided a sample for us to try.There are numerous ways to make the chocolate beans into a paste.  Our friend Rudy demonstrates how Mayan women would have done it long ago using a stone called a matate. Berniz also gave us each a mortor and pestle to use as an alternate method of crushing the cocao beans into a paste. She provided cinnamon, sugar, sea salt, pepper, almonds, peanuts, and chilis as things to add to our chocolate. Eventually Beatriz brought out an electric blender which made quick work of creating a paste out of all of our chocolate beans.

Now it was our turn to work the paste with our hands, adding sugar to taste. Beatriz told Dave not to worry about the chocolate on his hands. Chocolate is actually great for the skin and there are places in Merida that will give you a chocolate massage.Next we used moulds to make three or four little rounds of chocolate to take home. While we worked Beatriz served us hot chocolate and chocolate pastries. Later I bought a few chocolate samples made by Beatriz from the attractive display in the shop entrance.  I have friends and two daughters-in-law who love chocolate and I wanted to get some of Beatriz’s products for them. Since the official workshop was over Beatriz and I had time to chat through the interpreter about our teaching, our grandchildren, our children and some of our interests.  It was lovely to get to know this enthusiastic, warm woman who has all kinds of irons in the fire to try and make life better for her family. We parted with hugs. 

The workshop was great and I loved learning more about chocolate but the best thing about it was getting to know a grandmother in another country, who isn’t so very different than I am, and realizing how easy it can be to establish connections and cross-cultural understandings when we share our life experiences.  

Other posts………..

Giving Something Up For Lent

Chocogasm

Cooking Up a Storm in the Yucatan

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Filed under Food, Mexico

Indian Dinner

at the indian dinner in merida

Dave and me at the Indian dinner in Merida

My sister and her husband rented a home in Merida that wasn’t far from the English Library.   The place is full of English books to take out or buy but it also serves as a meeting place for all kinds of tours and events for English speaking residents and visitors to Merida. We decided to attend a dinner the library was hosting  in the home of the president of the library’s board of directors. It was catered by a chef from India.

The home where they had the dinner looked pretty plain from the outside but inside it was a beautifully restored old mansion filled with interesting art and furniture 

I was fascinated by this piece of art that showed Jesus on the cross in a boat surrounded by a variety of religious and church folk and then outside the boat some very interesting characters trying to get in. I showed this photo to my sister later and we found all kinds of small details in the painting to talk about.

I wished the dinner had been during the day because the home in which we enjoyed our meal had such interesting architecture and art but was also dimly lit for the dinner so I wasn’t able to see all the fascinating details of the beautifully restored turn of the century home.

The kitchen area from which our drinks were served. Check out the coat of arms on the fan over the stove. 

We sat near the door that opened onto the patio and pool area of the house

My sister chats with one of our table companions

We shared our table with a retired tax accountant and his friendly wife who told us they had homes here in Mexico, in Minneapolis, in Sarasota Florida and in upstate New York.  They talked about some of the positives of spending the winter in Merida but also some of the challenges.

Two more of our table mates at the dinner

Our other table mate was a middle aged man who seemed unsure of where his exact home was but he was working towards establishing a base in Merida on more of a full time basis and seemed to make his living giving travel talks and teaching travel courses to seniors. 

Our menu for the dinner

The buffet table adorned with India flags

Dave and our friend Rudy with their full plates

The house was packed with people and each place setting had a copy of the menu on the plate so we knew exactly what we would be enjoying for our dinner later on. 

The evening was interesting and took us to a part of Merida we hadn’t been to before. It also confirmed for us the diversity of the expat population here in Merida which includes folks from many different countries.

Other posts…………

Sweet, Sad and Spicy

Love in a Lunchbox

India Assaults the Senses

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Cooking Up A Storm in the Yucatan

My sister Kaaren and I and our friend Deb went on a cooking adventure in Merida Mexico.This is the beautiful table of food we helped create. How did it happen?   Well first we went on a shopping trip to a large neighbourhood market to gather the ingredients for our meal. I wrote about that part of our adventure in yesterday’s blog post.  

This lovely lady is Aunt Bertha and we were in her home for the cooking part of our adventure.  Bertha who used to be a cook for the public health department had pots bubbling on her stove when we arrived. One was for chicken. She was boiling it in water spiced with cinnamon and cloves. While Bertha roasted peppers and made a sauce with the tomatoes we had bought at the market, Edgar our guide for the day got the three of us right to work. Deb cut up peppers and limes My sister Kaaren chopped onions and I was given the job of peeling  oranges.  Edgar told me I needed to try to keep the peel in one piece as I removed it because for each time I created a perfect peel it would signal one marriage in my life.  I managed to keep five orange peels whole but said I had no intention of being married more than once. Next I had squeeze the juice out of all those oranges with my hands.  Edgar said we put our love into food when we touch it. In the meantime my sister Kaaren was busy peeling cucumbers which would be cut into thin half-moon slices and marinated in coriander and lime juice.  Deb was stuffing panuchos with black bean paste. I got to work chopping chaya a leafy kind of spinach that would be made into a drink and used to flavor tortillas. Kaaren was given a press to make tortillas. She had a good laugh about the first tortilla she made which was very small.

But eventually she got the hang of it. Bertha fried the tortillas and they puffed up and looked light and beautiful. Now the chaya I had chopped was added to more tortilla doughand Kaaren and Deb patted it into little round cakes and then…….. while Edgar and I were pulling apart the chicken which had been roasted in a red achiote paste Bertha finished frying up the three different kinds of tortillas we had made. Edgar demonstrated how to put together the salbutes and panuchos – first a lettuce leaf, then some pulled chicken baked in achiote paste, then a few slices of marinated cucumber, some tomato and finally a couple of slices of avocado.  We were quick learners and soon the plates looked like this. Salbutes in front, panuchos behind and to the right of the panuchos the chaya tortillas with tomato paste and up in the corner of the picture a nutty dip for tortilla chips made with tomato sauce and pumpkin seed powder. Edgar was pleased with how well we had done under his instruction. By the way throughout the experience we were drinking a delicious iced tea made from dried hibiscus flowers. Our meal started with some wonderful soup de lima and then……..we enjoyed all the other dishes!  Before we left Bertha had her grandson take a picture of us and asked us to write our names and some comments about our meal in her notebook which was full of anecdotes and accolades from folks from all over the world who had cooked at Bertha’s house. 

We were full and tired and ready to head home but we’d had a great Mexican cooking adventure we wouldn’t forget!

Other posts……….

An Interesting Field Trip

Tattoos or Sky Diving?

Desert Walk

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To Market To Market

On Wednesday I went on a food adventure with my sister Kaaren and our friend Deb.  The first part of our experience took place in the Lucas de Gálvez’ market in central Merida where we went to purchase all the vegetables and other supplies for cooking our meal.  Before we even entered the market we stopped to get some chaya from a vendor.  Chaya comes from a shrub native to the Yucatan. It is sometimes also called tree spinach. Edgar our affable and informative guide for the day told us that chaya can be toxic if it isn’t prepared properly but cooked the right way it can actually provide you with lots of valuable vitamins and minerals.  We would use it to make tortillas and a delicious juice for our meal.  We entered  the  Lucas de Gálvez’ market. It was a huge space bustling with people. The corridors between the stands were narrow and we had to be sure not to stand in the way of the traffic flow. I think we might have gotten lost in the market without Edgar there to guide us.  You could buy live chickens and rabbits in the market but Edgar said we didn’t need to purchase any because his Aunt Bertha, who would be helping us cook, had gone to the market this morning to get the chicken for our meal. Our first stop was at this little shop where we tasteddifferent kinds of jams made with jalapeno peppers and tried coconut and licorice liquors. Edgar suggested we buy some to have after our meal.Edgar showed us achiote seeds. Achiote is a peppery spice that comes from the seeds of an evergreen shrub. The achiote seeds had been used to make this red paste.  Edgar bought a bag. While Deb was checking out the bags of red achiote paste Edgar told us we would be coating our chicken with it before we cooked it. Edgar said it was time for a snack to fortify ourselves for the rest of our shopping trip.  He ordered pork buns with onions for us.  I especially liked the huge radish that accompanied my sandwich.  Edgar told us to squeeze lime juice on it before we ate it to bring out its flavour. Edgar got cups of ice-cold lime juice to go with the pork buns. We were glad of the refreshment because it was a very hot day. Then we were back in the trenches to visit one stand after another to collect our cooking ingredients.  We bought tomatoes from this friendly woman. This vendor let us taste some ground pumpkin seed before we bought it.  Mixed together with a tomato sauce the ground pumpkin seed would make a delicious nutty dip for tortilla chips. We bought dough for making our own tortillas at this stand where we watched a machine in action that can crank out thousands of tortillas every hour. We picked up lettuce and cilantro. Edgar added a variety of hot peppers including ones called red devils to our growing inventory of purchased ingredients. He put a couple of these interesting cucumbers into his shopping bag and a half-dozen of these slightly sour oranges.  These avocados looked different from the kind we buy in the grocery store. We were squeezing them to see which ones were ripe enough till my sister saw the sign “If don’t buy-don’t touch.” Edgar showed us how by just looking at the end of the avocado you can tell if it is ripe and ready to eat. Now we were ready to leave the market.  It had been quite a shopping adventure.  Two things I noticed during our time in the  Lucas de Gálvez’ market was that every single vendor had a religious shrine of some kind in their stand and……I marveled at the pure artistry of the vendors who arranged their produce in such creative ways. The various colors of the vegetables and the way they were artfully organized was a feast for the eye. Look how these carrots have been carefully arranged!

As we left the market Edgar hailed this small ancient taxi. Squished together in the cramped hot back seat the three of us bumped along on the twenty-five minute ride to Aunt Bertha’s where the cooking part of our adventure took place.  You will have to check the blog tomorrow to learn all about that!

Other posts……….

Beauty in Ordinary Things

India Assaults the Senses

Acquiring a Taste For Jamaican Food

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Fish For Lunch

“The place doesn’t look like much.”  “A real hole in the wall.” “Plain and friendly.”  “Quick service and great meals.”  “The seafood is delicious and cheap.”

roberto tour guide meridaThat’s what we had read about the Marlin Azul cantina in Merida. After my sister said she and her husband had enjoyed delicious shrimp fajitas there Dave and I decided to try it on our trip into Merida yesterday.  Once we were out of our Uber we got a little direction turned but there are these English-speaking tourist guides hired by the city at many key intersections and this man named Roberto was happy to point us in the right direction. helpful fellow meridaWhen we got a little turned around again direction wise this gentleman kindly stopped and offered to take us to the restaurant.marlin restaurantHe led us right to the Marlin Azul and the outward appearance lived up to the descriptions we had read.waiter marlin restaurantSo did the descriptions of the friendly service. This affable waiter helped Dave pick out the perfect beer to go with our meal.shrimp cervice meridaAnd the food certainly lived up to its hype.  The shrimp fajitas we shared were wonderful.lunch marlin meridaWe were about to set off on an eight kilometer walk around the city to explore some of its art galleries.  Our meal at the Marlin Azul fortified us and got our afternoon off to a perfect start!

Other posts…..

First Supper in Lisbon- My Husband Has Great Instincts

A Gourmet Sail in Costa Rica

Home Grown in Newfoundland

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Filed under Food, Mexico, Restaurants