Posted by: ktzefr | January 7, 2010

Good music, good eats, good memories…

“Men will be telling their joys, or be singing/Their loves, and the earth be renewed in the giving.” Elizabeth Madox Roberts (A Kentucky artist & poet)

Taking down the Christmas decorations…listening to music — a mix of Celtic, Chinese, and Spanish.  The Flowers of Edinburgh (Celtic harp music) has me humming tunes I must have heard a long time ago.  I don’t know the titles nor the words, but the music is familiar.  (Many of the pioneers who left England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland and settled in the Southern Appalachian Mountains brought with them their songs and games and dances.  Although much of that culture has now been lost, it was still very much alive not too long ago.  The Appalachian region was relatively isolated and the culture intact until the 1960s-70s.  Children in English villages and in Appalachian rural communities could easily join in many of the same games — London Bridge, A-Hunting We Will Go, Nuts in May…)  What games do kids play in school these days?

I pop in an old cassette (does anyone else still play cassettes?!)  Switch countries — Willie and Lobo’s Gypsy Boogaloo.  Dance awhile…tuck the Three Kings away in their cardboard box.  Flamenco guitar and fiddle in the background.  Wolfgang “Lobo” Fink plays guitars made in Paracho, a village in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.  If you love guitars, you may know about Paracho; if not — and you’re interested — click the link to Paracho guitars.  The two started out in a little Mexican town — San Miguel de Allende — in the central mountains.  I think about walking those same cobblestone streets, stopping in the bakeries and cafes and art galleries. I think about the way people are connected…

Tea break!  I love tea — lots of different kinds, but I especially like darjeeling.  Today, Darjeeling Vidyaranya.  Grown in the foothills of the Himalayas (Northeast India).  Sweetened iced tea is a Southern tradition and I still love it, but I started drinking hot tea in college  and prefer using the loose leaves of a really good tea left unsweetened.  Music: Jia Peng Fang, erhu (Chinese violin).  This instrument produces a lovely, haunting sound; special pieces: Memory of Childhood, Silent Moon, Sweet Dreams…

Music, a cup of tea, and…something to read, but it has to be short.  Shift gears, again.  Chinese music, Indian tea…back to south of the border with Diana Kennedy’s My Mexico (1998), a book of recipes, travel essays, folktales, etc.  I read about Campeche in the Yucatan.  It’s four o’clock and the sun is sliding quickly down through the tree branches, leaving a small, sunny spot in my living room to sit and read — but it won’t last long.  That’s ok, because I can hardly wait to get through this short piece and start cooking.  I read about thin steaks simmering in tomato sauce with charred onion and garlic, seasoned with oregano…beans and pork and thick stews…cochinita pibil (a small pig rubbed with a paste of achiote and spices and cooked in banana leaves).

Last winter, when I was in the Yucatan, I wanted to try pollo pibil (chicken cooked in banana leaves), a traditional dish, but I didn’t find it on the dining room menu at the hacienda where we were staying. I mentioned it in passing at lunch one day and that night the kitchen prepared pollo pibil and delivered it to my cottage promptly at 6:00 — the time I had made a reservation for the dining room, and I was, indeed, sitting in the dining room.  So, the chicken was transported back to the main house, still wrapped and warm, and I had a wonderful dinner (along with a chaya — similar to spinach– soup)…all very tasty.

Hacienda Chichen, Chichen Itza, Mexico

So…I am reading about good food and thinking about good food and it’s getting close to dinner time.  Cochinita pibil…hmmm.  No small pig in the refrigerator.  But I do find some country-style pork ribs.  So I dig through the pantry for the peppers and the achiote…have fresh cilantro growing in the laundry room…orange juice (not the bitter kind traditionally used in the recipe, but what the heck)…and, finally, pop the suckling pig substitute into the oven.

And that was several hour’s ago.  Now dinner’s over, the house is quiet, time for bed.  Must thank Senor Tamay, again, for the pollo pibil.  I was just a traveler, no one special, and yet…this is the way of the people in the Yucatan.  They make you feel like family, make you feel…at home.  Perhaps Hacienda Chichen will sneak into my dreams tonight…

Follow the link to see this lovely “green” inn on the Yucatan Peninsula.  Also…be sure to scroll all the way down to the short video and information about the Maya Foundation in Laakeech.  Hacienda Chichen offers a free room to volunteers willing to spend a few hours each day to teach English or help with other projects in the local communities. A worthwhile cause, a beautiful place.

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