Life, the Universe, and Everything
Post about whatever comes to our mind and are not easily categorized
Lucito was born as the only child in a middle-class family in a small village famous for its ski resort north of Canada. An avid reader from before the time he started formally in school, he has had a lifelong interest in learning. He has always said;
“If you go do bed at night without learning something new that day, your day is not complete.”
The quintessential “Renaissance Man”, Lucito has always had deep passions for a wide variety of interest for as long as he can remember. He is self-learned on a wide variety of topics, and has developed a series of learning and creative techniques to assist him.
His early formative years were spent reading at least 6 books a week through the year while during his summers, while he was not reading, were mostly spent in the cold waters of a crystal-clear lake at his grandparent’s cottage deep in the mountains where he was born.
A gipsy at heart from that period on, Lucito has lived, worked, and traveled all over the world.
Lucito started skiing at the age of 3, as everybody from his village was born with skis on their feet. He was an avid skier and cyclist until he tore one of his knees apart on the day of the 25th wedding anniversary of his parents in a stupid accident that happened while putting on the snow tires on his car.
Lucito was training in archery for the provincial Elite team but a shoulder injury just a few months before the 1976 Olympics prevented him from going further on this path. During that time he became a certified archery instructor. He later participated in shooting sports of all types, but decided not to compete except for fun because of the high level of politics involved in any organized sport. He did coach members of a pistol shooting team as his love for teaching and the sport was too great to entirely abandon it.
During his youth Lucito worked as a shop assistant, a metal worker, an assistant machinist, a draftsman, a biologist, and a blaster in a mine in the arctic. He finally graduated with a B.Sc. in science, and then a D.D.S., Canada.
In 1989 he took a short sabbatical to write a science-fiction fantasy novel. The idea had been in his mind for a long time, but his hectic lifestyle never gave him the time to actually sit down and write it. He actually applied the techniques of directed dreaming, that he had developed on his own and always used in his other endeavors, to write the entire book.
Through the 80’s and 90’s another great interest in his life, gourmet cooking and wines was developed. He has a lifelong interest in cooking that he developed since early childhood at the side of his mother and grandmother, who were consummate cooks. He was involved in the professional side of the wine and food business both as a consultant and a buyer for a variety of private concerns during that period. It permitted him to travel the world for that business and during the late 1980’s he was all packed up to go manage a huge vineyard in Montenegro, part of the old Yugoslavia, when the war broke up in that part of the world. Luckily this happened before he had moved over there.
Another passion of Lucito is his love for anything having to do with technology and computers. At an early age, in the days he was spending his summers at the lake, he used to take apart everything mechanical around the cottage and actually put it back together in working condition. When electricity finally arrived with the new road deep in the woods, he started taking apart old radios and built himself a simple sound system from an old donated stereo turntable he mounted in a frame made of a few planks of wood, and the cassette recorder he had received that year as a Christmas gift. It was the start of an interest in technology that lasted until today. Those early experiences also lead him to build fine wood furniture and to become a licensed gunsmith and a metalsmith.
Being an avid photographer (1964-2016) and highly interested in the creative arts, Lucito in the early years of his consultancy, also offered graphic design, 3D animation, and multimedia creation services as the technology at the time was in its infancy and very complex. Most businesses could not afford having both the expensive equipment and the qualified personal to operate it on their staff so Lucito offered to fill the gap. Now he mainly uses his creative talents for relaxation, and occasionally for some interesting customer’s projects.
With wide-ranging interests in technology, business management, and the food-wine business he offers a different and innovative approach to the traditional consulting business. He dedicates his work time on his consulting business, works daily on his line of software products, give conferences, workshops and classes on a variety of subjects.
In his spare he still writes extensively, enjoy cooking special meals for family and friends, and recently started teaching himself to play the guitar, something that had been on his extensive list of things to do in this lifetime, and that he never had the time to dedicate himself to do.
The heat wave that has hit central Mexico in the past week has debilitated us completely. People think about Mexico as a very hot place with beaches and jungles, but actually here in the center of the country the average temperature is nice and pleasant all year long without any extremes of heat and cold. You have to remember that the center of Mexico is a very high altitude plateau and that Mexico City is at around 7500 feet and where we live is closer to 8200 feet. We even have an active volcano within 25 miles that is close to 18000 feet, the PopocatÃ©petl. Thus we are accustomed to temperatures in the mid-70’s at midday almost all year long, and when it raises to over 90F our systems do not cope with it. I am from Quebec where I was used to extremes of temperature from -45F in the winter to over 95F and humid in the summer, but after living here for over 7 years you lose your adaptation to those extremes.
What does that has to do with inspiration? I have been cooking since I was a little kid when I started baking cookies with my grandmother when I was probably 4-5 years old. Being in a kitchen are amongst some of my earliest memory, and I have a sense of piece and accomplishment when I am working in the kitchen. I am used to the extreme heat of a working kitchen, but when I sit in my office trying to accomplish some work, concentrate on something, or plan what we will eat next and it is over 95F like it is now, my inspiration dies instantly with my transpiration. When you are in the eat of the kitchen you have a task and a goal, and you concentrate to reach it no matter how uncomfortable you get. Here in the office I am slowly dripping bit by bit to the floor, and creating a big puddle under my chair.
Yesterday we did not publish a Daily Express column as Normita was out at a school event with our nieces, and she had something to eat there. It was so hot that I did not even eat anything as I was not hungry. When Normita returned we decided to wait until it cooled down at night and see what we would eat. By 9pm we finally relented and went to eat something and she had the little bit of leftover chicken salad, and I had cold leftover rice from earlier in the week or last weekend. We had a few bites and that was it.
We both woke up starving and had some of the nice banana bread I baked earlier in the week and a nice grapefruit. Now it is getting late again and I have no real inspiration to prepare anything. The heat is not helping, but the fact that it is so hot up here that we do not have the energy to drive down the hill to the store where it must be over 110F in the sun is killing my creativity. Since we did not go shopping we have nothing fresh in the refrigerator. I looked around in there for inspiration earlier, and found a large moldy onion that was starting to sprout, a few old tomatoes, some limp radishes, and some potatoes. Not a great source of inspiration for a great meal.
As I am sitting here I am wondering what I will finally prepare and at least I do not have to prepare a “Menu du Jour” for a restaurant today, as I would simply tell people that the kitchen is closed for the day. I am sure I will figure out something in time. Normita is currently in the shower to refresh herself and I will go do the same soon. After that, refreshed, I am sure that the inspiration will come. Even just thinking of cooling down is helping a bit.
Let’s see… Since I have nothing fresh except those tomatoes, what could I do with them? If they are still firm and nice maybe just a simple tomato salad. Sliced ice-cold tomatoes with some fresh basil, bits and pieces of nuts, some olives, cheese, a sprinkling of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and whatever else the inspiration brings when I get into the kitchen.
See? It was not that difficult. When I cook for ourselves or invent new recipes I let inspiration direct me. Cooking for others is a different thing as some experiments are better left behind the kitchen’s door. Do you hear that, young chefs of the world who are dying to cook something different? There are some reasons that after thousands and thousands of years that some things are not combined in strange ways that are not pleasant. Probably millions of chef trying to do something different tried those combination and found out it did not work, and left it at that…
Sorry about the digression, I did not want to turn this into a rant. Getting back to the title of this post, I found my inspiration just by focusing on this post and letting my mind drift away from the heat, and something interesting came out of it and hopefully the tomatoes in the fridge will be nice enough for what I have roughly planned for them. If not I will be mighty disappointed and there will probably be another post about it…
One last word, as strange as this may sound I actually just planned today’s meal as I was writing this using a technique I developed when I was still a kid. It is somewhat related to directed dreaming, where you focus your mind on something and let your subconscious work the details out. It is a great method to find inspiration and also to find solutions to complex problems. I normally do it very differently, but since I wanted to post about finding inspiration I decided to try the method in finding a solution to my dilemma while I posted about it. It did work remarkably well and if people are interested in hearing more about this technique please let me know and I will elaborate more.
Until then, the shower awaits me and after that it will be the kitchen…
After lunch today, at the end of the afternoon and neighborhood friend came to visit us to chat a bit. In the past months we have been a bit reclusive as we are working all the time to prepare a lot of new project. It was nice for a change to sit down and relax and chat of other things. Luckily I had prepare two loaves of banana bread this morning as I had some leftover bananas and with the high heat we are experiencing they would not have lasted much longer.
Our neighbor’s husband came to join us a bit later and I prepare a pot of coffee and we enjoyed that with the bread while chatting. It was a relaxing late afternoon. early evening and changed our minds from our regular concerns.
It is usual for Normita and I to return to childhood at this time of the year. We both like to decorate the house for DÃa de los Muertos and for Halloween. The holiday that is most celebrated here is the former, and the later is only a recent commercial import from the North. The sad thing is that the rich and colorful traditions of DÃa de los Muertos are slowly getting replaced by Halloween in a lot of families with young kids.
As usual we decorated the house with a hybrid of both holidays and we have our altar with offers to the deads, as well as all kid of silly Halloween decorations. Today I will carve my small pumpkin, which is about the only farm product that is very expensive here as they are all imported from the North. Only 3 years ago I could not find a proper Halloween pumpkin and I had to carve the standard ‘Calabasa de Castilla’ that most people cook with at this time of the year. In recent years small Halloween pumpkins have appeared in supermarkets, but at a ridiculous price compared to what I am used to in Canada. We used to buy fairly large pumpkins for less than $1.00 over there but here they are close to $1.00 a pound… Luckily most of the ones you find are fairly small, so you get off reasonably well.
Last year we hosted my uncle Pierre and friends who were visiting from Canada at this time of the year, and this year we decided to make a real Halloween party for the kids, meaning the both of us. Tonight we are hosting Normita’s sister with her two girls, and a friend of the family with her young son. Everybody gets disguised, and there will be prizes for the best costume, as well as lots of games for all, and a silly Halloween menu that I will prepare using some recipes that I found on the Internet. I probably heavily modify the recipes as I prepare them today, and I will keep a photographic log as I go along that I will post later in the week. Here is the menu in Spanish, and its approximate translation to English:
– Palomitas de Sangre – Bloody Popcorn
– PatÃ© de Rata Atropellada – Rat Roadkill PatÃ©
– Mocos de Cangrejo – Crab Snot
– Ojos de Vampiro – Vampire’s Eyes
– Ponche de Mano Sangrienta – Bloody Hand Punch
– Manos de Bruja con Salsa de Pus – Witches’ Hands with Pus Sauce
– Bolsas de Granos con Salsa de Acne – Pimple Bags with Acne Sauce
– Orugas al Horno – Baked Caterpillars
– Gelatina de Pipi de Dragon con Araña y Ojos de Buitre – Dragon Piss Jelly with Spiders, and Vulture’s Eyes
– Pay de Calabasa de la Muerte – Pumpkin Pie of Death
As you might have noticed by now, both Normita and I are slowly regressing to childhood, but we enjoy the process tremendously. Hopefully next year by this time we will have moved to a larger house and we will be able to really go crazy with decorations. In the meantime we will truly enjoy our party tonight, and take pleasure in the joys of childhood as best as we can.
I have been wondering about something since last night, and that makes me reflect a lot on many things, to the point of making me somewhat unproductive today. I know that I am not chronologically young anymore, but I still feel like I am young deep down inside me, even though some morning my body reminds me that I am not still in my teens. I have been wondering all day if experience still counts for something in today’s society…
This thought was triggered by watching some cooking show on TV last night. There was not much of anything decent on TV and I was zapping through the channels trying to find something interesting to watch. I came across a cooking show that I had seen advertised on one of the Latin American cooking channels we get on cable, but never actually watched. It was a restaurant based reality show where some young chef, that showed his lack of experience in the way he was running the place and also the attitude of a spoiled kid, was confronted with running a busy restaurant short on staff. This attitude is not entirely related to age, as I know people much older than me that exhibit the same personality traits. What came next is what really floored me when this kid in his mid 20’s, who could not be out of cooking school that long, came on camera and boasted "When I was a young chef". I could not help commenting to Normita that I probably have socks older than that kid, and how long could he have been cooking professionally to say something like that. If while in his mid 20’s he is considering himself an ‘Old Timer’ what will he consider himself to be in 20-30 years?
This led me to do some serious thinking about what my outlook on life was when I was that age. I clearly remember that, like most people that age, I thought that I knew better than most people my own age, and a lot of older people, but I also remember that I had, and still have a lot of respect for the opinion of people who had done something longer than I had and accumulated a lot of experience. It all comes down to one of my pet peeves of all time, my long-standing lamenting that the old apprentice system of yore is gone, and there is no way for people to learn a trade that takes years to master, as most people want results now without the need to learn it the old fashioned way. I have worked with my hands all of my life, and I know that many skills are beyond what I can do with the time I have to practice them. I also know that if you want to be good at something you have to have some talent, but the most important thing is practice, and practice, and practice, and some more practice.
Back to the cooking world where somebody used to apprentice for years before moving up in the kitchen hierarchy, we now have kids that goes for a few weeks to a few months in a famous kitchen, and move on to another one to improve their resumÃ©, and that they want to be cooking stars a few short years after they get interested in the trade. This lead to what I saw yesterday on TV when a 25 year old ‘Old Timer’ has is own cooking show on TV, plainly shows that he cannot handle the job at hand, that of running a restaurant’s kitchen, and even worse does not even demonstrate good manual skill at the basic prep work for the dishes he demonstrates. The later is a trait that you see often nowadays on cooking show, and I assume that they do not teach basic techniques in cooking school anymore, or worse that they do, but most people do not bother learning and practicing them properly.
I guess that I am ranting again and boring you all, and that what was supposed to be a very short post is turning into a long one, but I firmly believe that experience and basic skills takes time to learn, and that there are no shortcuts to attain them both. I noticed the same trend in my professional life as a programmer, is that there are so many new things to learn that people are more interested in the technology itself, than in making thing actually do something very well, without the need of the latest technology.
A word of advise to anybody passing by here from an ‘Old Timer’ at many things including life, no matter what your goals are in life, no matter what subject you really feel deeply interested in, please take some time developing the basic skills to achieve your goals. It both takes time and a lot of practice, but when you finally grow up and are finally getting a bit of real life experience under your collar, you will learn to appreciate the fact that you actually KNOW a lot more about the subject at hand than a lot of your contemporaries, and one day you will also learn to be proud of that in itself. By the way, this also applies to people my age, as we are never too old to learn anything new, and experience, no matter how old you are to start with, takes a long time to accumulate. As they would say today, knowledge and experience rules!
We had some of Normita’s younger friends visiting yesterday for lunch and as usual I prepared them a nice meal. Everybody was having fun and Normita took a lot of pictures, and lots of silliness ensued, and overnight I suddenly realized that I felt about writing about events such as these but not from the food and wine point of view, but more from the human side of the stories. I also realized that there are a lot of other subjects that I would like to write about, but the format of this little corner of the web is somewhat restrictive for that, and that I do not want to change this blog’s format because I am comfortable with what it is right now. I have lots of plans for this blog that might take a while to bring about because of the lack of time on my part, but writing is not something I can stop doing, and I need an outlet for all the other stuff that comes through my mind, and I need an outlet for that creativity.
A while back, when we first brought our web server in-house, it was done purely for software testing and for my work in the IT world. I had registered a domain, and plopped a few hastily designed pages in it as a bookmark for things to come and I suddenly realized last week, when the domain name needed to be re-registered, that it had been sitting there unattended for ages. This morning we got up very late and while I was in bed I was thinking that what I was planning to write did not fit this blog, and that I should have another outlet that could be used for all of the other stuff I want to talk about. The other site was name ‘The Sassquatch’s Lair’ and I had intended to use it as an outlet for stories about my life since I moved here to Mexico City. Those of you who know me personally can relate to the term Sassquatch as it is both a description of my imposing hairy body shape and of my wide feet, and it is also a nickname that the Padrino gave me after we met the first time, in what seems to be another life. He used to be known, in those days, as Duck Vader and thus the dynamic duo of the Sassquatch and Duck Vader was born.
Hopefully later today I will install another copy of WordPress on the server and configure it for that other site and a new blog, ‘The Sassquatch’s Lair’, will be born. I will post a notice and a link whenever I am done with the technical side of the installation and the blog goes live. At first I will post there on subjects that do not fit this format, and also things like silly pictures from yesterday’s party. Eventually I also plan to self-publish and serialize a Fantasy novel I wrote more that 15 years ago, and that I had planned to write a sequel and never had the time for it. It might even give me the outlet to start writing fiction again on a regular schedule and to post short stories and more creative work.
I will also need to discuss with the Padrino our plans, simmering for the last few years, for publishing a comic strip about an unlikely duo of superheroes. The characters are set and fleshed out in our minds, but we still have to write the stories and give them life. The new blog would be a perfect outlet for all that silliness. What do you think dear Ducky?
As soon as I have something up and working I will post about how to get to the new blog, and I hope that some of you will follow me there.
After a somewhat longish absence due to several factors, including major electrical problems again, some more equipment failures, and the latest in a row of fun things happening to us, I come back tonight with a short off-topic rant.
Last week we went to a cocktail party in the Polanco area of town, and that evening Normita got her Movistar cell phone cloned. We are using prepaid plans as we do not use them enough to justify regular monthly plans, so we were somewhat lucky that it did not turn up into a major money loser. Normita had recharged the money on her phones some days before the event and she had not used it more than a few time before that evening. We made a call just before going in the restaurant where the cocktail party was held, and strangely enough when we came out she got an SMS that her balance was low and she needed to recharge again. Her phone was locked in her purse, and her purse was with here the full evening. During the entire evening she did not take the phone out ounce while we were at the party.
The next evening we checked her balance on the web it was empty and the log of the calls showed that from a few minutes after we arrived at the party to about the time we left there were a dozen calls made on her account, all to the same number, supposedly the WAP access number from Movistar.
We tried to contact customer service over the weekend and their phone systems did not have any method of dealing with any support incident, or even talking to an human being. We contacted their customer service via email twice and still are waiting to have an answer. On Monday she took some time from work to go to the Movistar office on Masaryk near her work in Polanco, and she wasted over an hour with some inefficient girl there who could not answer any of her questions on how this could have happened, and could not even give her any hints on how to prevent this in the future. After waiting for an hour for that person to do something, the only thing that was done was to fill a report as they cannot do anything at the store.
That evening she got an SMS that bluntly said that the adjustment was not accepted as the number dialed was the WAP number and that essentially they were telling here as a long time customer to just stuff it. She managed to reach on the phone somebody from sales, who assured her that she would try to find somebody to help her, but of course nobody ever contacted her. Today she finally managed to reach somebody from customer service on the phone, in a call center in Guatemala, and she explained the situation. Like in the store they cannot do anything, and they cannot answer any questions on how this happened and on how to prevent it in the future. The only thing that they can do is input the complain in their system as that kind of things is handled by another department that does not talk to customers.
Later today she got a similar SMS that the charge will not be reimbursed, and we never could talk to anybody about this complaint that actually could provide any feedback. It seems that the complaint department is behind a firewall from the people who take the calls, and that their only mean of answering is via SMS. If it had been an isolated incident I might have given them a second chance, but at the same time a coworker of hers, in an office with only 5 people, had the same problem happen to him, and he got essentially the same response from Movistar.
Since Movistar cannot or does not want to talk to its long term customers about their problem with cloning, or whatever other technical problems that get a bunch of calls billed to you when you are not even using your phone, since they are not willing to even discuss what you can do to prevent it in the future, and since they cannot even talk to you period, we definitely will not be recharging our phones just to given them more money. We can get another chip for the phone, but how do we know that it will not happen again next week or next month, if we do not know how the problem happened in the first place. We will take our business elsewhere, even though I am not crazy about losing phone numbers that we have been using for over two years, but the alternative of giving them money for bad service is worse than that. The other person at Normita’s office was not using his phone much so he will simply just stop using it.
We are looking at other cell phone companies, so if any one of you around Mexico City have any good or bad experiences with other cell providers drop us a line at email@example.com or in the comment section. I would advise anybody who has a Movistar account to check the calls placed on their phones to make sure that they are not ripped off by them. If you manage to find a way to contact somebody who can help please also let us know. We will not stay with them, but I would not mind getting the small amount that was stolen from us back, just so we know that they are not total frauds who do not care about their customers at all…
I was reading this morning about someone being asked about what was their best restaurant meal in a particular city. It got me thinking as I am not a regular restaurant fiend to start with, as most of the time the food is better at home than in most restaurants, and there is more to the dining experience than the actual food. I have the same problem answering the question ‘what is my favorite food’, as it always depends on my mood at the moment I am asked, how hungry I am, the phase of the moon, and velocity of the wind, and other more esoteric factors.
I have eaten in revered restaurants where the cooking was so good that there is no hope in this lifetime that I will ever be able to attain this perfection in my kitchen, in overrated restaurants living only on their reputation and/or ‘inness’ factor, in restaurants that serve solid-but-uninspired food, in fast-food joints, in food stalls on the street or in markets where I ended up with food poisoning, and in places that fit anywhere in or out of this spectrum. What makes the dining experience is not the food itself, though it is a major part of it, but it is a combination of food, service, atmosphere, and who you are sharing the meal with.
By nature I tend to stay away from the new ‘Trendy’ places as from past experiences they seem to rely on glitziness, gimmicks, and at times shock food to generate their often undeserved reputations. I know that it is difficult to differentiate yourself from the crowds, but spending millions in decor and nada in the kitchen does not make for a nice restaurant. Also the noise level in a lot of trendy places makes enjoying even the best food in the world very difficult. I also dislike the fact that most of the times you have to reserve a long time ahead to get in. Since most of the time I have no idea what I will be doing in the next hour, let alone in 3 months time, and if I will even be in the mood to go out for that type of food that night. I normally go the reservation route only when I am traveling out of town and I know I will be in need of a restaurant on such and such dates, thus reserving is a no-brainer at those times.
Back to the subject of the dining experience, I have noticed that to have an exceptional experience you need to first have well prepared and presented good food that is pleasant to eat. If for shock value the chef is into weird combinations of food, just for sake of being different, I tend to stay away from their place. The same is for experimental cooking, I am all for experimentation, but if you cannot find focus in a dish you should not serve it to paying clients until you finish playing with the ingredients. I have seen chefs bringing you small serving of dishes they are working on to get feedback, and I am all for that, but I would not build a menu with untried recipes, just as I would not serve untried recipes to guests at home. I have ranted already about dishes that are presented for the ‘picture’ look, but that are difficult to eat and enjoy, so I will not go there today.
I also tend to stay away from the cult of the ‘Star Chef’. Some of their restaurants are stunning and serve sublime food, but a lot tend to lack in the personal touches. If they are at the head of a culinary empire, chances are that they are not the ones supervising the daily running of their restaurants, and whoever is doing a stellar job at it does not get the recognition they deserve, and normally stays in the background as not to take the stardom from the ‘Star Chef’. It is nice to think about your favorite TV Chef preparing your meal for you in the kitchen, but they are probably at some cocktail party, on the set of their TV show, or on another continent when your visit their restaurants. That does not mean that I have not had exceptional dining experiences in their restaurants…
Now that we have a nicely prepared meal on our plates, we now need good service. The staff should be attentive, and not overbearing. They also should know about the food and the chef’s philosophy. There is nothing more annoying than asking how a dish is prepared, or what an advertised ingredient in a recipe is is, and seeing the staff running to the kitchen to ask. If the menu specifies an ingredient it would be good idea to let the staff know what it is before letting them loose on the public. That is, as long as it does not go to the other extreme and they start pontificating about the type of salt they use, or refuse to bring you salt because the chef does not want you to ruin his dishes with it.
Where was I? A plate of nice food, attentive-but-not-overbearing staff… Next on the list is atmosphere. I tend to prefer a quiet relaxed atmosphere, to a frantic noisy one. That is in my nature, as I abhor noise and hyperactivity. If you have to shout to your dinner companions to get heard, it is does not make for a nice dining experience. I’m not really crazy about church-like atmospheres either, as they make you uncomfortable about having any conversation during the meal. I used to be more tolerant of this in the past, as before I met Normita, I used to travel the world on business alone, and dine in the best places by myself. I could concentrate more on the food, at the detriment of not sharing the experience in those days, but I would not go back to them. Your preference of atmosphere may vary, but you have to be comfortable to enjoy the meal.
Dining companions are important too. I find business meals, especially with new business acquaintances, to be normally strained, as you do not know the people, their tastes, and their ideas. It is a great way to get to know people, and it is one of my prime factors in doing business with anybody. I need to share a nice meal with them so that we can appreciate it together. I tend to stay away from doing business with people who do not share my love of food and wine, and the few times that I have not done so in the past, I paid for it dearly in the long run. Dining with loved ones and close friends is a rewarding experience, and it is one of the nicest things in life.
So, when faced with a question like ‘The best restaurant meal you’ve ever had in…’ my answer might disappoint the Trendy Foodies, as the place would most likely not be the latest trendy place or the place to be seen by the proper Foodie crowd. It would likely be a place where I had great food and service, in a relaxed atmosphere, with the people I love. I tend to collect restaurant experiences in my mind as the whole experience, not just the badge of being at the right address. I have been in great restaurants on bad nights, some of my favorite places have also disappointed me at times, and I might have just made the wrong choice on the menu, so the right address is not always the best. The reverse is true and I have had exceptional meals in places where you would expect it the least. With all the ingredients that make a great dining experience put in the equation, the answer might be a big surprise even to you. It is just where you did enjoy yourself the most. What else is there?
I was just watching some cooking and wine shows on TV and noticed that some of us in the food and wine business definitely take ourselves too seriously. I have to confess that I have a tendency to do the same thing myself at times, but it seems that the older I get the less I take myself seriously. By nature, being somewhat shy, I normally cover up the shyness by turning into a pompous bastard in social situations. I’m trying to control it more and more as I do not like myself when I do that, but it is difficult at time when the audience tends to be on the pompous side too. When I have to talk about subjects that are close to my heart and that I totally enjoy, be it food, wine, technology, or something else, I try to be less on the pontification side and more on the entertaining and preaching about my love of the subject side, as long as I do not get carried away too much.
I noticed that the cooking and wine shows I like the best are the ones where the hosts really like their subjects and seem to be enjoying themselves while presenting it. Enthusiasm tends to be contagious and if the host is truly enjoying himself, then you feel it and like to share this enthusiasm for the subject at hand. At the other end of the spectrum, the hosts that take the superior approach and sound like they are talking about a very serious subject as if they were in church, should remember that it is only food, and only fermented grape juice in case of wine, and that they are all destined to be eaten and drunk in the end. You know that happens a while after that part, do you?
I normally dislike the type of shows filmed in front of audiences, as they often time rely on gimmicks from the host, and tend to get repetitive after a while. The same is true of hosts who heavily rely on gimmicks of all sorts, often for shock value or just to cover the fact that they have nothing new to add to the genre, except for the gimmick.
I was also wondering what is it with all of those shows where the host cooks on a rickety table in the middle of a field or at the edge of the sea, with wind blowing things away, and flies all over the place? Is there a reason why those shows are done like that, besides looking at the nice scenery? Most of the time the host looks so uncomfortable, and seems to miss his real kitchen a lot.
While I’m on a roll, I really appreciate shows by hosts who knows how to cook well, but I cannot believe that some of those supposedly professional chefs, at least from the publicity surrounding them, barely seem to know basic preparation techniques, or at times seem to not have enough coordination to prepare a sandwich without injuring themselves, or even worse are not using a sharp knife, one of my pet peeves… There nothing more laughable that seeing a cooking show host who does not seem to know how to hold a knife, and that cannot cut something that should cut very easily with a sharp knife. I tend to lose confidence quickly in those cases.
Another thing, what is it with the Napoleon complex? Napoleon is a French dessert that is composed of layers of cookies and filling pile up high on a plate. Now it seems, especially amongst younger chefs, that food requires height, and they pile up stuff, Napoleon style, on the plate until they have a shaky sculpture that reaches the roof of the restaurant. It might look mighty nice on the close-up shot at the end of the show, but has any of those ‘Chefs’ tried to eat one of their creations? There is no way to eat one of these monstrosities without first disassembling it, and then eating the bits and pieces. That is if you are lucky that it can be transported to your table without collapsing into a singularity.
Yet another thing, when they prepare their pile-o-food that is sky high, why do they paint only about 1 tsp of that very complex beautiful sauce that they are so proud of, in the bottom of the plate where it is impossible to taste it? I know that I am of French extraction, and that my genes are programmed to love my sauces to excess, but can we get more than 1 tsp of sauce so that we can actually enjoy and taste them?
I am just rambling on now, so I will try to cut it short. First, to all the cooking show hosts out there, try to look like you are enjoying yourselves while preparing the food and that you really enjoy eating the food that you cook. Second, try to not be too repetitive and please do not rely only on gimmicks. Third and most important of all, stop taking yourselves too seriously as it is only food and wine, not a bloody cure to all that ails the world that you are talking about.
Great, now I go it off my chest…
Yesterday we went shopping in one of those huge mega-stores that are increasingly common here in the city and becoming the plague of most North-American cities. It is a grueling experience just from the huge size of the store. We ended up exhausted from walking from one end of the place to the other and back, since we had forgotten to pickup some dental floss when we had entered the store. We have been there a few times recently as the food is around 15-20% cheaper than at our local small supermarket, especially for the household items we cannot get at the tianguis. The only drawback is that some items I like to cook with are not available as the neighborhood is different than ours and they have less foreigners living there. I normally end up walking to the local store during the week to get whatever we could not find at the mega-store.
We were looking at the fruits and vegetables available there, and were very disappointed of what was available, and even so more at the prices. Luckily we had picked up most of what we needed at the tianguis early Sunday morning. The fruits and veggies there are always much fresher, of higher quality, and very cheap compared to any store. Since there are over 100 merchants, you are always assured of finding what you want. There are also specialists that only sell one produce like limes, papayas, or bananas and they are normally better than the more general stands. They have more to lose if they have bad products on display. Even though we have only been living in this ‘colonia’ for around 6 months, we have been regular customers of some of these merchants for a few years. Since the tianguis is an itinerant street market that appears on a regular schedule on different days in different neighborhoods, we knew some of the merchants in our old neighborhood in the tianguis we had there on Mondays.
Both Normita and I love the street market atmosphere of the tianguis. You can find anything including fruits, vegetables, chicken, beef and pork, seafood, spices, and dry goods in the food stalls that make up about 40% of this particular one. The rest is divided between clothes, hardware, utensils, jewels, incense, pirated CDs and DVDs, toys, decorations, plants, etc., and of course prepared food of all kinds from ‘barbacoa’ to ‘carnitas’, from ‘mariscos’ to tacos and ‘huaraches’, and a huge variety of other food, one more appetizing than another. If you really want you can go around the tianguis and sample fresh fruits and food all morning and have a huge free breakfast or lunch that way. It really beats the reheated frozen food samples that are typically available in the mega-stores. We normally have a solid late breakfast of lamb consommÃ© with rice and garbanzos, followed by some soft tacos of juicy lamb ‘barbacoa’ or golden fried tacos. They are served with a variety of spicy sauces (green, red, and ‘borracha’) and accompaniments like chopped onions, cilantro, lime, and ‘nopalitos’ with chipotle. With a tall glass of cool and refreshing ‘agua de jamaica’ it makes for a solid breakfast that permits you to explore the tianguis on a full stomach.