I am taking the entire day off to do some leisurely cooking, a little writing, and spend part of the afternoon indulging in some quality rooftop hammock time all the while listening to the great jazz of Stanley Turrentine, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and others.
I didn’t run this morning so I thought I might as well stretch out my laziness to last all day. And what better way to enjoy the day then to immerse oneself in good literature, great music, fine wine and new food?
I’ve been plotting to cook a chicken ever since a few days ago when I spotted an entire window full of the plumpest most yellow-skinned beauties around. So this morning I made my way over that shop and picked one up. Then circled back to the Mercado where I bought a bunch of other stuff like some carrots, a big bunch of spinach, an eggplant, a big white onion, a small head of cabbage, and some button mushrooms.
On my way home I stopped at the butcher shop two blocks over who sells lovely multicolored chicken eggs (which he says are organic). While I was there I fell victim to an impulse buy where I purchased an arm long piece of his homemade sausage called longaniza which has that wonderful red chili flavored chorizo spiciness.
And I’ve always liked how chicken and sausage work so nicely together in a bevy of dishes. The flavors and textures are so complimentary and combine together in such a classic way. I also love when they are cooking together how they perfume the entire house in those luscious savory smells.
So I figured I’d boil the chicken in a big pot of water with only some garlic and bay leaves to flavor it. When it finished I’d remove the chicken pieces and save the broth into small containers for future use.
I’ll cook the sausage separately and saute all the vegetables except the cabbage, carrots, and potatoes which I will cook together in some of the broth.
At some point I’ll layer all the ingredients together to make one fine lunch.
I absolutely delight in the wonderfully fresh bountiful Mexican cupboard that surrounds me in this lovely secluded piece of country situated in NW Michoacan. Every time I walk into some place as simple as a butcher shop I get tingles of pleasure seeing fresh unadulterated food even if it is just that morning’s butchered meat hanging up on hooks. It smiles red fresh happiness to me.
And I know – the thought of which totally pisses me off – it is only a matter of time before the big chain grocery stores on the edges of town relegates all of these small family run places to memory.
So I enjoy it all now, knowing it won’t last. And I am thankful practically everyday of my tiny little life that I am here, now. It’s like journeying back in time to that wonderfully brief place in time – 1950s America – when all of these marvelous fresh food places still existed there too.
But enough nostalgia. Enough food talk. It’s time to say a few things about my recent trip to Colima.
Last week I got to the bus station in nearby Jiquilpan at 9:30 a.m. thinking the bus would leave at 10 a.m. like I was told but it turned out it wasn’t scheduled to depart until 10:20 which gave me a chance to have a nice chat with a young artist from Sacramento, California who was traveling to Manzanillo with his family. We interestingly enough had mid-town Sacramento in common. He had been living there the last ten years but was forced to move out of the mid-town area when it went ‘Republican’ as he put it, when the conservatives moved in driving up rents and putting more regulations on artists and artistic events.
I remembered mid-town Sac from the ’90s. I had a proto hipster Intel colleague buddy who lived down there in a nasty old apartment. I now see his Brooklyn style squat as a bromide to the unnatural sterility of the so called Intel culture. The thing I like about mid-town Sac in those days were the several great used bookstores that were in the neighborhood. Arturo said they were all gone now. And had been. A combination of rent increases and Amazon.com proved to be their death knell.
The bus ride starting out from Jiquilpan was up, up, up for an hour or so until we reached the lovely little high forested town of Mazamitla (el. 2600 meters). Then down, down, down (all beautiful winding road) to La Garita where the road transitioned to flatness through a high tropical valley.
I dropped my 2 small bags off at the Hotel La Merced for which I paid 550 pesos for a small but clean room. The hotel for whatever reason (thoughtlessness?) offset their pleasant minimalist vibe with the frustrating presence of both a very annoyingly complicated satellite TV remote control and a bathroom sink faucet that required the full time attention of one hand to operate, which made washing both at the same time problematic.
First thing, I made my way 4 blocks north to the Jardin Libertad – the central ‘garden’ plaza – where I had a forced encounter with quite possibly the only other gringo tourist in the entire city. We were on colliding paths and to have changed direction would have been a show of weakness. He sat on the bench, raised his arms to the sky before proclaiming, ‘This is as good as Italy!’
I should have walked away from the pretentious prick then and there but I was held in thrall – a snake to his mongoose – dulled by the stupidity of bus travel. I gritted my teeth. Thinking to invert disaster, I politely asked him if he was coming from the beach or heading to the beach; the resort town of Manzanillo being only an hour away.
He looked at me with slightly veiled contempt like I was some piece of contemptible sun-seeking tourist scum. He ignored my question by informing me he was a ‘traveler’.
I was stunned that the swine had the temerity to immediately seek the moral high ground by so quickly announcing his Canadian citizenship which made me hate the bastard all the more.
I knew I was committed at that point to winning this subtle contest of wills. I really didn’t want to play, considering such an interaction to be the intellectual equivalent of what I have come to call La Brea Tar Pit conversations. But the fucker had to go down.
I gritted my teeth once more, smiled and asked him another polite question, ‘So where are you traveling to next?’
He tried to get the word out, ‘Juan, Juan e, Juan a, Juanejat, Juanejato.’
I smiled broadly, knowing then I had the bastard. ‘Oh, you mean Guanajuato, right?’, correctly pronouncing the name of the colonial Mexican city he couldn’t. I started walking away, throwing over my shoulder, ‘Have a great travel.’ I could almost hear his penis shrivel in response.
The son-of-a-bitch reminded me of another encounter that I had years ago in the splendidly isolated Big Bend National Park in the heel of south Texas. I was standing in the bathroom brushing my teeth after having driven all night. It must have five o’clock in the morning. A guy saunters in – from where? – who must have felt some great and compelling need to preach and pronounce his opinion on someone; since I was the only one in the room, I became his target audience.
‘Do you like Big Bend?’ He asked. I started to say don’t know, just got here, before he went on, ‘Have you ever been to Guadalupe Mountain National Park?’ I shook my head no.
He said, ‘It’s much nicer than this.’
Death to all terminal morons.
Getting There and Away:
Note: The bus line was Primera Plus. Their bus – Jiquilpan to *Colima (Colima) – took 4 hours and cost 250 pesos. And the taxi cab from the central bus terminal on the southern outskirts of Colima into el centro, the city center cost just 30 pesos for the 10 minute ride.
*Colima is both the name of the capital city (pop. 120,000) as well as the name of the state (pop. 650,000). Therefore, capital (state) is Colima (Colima).