Monday, August 11, 2008

Day 173. Home, Sweet Home

It has taken me forever to finish the last few entries in this diary. On one hand it is the effect of being in my childhood home, which is full of clutter and memories. On the other hand, everything is so familiar that it is hard to find the little quirks that make travel so interesting. For once life is easy, so I don’t have to struggle when I go to the store or the bank.

My parents, Ma y Papo as we have called them since childhood, live in a futuristic urbanization north of Mexico City called Ciudad Satélite. We moved here 48 years ago, when a new concept on planned communities was being promoted by a visionary land developer.

We started by renting one of the very few houses that had been built. Three years later they had the current house built, again one of the very few in our block, and for the last 45 years have seen the city go from the enclave of a few hardy pioneers who were willing to live in the sticks, to a booming fashionable neighborhood of young professional couples, the playground of juniors with fancy cars, and now almost a senior citizen community (property values have increased considerably, so no young couples can afford to buy a house in what is now one of the most desirable communities).

Living in Ciudad Satélite was quite an adventure, because there were very few bus lines, so the pioneer families were very isolated. I remember crossing through empty fields to go the park or the supermarket (but we had lots of beautiful parks and the first true supermarket in Mexico), and my mother had to make a long bus excursion to pick us up from school (my Dad drove us to school in Mexico City early in the morning all the way through Junior High School). We children adored our bicycles, and had hundreds of miles of track in the built—but almost empty—streets of the early city. Later, when I attended High School and University, I left home around 5:30 in the morning, to hitch a ride at the main highway and try to make it to my first class at 7:00 am. It is from this time that I developed the habit of waking early in the morning.

Alas, all has changed now. The city is fully built, and is a hub of commerce for the whole region. Traffic flow is excellent, due to the fabulous planning of the original developers, but the parking lots of the mega malls are packed with cars. Shopping is a beloved activity by residents and visitors, who in very Mexican fashion dress up to enjoy the window shopping experience. My mother cynically tells me that the biggest money makers are the pharmacies, who cater to the many requirements of an aging population (every Mexican is a born doctor, and generously dispenses advice about this or that wonder medicine for whatever ails you, and since Tia Rosita is much more trustworthy than that young whippersnapper of a doctor in the clinic, the consumption of medicines reaches stratospheric proportions).

And how to resist the food? We Mexicans have an inbred fear that we will starve to death, so we live with the constant preoccupation about what we will have to eat at the next meal. That means that my parents stocked up with my favorite foods and munchies (cactus, mushrooms, anchovies, oysters, lamb, pork, fruit, etc.), and that as soon as we finished breakfast we had to tackle the serious issue of what would there be for lunch, and immediately after lunch we had to start thinking about dinner. The highlight of this eating extravaganza was the rare finding of “huauzontles” in the supermarket. This is an edible weed, which looks like any old weed but ends in a thick cluster of small buds. I think it is harvested before the buds bloom. To prepare them you strip off the leaves, steam the stems and clusters for a few minutes with onion and spices, bundle several of the clusters around some cheese, and tie the bundle together with a length of very thin string. The bundles are rolled in flower, submerged in egg batter, and fried lightly. Finally, the bundles are cooked in a spiced tomato sauce for a few minutes, and voila! To eat them you cut the string with sharp scissors, peel off one of the sticks, and with your teeth strip off the buds in an elegant and flowing motion. De-le-cious!

No comments: