post by Helen Vicki making delicious quitoniles from the garden
I have to admit, I was a little nervous about leaving home to live thousands of miles away for the summer. I had never been to Mexico before, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Despite whatever worries we may have had, Alex and I now feel completely at home here thanks to our wonderful host family!
Our host dad is named Filemón. He and our host mom, Vicki, both grew up in the nearby pueblo of Macuiltianguis in the Sierra mountains. Zapotec is Filemón's first language, and both of our Oaxacan parents have been teaching us words almost every day!
Vicki has been teaching us how to cook authentic Oaxacan food. Yesterday, Alex and I helped make pollo a la naranja for lunch. Everything we eat is picked from Vicki's incredible garden or bought fresh at a market. While we're there we sometimes pick up chapulines--one of my new favorite foods! It's actually dried grasshopper with chiles, and it's delicious. Alex and I have enjoyed them at family meals with people from all over the neighborhood, as our new parents have introduced us to nearly everyone in the neighborhood as 'nuestros hijas' (our daughters).
Vicki's also teaching us how to embroider napkins with gorgeous floral designs. I'm so excited to start exploring a new hobby! Alex has made a lot of progress, and is almost done embroidering the stem of a rose!
We also have three host brothers: Andrei, Alan, and Pavel. We haven't been able to meet Pavel yet, as he's still finishing up his year at university. Thanks to Andrei and Alan, we've been able to really experience Oaxaca City from true experts! So far, we've seen a lake in the town San Andres de Huayapan, gotten a private tour of an art gallery in downtown Oaxaca, and seen the new superman movie! Brook has gone home and will be back in July, but she has left us in very good hands...
We're so incredibly blessed and lucky to have such an amazing family to live with for the next 9 weeks!
post by Brook
On our way to San Pablo today, walking through the Zocalo, we saw people catching insects and collecting them in bags. These insects were all over the place-- in the air, on the ground. And easy to catch. People had them by the handful, by the bagful. The photo to the left was a bag full of these insects a five or six year old girl collected.
We stopped to ask about what was going on and the woman we were talking to, a young teenager, offered me one to hold. I have to admit, I was afraid to hold it at first-- it looks like a wasp. But everyone had them in their hands, so I held the one offered to me.
These insects are called chicatanas and are a type of flying ant. (They are harmless.) I had certainly heard people talk about chicatanas before, but I guess I had never seen them. It was amazing-- the number of them that there were, the ease with which they were caught, and the joy with which people were collecting them.
Later on I was talking with a man I met and I told him we saw chicatanas in the Zocalo today. He got very excited-- what time did I see them, he asked? He was there at 6:30 a.m. and there were no chicatanas! I asked if he wanted to collect some. Yes, he answered right away. They are so delicious. They taste like butter. Their tails, especially, are good. He likes to eat them in a peanut-based salsa. And, apparently, they only come twice a year. Once at the beginning of the rainy season and once at the end.
I asked if they would be for sale in the market today, thinking they might. But he told me no. They would cost 300 pesos / kilo, he says, but no one collects enough to sell in the market. Everyone wants to eat what they collect. Maybe I should have caught some of my own!
Chicatana (image from http://costachicanuestra.blogspot.mx/2011/06/las-chicatanas-manjar-afrodisiaco.html)
more chicatanas (http://elbavaro.blogspot.mx/2010/06/las-chicatanas-las-hormigas-que-se.html)
UPDATE (June 15, 2013): Flying Ant Salsa!
I got to try salsa made with chicatanas! My friend, and Helen and Alex's host mother, Vicky served this delicious salsa with black beans, chicken, and potatoes. (Helen and Alex were sous chefs for this wonderful meal.) The salsa was very good and very spicy! I certainly would not have known that there were chicatanas in the salsa if I hadn't been told. Given all the other ingredients, I'm not even sure I can say what chicatanas themselves taste like, but I do like salsa made with chicatanas!
a delicious meal, made even more delicious with salsa made from chicatanas
salsa made from chicatanas
post by Brook
Only three more days until we leave for Oaxaca. I'm very excited. I'm thinking of my friends and colleagues there, the work we plan to do, and of course-- the great food! It'll be fun to share the experience with the young scholars accompanying me. While Alex has been to Oaxaca before, Helen, Katie, and Caroline haven't. I have to introduce them to tlayudas- right? (For those of you who don't know, this is sometimes called a "Oaxacan pizza", but that totally undersells it!)
What would be on your list? What should we absolutely see? or eat?
Amig@s-- ¿que debemos de visitar en Oaxaca? ¿que debemos de comer?