Monday, April 29, 2013

The new "normal"

The other day I was on the metro and started thinking about some of the things that used to be "different" that have since become "normal."

The obvious: living in Spanish.

The slightly less obvious:

  • Starting lunch (the main meal of the day) with soup (doesn't matter what month or season) 
  • Always dressing in layers or at least bringing a jacket since the day will most likely be both hot and chilly/cold at some point (though my idea of extremes has changed as well)
  • Vendors are a normal part of any subway commute and between vendors on the metro and on the street the variety of products you can buy without ever entering a store is rather impressive (What do you need? A pen? A snack? Nail polish? Gum? CDs? Sunglasses? Books? Toys? Batteries? A map of the city?) 
  • Always disinfecting fruits and vegetables before eating them 
  • It takes a long time to get basically anywhere in the city. It takes you 30 minutes? Oh, you must live close by. It took you an hour? Nothing noteworthy. 
  • I tend to choose room temperature water over cold water now because cold is just too cold! (The drinking purified / bottled water was already a given, right?) 
  • Tacos or sandwiches are acceptable for any meal of the day, including breakfast (this also goes for various soups and stews which are served as breakfast foods, especially as good the-morning-after-drinking breakfasts) 

I was thinking about these various aspects of day-to-day life and was feeling pretty proud of myself   for adapting to my life in the DF....and then I realized I was going the wrong way on the metro.

Oh yea, and I'm still a wimp when it comes to spicy foods and I still get frustrated when people walk too slow (especially while they take up the whole sidewalk while doing so). Meh - you win some, you lose some.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

(Another) visit to Maltrata

Edson and I made a quick trip to Maltrata March 23-24th to surprise Rosa María for her birthday. I have very few photos from the weekend, but here's what I've got:

I love the view of Maltrata from the highway.

To celebrate, family and friends joined us at the terreno (big yard, really) for the afternoon. We brought all the fixings for tacos and ate outdoors. We (ok, I didn't really participate since I didn't have a change of clothes) enjoyed the kiddie pool and water fights to cool down and a game of fútbol (soccer). 

Below is a resobada. Before cakes were common in Maltrata, this was the most common treat to celebrate birthdays. The large oval bread that serves as a base is more like a regular bread (with sprinkles on top) and sweet, flaky pastries are arranged on top (some of the triangle pastries are stuck into the base, holding up the circular pastries). 


 And finally, here's a view of the Pico de Orizaba on the drive back to the DF.

Pico de Orizaba 

Article: Chaya, the Maya miracle plant

This morning I had chaya as one of the ingredients in my fresh juice. I had never heard of it before, so I looked it up once I got home and found this article, "Chaya, the Maya miracle plant" over at


Chaya, the Maya miracle plant

Chaya plant
© Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization,, 2009
Chaya plant
© Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization, 2009

"Here is a contribution of the unforgettable Maya Indians, whom we have abandoned," is the wistful introduction to a pamphlet on thechaya plant, from Desarollo Integral de la Familia (DIF), which goes on to call chaya"an ideal food and medicine."
According to the National Institute of Nutrition in Mexico City, ingesting chaya will:
  • Improve blood circulation,
  • help digestion,
  • improve vision,
  • disinflame veins and hemorrhoids,
  • help lower cholesterol,
  • help reduce weight,
  • prevent coughs,
  • augment calcium in the bones,
  • decongest and disinfect the lungs,
  • prevent anemia by replacing iron in the blood,
  • improve memory and brain function and
  • combat arthritis and diabetes.
A nutritional analysis (see chart) shows that chaya is richer in iron than spinach, and a powerful source of potassium and calcium.
It's also incredibly easy to grow and an attractive addition to the garden with its maple-like leaves and tidy growth pattern. It limits itself to about six feet in height. Plant a row close together and you'll soon have a hedge. The plants tend to be open toward the bottom, so you can create a border with low- and medium-growing herbs.
Despite the near-miraculous claims for it, I've run into very few Mexicans who are familiar with chaya, and have never seen it in the market. To grow your own, stake branches of about 40 centimeters in sandy soil with good drainage, and water regularly. It grows well in a median annual temperature of 25 C. or higher, and at altitudes of 0 to 1000 meters above sea level.
In some states it is called chaya col or chaya mansa. The botanical name is Cnidoscolus chayamansa.
Start harvesting as soon as you see a couple of new leaves sprouted. Cutting encourages new growth, and the branches are pretty in flower arrangements. There's so much of it around our place that we're rather profligate with it, and it always rewards us with rapid new growth. Except for an occasional raid by cutter ants, we've found it pest-free.
The leaves are pretty bland, so you can add them to soups, casseroles, spaghetti sauces, salsas and salads without affecting the taste. The tiny, tender ones can go in omelets or salads or be used as garnish. The larger ones are best chopped and cooked long and slow. I've tried cooking them quickly, like spinach, and have not been happy with the leathery results.
For a liter of tea, use 3-5 medium size leaves with whatever blend you favor. I like two bags of black tea with two bags of mint and the chaya leaves, "cooked" in a glass bottle in the sun for a couple of hours and then refrigerated. Soak the leaves in water with a disinfectant such as Microdyn, before using, as you do fruits and vegetables.
Warning: In cooking or serving, Do not use aluminum containers, as a toxic reaction can result, causing diarrhea.
Use pottery or glass.
Here's a nutritional comparison, supplied by the Mexican National Institute of Nutrition, and distributed by DIF.
Percentages are based on minimum daily requirements.
Crude fibre1.943.122.07
Vitamin A8.520.742.48
Vitamin B10.230.130.03
Ascorbic Acid0.350.140.10

Chaya Supplement
Since the article on chaya (Cnidoscolus chayamansa) was published, we've had numerous requests from the United States on where to buy plants or seed, or how to have it sent from Mexico. We can't send from Mexico -- plants and seeds are restricted items. Here's what we've found out.
Reader Mary Matthews, informs us that chaya cuttings are available on a limited basis from ECHO in North Fort Myers, Florida, from Neem Tree Farms in Brandon, Florida, and also from Steve Janosko in Connecticutt.
Although it's common practice in Mexico to use the leaves raw in agua fresca, a tea-like cold drink, chaya does contain cyanogenic glycosides, which are a source of cyanide poisoning, so it should not be eaten raw. Boiling leaves for at least 5 minutes releases the cyanide and makes the leaves safe to eat. We caution you to be sure you're getting Cnidoscolus chayamansa — there may well be other varieties.
Those who live in areas with Spanish-speaking populations might try grocery stores or nurseries in Latino neighborhoods. If you don't speak Spanish, what you say is: ''¿Sabe Usted en dónde puedo comprar semillas o plantitas de chaya?'' (Do you know where I can buy seeds or small plants of chaya?) If you get a positive answer, ask them to write it down. (''Por favor, escríbelo.'')

Published or Updated on: January 1, 1996 by Sophie Annan Jensen © 1996