Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Grasshopper farming secrets

My plan for Oaxaca was to spend two nights at the edge of town at quirky la villada, then moving to the center of town for a night. I checked into my fancy Posada San Miguel, above, which was one-third the space of my old room at La Villada and three times the price. It was nice to be right downtown, though, and I enjoyed all the luxurious touches in the hotel, such as my new lounge chairs and little balcony:
I went back to the big indoor market to have lunch. I had mole negro on Christmas, and this time I tried mole colorado (roja) on some enchiladas at a little stand called Comidas ¨Lupita¨. One thing that amuses me is how so many businesses put the owners name in quotation marks. Such as Carnes y Pescados ¨Miguel¨, or zapateria ¨Lulu¨. It´s almost like the name is a pseudonym. If I had a restaurant here, it might be called Enchiladas ¨Sarita¨. If that´s really my name. It´s in quotation marks so who knows!

In the market I also bought a little bag of grasshoppers. They don´t sell them at night, and I really needed a drink before I ate them, so I carried them around and was finally able to examine them after a tecate:

I took them to my hotel restaurant, where they gave me some limes and peanuts (and a mezcal) to eat them with. There was a couple from Zacatecas next to me, encouraging me. After a little mezcal, I had one. It tasted like nothing. So I had another one. This one tasted like grasshopper. I really have no reference for the taste. A little musty, earthy and definitely buggy. I sipped a little more mezcal. I´m not just making this up to be clever, the mezcal was a nice accompaniment to the ´hoppers. Mezcal is really smoky and smooth - it´s almost like they were meant to go together! Smoke and earth. I had one more. A lady my parent´s age from upstate new york was also in the restaurant. I called her over. Also a grasshopper virgin, she had three or four and I ate about 5 more. The restaurant staff also had some, and together we had a little chapulines party.

I had wondering for days (see my last post) how they were caught and fried, thinking it must be so labor intensive. I´m strangely interested in food, farming and production. Maybe because my grandfather was a cattle rancher for awhile and I grew up exposed to it. One of my favorite memories from being very young was when he took me to a livestock auction. I went to culinary school for fun and took an interesting class called ¨from farm to plate¨. I also volunteer occasionally for chef Efrain Cuevas in Chicago, who puts together underground dinner parties. Sometimes he sneaks in his uncle´s cheese from Mexico or puts a latin twist on one dish or another. I always learn something new from him. I just had to know about this grasshopper farming business!


A bilingual lady who worked at my hotel filled me in. There is a grasshopper season - mainly November, and we just missed it. They catch the grasshoppers in the cornfields in big metal cages. They are dry-grilled with lime and chiles, (not fried as I thought) and they keep for months, sort of like bug jerky. There are slats with holes, which filter out the grasshoppers into small, medium and large. I still don´t know why they are ONLY sold during the day, and never at night. Anyhow, it was a very interesting day exploring the market and trying something new.

That night, Hugh and Craig came down from la villada to join me for dinner. ¨wow, you upgraded!¨they said when they saw my new hotel. We went to an authentic posole place. I had chicken with roja broth, it had cabbage and came with fried torta shells to sprinkle in. Completely delicious!

Next we went to a local bar where there was a pool table. This pool table had no triangle, a slanted table, no 8 ball, broken pool cues and no ¨4¨balls. So we invented our own game called ¨Cinco is the Ocho¨, where we substituted the 5 for the 8, and just played with what we had. It was fun. Here I am racking up the balls with my arms instead of a triangle:

Craig trying to break up my terrible rack job with Hugh waiting his turn in another riveting game of ¨Cinco is the Ocho¨:

Later in the evening, some young locals came in to join the game and tried to guess where we were all from.


Trisha said...

A long time ago a Mexican taught me a pool game where you line up some of the balls on each side of the table. No triangle. Too bad I don't remember. Maybe you can get someone to teach you and it can become the next big thing here. Well, in addition to "cinco por el ocho"

Laura said...

Yum. Grasshoppers!!