“How did it get so late so soon?”
― Dr. Seuss
I can hardly believe we are getting ready to bid adieu to 2018 already! This year has passed by at such speed that I sometimes feel as if I am going to wake up tomorrow in 2050!
This month I am also celebrating the 10-year anniversary of my restaurant, Café Juanita. It has been an amazing journey for me, and the women who work with me, as we have watched our business and Huatulco grow. To celebrate I have been working on a cookbook of our favorite recipes. We will have the book available for purchase at the restaurant and our Chiles&Chocolate Cooking School.
As we skid into 2019, I am immensely grateful for this beautiful piece of paradise. If you are reading this, then chances are you already know what a magical place Huatulco and Oaxaca are. If you are first time visitor, I encourage you to wander off the beaten path and explore all the wonder that this state has to offer. Go beyond your deck chair and get to know locals.
A few gentle reminders on social norms while visiting Mexico:
1. Be patient. People are often late.
2. It is common to greet strangers when you walk into a restaurant by saying ‘provecho’ – the equivalent of ‘bon appetit’ or ‘enjoy’.
3. Be effusive with the courtesy basics – ‘por favor’ and ‘gracias’ go a long way in making transactions easy and pleasant.
4. Public space in Mexico tends to be un-confrontational. If you are getting mediocre service, getting mad will only make it worse.
5. Tipping in restaurants is 15%. Tip anyone in service; the bell hop, room service, the gas station attendant, the person bagging groceries, the tour guide.
6. Proper greetings are essential in Mexico, which involve an initial exchange of pleasantries. Anything less is considered rude and impolite. Learn your basic greetings such as ‘hola’ and ‘buenos dias’.
7. Shirt and shoes in public spaces please.
See you in 2019!
By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken
Restaurant reviews generally focus on the food, service and atmosphere. Two ingredients usually not considered are the company and conversation. The most delectable meal can be spoiled by a whiny, picky-eater companion. In our experience, some of the most memorable dining experiences we’ve had were with other contributors to The Eye in restaurants where the staff encouraged our always long and fascinating discussions. Continue reading An Eye on Delightful Dinners
By Kary Vannice
Justice delayed is justice denied.
The wheels of justice turn slowly, but exceedingly fine.
Two very different takes on the judicial system. Many in Mexico feel the pain of the former yet hold out hope for the latter.
Watch any U.S. or Canadian news report about Mexico, and it’s no secret that Mexico can be a dangerous and violent place. The majority of that violence is relegated to specific areas and, at first blush, appears to involve a clash between organized crime and military might. Continue reading Retribution
By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.
Second only to dark chocolaty mole negro, tlayudas are without a doubt the principal, uniquely Oaxacan, culinary seduction, renowned throughout Mexico. While eaten virtually any time of day or night, tlayudas are more typically consumed late evenings, and tradition suggests that they be purchased from street vendors. Continue reading Tlayudas México 68: A Oaxacan Street Food Success Story
By Carole Reedy
Many books on this list were not new in 2018, but rather those that caught my eye due to a recent event, a subject matter that intrigued me, or simply a recommendation from a friend. Some of my favorite authors are on this list. As you may know, I tend to read all the books an author has written if I feel the writer gives us food for thought in a daring style. Plus, the longer the book, the more satisfying! Here are my selections with a few comments on each. Continue reading My Favorite Reads of 2018
By Brooke Gazer
The owner of Europa Galería de Arte is a former Marine, originally from Texas. When he married a Canadian, he moved to Calgary and became a Canadian citizen. As a consultant on oil and gas processing facilities, he’s traveled the world. Continue reading New Gallery of Contemporary / Modern Mexican Art
By Julie Etra
My good friend Barry, who lives in Pluma Hidalgo, said I was palate challenged, an unadventurous eater, a false epicurean. Guilty as charged when it comes to eating insects and animal organs, but insects and their larvae are widely eaten in Mexico. Continue reading Holy Escamole!
By Vair Clendenning
Calgary, it’s minus 4 and snowing and we don’t care because in the morning we’re leaving on a jet plane, won’t be back again (till next year) and we don’t hate to go. In Seattle, I had treated my Donna, my wife, to a $400 a night hotel and that paid off big time. In Calgary I treated Vair to a $76, tax included, night at the Ramada. Donna wasn’t impressed. When I’m on a losing streak I don’t quit, so I took Donna to the restaurant in the Ramada for dinner. Dinner at the Ramada was also not a good idea. I’m now batting zero for two but I’m not a quitter.
We’re up at 4 am, don’t want to miss the flight, and Donna wants out of the Ramada and she wants coffee! We booked the 5:30 am shuttle to the airport when we checked in, so we we’re down at the front desk by 5:15 only to find out that the shuttle doesn’t start running until 6:30. Things just keep getting better and by now I can tell that Donna is really impressed. The Desk Clerk calls us a taxi, the taxi came, the Desk Clerk gave him a voucher and he drove us to the airport. At the airport the meter read $24 and the driver showed me his voucher for $15. Feeling sorry for him I gave him a $2 tip. Donna gave me the finger. I saved the day when I found a Starbucks and bought Donna a triple-shot latte. She said thanks because caffeine improves her language.
West Jet direct from Calgary to Huatulco, and except for the 3-hour delay leaving Calgary everything was perfect until we landed in Huatulco. Wanting to get a jump on everyone else on the plane when it came to the Mexican Tourist Card I had gone online and this is what I found: “Mexico’s National Immigration Institute (INM) now allows travelers to apply for a tourist card online up to 7 days before entering Mexico.” I had found my advantage and I took it. Filled out the card online, printed it and when we got to Mexico we went to the front of the line.
Little did I know that Mexico forgot to tell the immigration officers about the online Tourist Card, so none of them knew what I was giving them and all they wanted was the card that was handed out on the plane. Now we are at the back of the line and going nowhere fast. After seeing 4 Immigration Officers we were led to the Supervisor who took one look at our online Tourist Card, tore it in half, gave us the departure portion and waved us through. My plan only took us an extra half hour, but I got to impress Donna with my ingenuity, not. Mexican Immigration one, Vair zero.
Last year Donna lost her phone on week two. This year she lost her phone on day two. I knew something was up when she came to me and asked me to phone her. We’ve done this before, and the last time she asked me to phone her the phone in her purse rang and that is what I expected this time. No such luck, her purse didn’t ring and neither did her pocket, her bra or anything else. As we hadn’t taken a taxi, I knew she hadn’t left it in the taxi like last year. I’m starting to think that Donna loses her phones on purpose so she can get a new one. The reason I think this is because she gets a new phone every year, but this year Donna had bad luck. She had left her phone in the office at Sea Soul and Monica returned it the next day. Donna wasn’t happy.
Two days later Donna lost her bra. As a good conscientious husband my first thought was, how the hell do you lose a bra? Bras don’t fall off, it’s not like your phone, you don’t leave it in a taxi or the office at Sea Soul, or do you? Now I’m suspicious. Donna, where’s your bra?
Crisis averted, Donna’s bra was in her grocery shopping bag, which still leaves an unanswered question. Donna, why do you take your bra off when you go grocery shopping???
On Monday, Donna and the girls went to Pochutla to buy bacon and other things. Maybe a new bra, maybe not. Anyway, the girls reminded me of their trip to Pochutla last year and Donna’s quest for tocino. Not wanting to forget the Mexican name for bacon, Donna drew a little map and wrote “tocino” on a napkin and squirreled it away in her purse. Squirrel is Donna’s nickname, but we’ll save that for another day.
Upon arrival in Pochutla, Donna marched off following her map and left the girls behind. Not wanting to get too lost, Donna showed her napkin, with the map and “tocino” written on it, to people on the street. She pointed to the napkin and said, “Tocino?” And, they would respond, no, servilleta. Not to be deterred, Donna kept walking, pointing to her napkin and saying, “Tocino?” The locals kept telling her that it wasn’t bacon, it was a napkin. After walking up and down the street in Pochutla for what seemed like an hour to Donna, her friend Anne came to the rescue and showed her the tocino store, the bacon store not the napkin store, where Donna bought a bag of napkins disguised as bacon. Her friends could have told her much sooner, but they were too busy laughing. I enjoyed the story, but I enjoyed the bacon more.
Week one is now in the history books and Donna and I have survived. Her phone is back, her bra is on, for now, and she bought bacon in Pochutla. I can hardly wait for next week.
Vair Clendenning, from Kelowna, B.C., is a retired electrician and union representative who traveled widely on the job. Now he’s a travel writer – his adventures with wife Donna are recorded in his blog Travels with Grumpy and Donna (http://www.travelingwithgrumpyanddonna.com/).