14 September – Punch
At midnight on a recent Saturday—any Saturday, really—Avenida República de Cuba, near the sketchy northern edge of Mexico City’s Centro Historico, practically seethes with people. Twenty-somethings of every gender line up around the block outside El Marrakech and La Purísima, a pair of nightclubs that face each other across the narrow, construction-chewed street like Scylla and Charybdis (if Scylla and Charybdis were really good at voguing). (more…)
12 September – Eater
At 9:30 on a startlingly bright Saturday morning, the children of Temacapulín, a minuscule village in the Mexican state of Jalisco, gathered under the pink stone arches of the municipal building to compete in the eighth annual Games of Chile and Water.
They threw wet napkins at a Skee-Ball target. They ran a sack relay carrying long, red árbol chiles, Temacapulín’s traditional crop, from one end of the sun-washed plaza to the other. They raced chiles up a pair of tables past levels marked Vida, Justicia, Paz, and finally Victoria. And for the final game, they hurled water balloons to bring down a wall of cardboard boxes, each one marked with a word or a phrase: Corruption. Privatization of Water. Tricks of Politicians. Depriving Us of Rights. Injustice. Lies. (more…)
August, The Music Issue – The Believer
The first thing I saw when I landed at Mizoram’s whitewashed bird’s nest of an airport—a concrete block nestled between steep, bamboo-covered hills—was a cross. It stood erect and blazingly white in a shabbily landscaped plot of grass between the terminal and the airport’s lone runway. Bold red letters printed across the patibulum—which, mercifully, I couldn’t make out until I was off the 30-seat propeller jet and walking across the tarmac—read THY KINGDOM COME.
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Summer, The Class Issue – Indian Quarterly
he last time I really fought with my older brother was back in March 2016, in a tiny restaurant somewhere in Provence where we—he and I and our younger sister and our parents—had gathered on one of our increasingly rare family vacations. The evening was raw and damp in the way that early springtime tends to be in temperate climates, but inside the restaurant was cosily anachronistic: ochre walls, wooden beams, smooth table linen, tiny glasses of purple blossoms scattered among flickering candles; there was white asparagus and red wine and not an exposed brick or Edison bulb in sight. If we hadn’t had the restaurant entirely to ourselves (the joys of low season), we would have been in breach of every rule of etiquette as voices and tension rose—ironically, since etiquette was precisely what we were arguing about. (more…)
27 May – Extra Crispy
The streets surrounding my home in the historic center of Mexico City are essentially one giant market: a perfect grid—used first by the Aztecs and then by the Spanish—in which each street has its own specific role to play in the commercial morass. Mesones is for school supplies, Bolivar is for sound equipment, the eastern end of Bolivia is for oversized stuffed animals, etc. Over the course of centuries, Mexico’s central valleys developed in much the same way as villages and towns were pulled into the city’s economic orbit. Before they became notoriously dangerous suburbs, Ecatepec and Cuauhtitlan were agave towns. The villages of Milpa Alta, a rural area technically contained within the state of Mexico City, specialize in nopales (cactus paddles) and mole. The village of Capulhuac, about 15 miles southwest of Mexico City, is for barbacoa. (more…)
18 May – Scientific American
LAS PEÑITAS, Bolivia—Before he’d ever seen a paiche, fish trader Eric Salazar had heard the giant Amazonian fish could grow up to 10 feet long, weigh 400 pounds and eat a man whole. The paiche, or Arapaima gigas, is the world’s largest scaled freshwater fish. Native to the jungles of Peru and Brazil, it first appeared in nets in Bolivia’s Amazon Basin in the early 1990s. As it migrated upriver, rumors traveled with it. People said it was created by nefarious Peruvian scientists, that they fed it with the blood of farm animals, that it wasn’t a fish at all but a monster. (more…)
11 May – Punch
ario Gomez leaned past the razor-edged rosette of a towering agave and deep into its wide-open heart, where a pool of clear, sweet sap—called aguamiel, or “honey water”—had collected overnight. He dipped the tapered end of a long, dry gourd into the plant’s cavity and, sucking at a hole in the opposite end, drew several liters of aguamiel into its hollow center. With the gourd full, he led me a few paces across his narrow plot of land to a two-room cinderblock shed, cool and dim, as the lazy April sun started to rouse itself into the morning sky. Inside, he mixed the fresh aguamiel in an open vat along with the previous day’s batch—feed for the lactic fermentation that, in a day’s time, would transform the sweet agave nectar, its flavor somewhere between coconut water and sugarcane juice, into the pre-Hispanic brew called pulque. (more…)
25 April – Roads & Kingdoms
My favorite place to eat in Mumbai is A. Rama Nayak’s Udupi Sri Krishna Boarding, a real mouthful of a name for a simple place. Set in a leafy South Indian enclave called King’s Circle, Rama Nayak’s occupies a pair of bright, breezy rooms up a flight of stairs in a nondescript building next to the Matunga Central railway station. Crowded, Formica-topped tables flank narrow aisles patrolled by a small army of lungi-clad kitchen attendants who ladle food relentlessly from small metal pails onto banana-leaf plates until you tell them to please-god-stop. (more…)
24 April – Saveur
In 2007, beekeepers across the United States noticed something strange happening in their hives: Their bees were disappearing. They left behind no carcasses or signs of disease; the honey bees had simply fled, abandoning their colonies in an eerie arthropod echo of Roanoke.
The new phenomenon was called Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, and it sparked panic across the U.S.: What would our world (not to mention our dinner tables) look like without honey bees? Beyond producing honey, Apis mellifera, our domesticated honey bees, are responsible for pollinating $15 billion worth of American crops each year, everything from kiwis to cashews to kidney beans. Our food system as we know it cannot exist without them. (more…)
5 April – Roads & Kingdoms
Alejandro Cota Maclis looks gravely at the remains of his grandmother’s garden, a five-by-fifteen-foot patch of limestone and churned dirt. At the back, grape vines lean like broken caryatids against a ramshackle fence of sticks and wire. A committee of vultures perch in the high, green tops of date palms. Behind him, an austere limestone church—the Mission of Santa Gertrudis—stands on a lonely rise in the center of the silent village. (more…)