Month: May 2017

Where Barbacoa Comes From

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…)

Can We Really Eat Invasive Species into Submission

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…)

The Last Pulque Dons of Apan

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…)