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Atole – My Favorite Winter Breakfast


I know what you’re thinking, it’s May, why would I write about my favorite winter breakfast? On April 1st, my dad passed away while playing the congas. My father was a lot of things, an artist, a musician, a poet, but he was also a really great cook. My love for food has a lot do with him and his cooking. While he introduced me to so many dishes, it’s the memory of him making “atole” that I really hold dear. What’s atole? In the southern United States, you have grits. In Mexico and New Mexico, we have atole. It is usually made thick like a porridge or thin and drinkable. While you can make it using regular cornmeal, I grew up eating it made from blue cornmeal.

I am the youngest of 3 and by the time I was born, my mom was ready to go back to work, and my dad happily volunteered to be a stay-at-home dad. I was lucky to have this time with him. While I could go on for hours with memories and hilarious “dad-raising-daughters” mishaps (allowing me to dress myself – think polka dot shirts with contrasting striped pants and the ever present ” my dad did my hair” messy side ponytail) it is him making me atole that I will offer up today. After my sisters would go to school, my dad would make us breakfast and it was often our favorite – atole. No one else in the family liked it. My sisters were put off by the color, my mom didn’t like the flavor. My dad and I loved it, it was our thing. He would make it with milk, cinnamon and maple syrup (I would sneak extra sugar when he wasn’t looking).

As I grew up, he’d send me to school with a thermos of atole to drink until I graduated from high school. As time moves on, I find I am reflecting on “little” memories the most. The everyday moments we shared.

Every time I eat atole I will make a little extra for him.

So, here it is, an adaptation of my dad’s Atole:

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 cups atole (blue corn meal)
2 cups milk (less for a thicker porridge style. I subbed almond milk because reg. milk doesn’t love me anymore)
Maple syrup and cinnamon to taste (you can sub honey, agave or sugar)

Bring your water to a boil in a saucepan. Slowly whisk the Atole in, avoiding clumping.
Bring to a boil and add the cinnamon and syrup; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in milk as desired (no more than ½ cup for porridge style Atole).

You can flavor this however you want. Add vanilla? Sure! Make it savory? Why not!

 

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A Little Late But Not Forgotten

Now that I have caught you up I need to backtrack a little. I am not sure if you can recall but I had gone on a trip to the north with some girlfriends back in June dubbed the “Salta, It’s Natural” tour.

In my last post on the topic I left off when we arrived at Purmamarca

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We took our time watching the sun set on the Cerro de los Siete Colores before we began our journey of trying to find a place to shower, drop our things, and fill our bellies. Because we arrived during the low season a lot lot of places were closed but we were still able to find an affordable hostel and a restaurant with live music. While the north is known for its cazuelas (stew), tamales, and locro – you will also find a lot of llama featured on the menus.

LAMAS!!!

LlAMAS!!!

So, naturally, I had to try some.

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It was. . . dry jajaja.

It was so cold and Purmamarca doesn’t offer much in regards to nightlife so we called it a night. The nice thing about traveling during low season is there wasn’t a shortage of beds and, though it was freezing, there were plenty of blankets to go around. The next day the desert embraced us with perfect weather to explore the bazaar in the plaza.

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Purmarmca was really refreshing for me. It was nice to leave the Eurocentric Buenos Aires and get a taste of indigenous Argentino culture. I found that so much of the north reminded me of my roots and New Mexico – the use of adobe, tamales, the colors the music. It is only natural to look for the familiar in the unfamiliar, and of course it was not the same, but it was comforting and familiar.

* All images courtesy of Eva Pederson

Tourist or Traveler?

This is the question isn’t it? I feel that if you are apart of my generation you would rather swallow battery acid than associate yourself with ..”that word“. That other “t” word – tourist – shudder.

We don’t tote around in oversized ill-fitting hats, Hawaiian shirts, constantly checking to see if our money belts are still attached at our hips. (BTW checking for your money belt is a clear sign to EVERYBODY that you wasted $30 plus at REI on a money belt… jussayin.)

No, we went to the book stores to copy information out of Lonely Planet, were sized for the perfect “backpackers” backpack, and all we really need to pack is our already opened mind. Basically screaming – “Experience, enlightenment, life changing moments – I AM READY FOR YOU!!”

Sound familiar?

Yeah, to me too. I was this way, and well, I still am – a little bit. I am not big on tours, cruises, or anything with a set itinerary. But, I have come to realize that the gap between what it is to be a tourist and a traveler may not be as big as we think it is.

Is “backpacking” not just a different type “touring”. There are countless backpacking guides and websites with recommendations on where to go and what to do. Great! But, if you are following the steps of others can’t you say that you are still taking a type of tour… I am of course playing devils advocate here. But, really, let’s think about this. We are after all open-minded individuals, yes?

Aren’t both methods used for the same purpose?  We travel to escape our everyday lives. Some people want to do it in a resort with everything planned for them. Others want to get their hands dirty, get lost, risk not having a place to crash for the night – in the mystery lies the adventure, no? I know which attitude appeals to me, but whose to say that the other is wrong?

In many ways they are both a privileged way to view the world. Both are methods of “othering”. The word “local”, for example, drives me crazy. This term is popular with “backpackers” telling stories like “yeah, we were in this village and hung out with the “locals”, while showing pictures of children with torn clothes and swollen bellies. Is this not insulting? Using their poverty to show your friends and family back home how “real” of an experience you had? Do you think that maybe if that family whose straw floor you ate dinner on, if given the means, wouldn’t be eating dinner in a room much like the one you ate at growing up? Again there is no right or wrong here. Just questions.

How many times have we thought to ourselves “oh it wasn’t authentic”, or the opposite “we went to this really authentic restaurant.”

What is authentic? I am serious.

Is what you experienced in the “non-authentic” place any less of a reality? I remember sitting with a friend on a rooftop in Pushkar, India drinking a “special” lassi with these 2 Indian guys. They wanted us to teach them english while they played songs like “Hotel California”. Sure we could have walked away from that night annoyed that it wasn’t Indian enough. But what does that mean? Why do we feel like everyone in the world has an obligation to provide us with what think are “authentic” moments. For those guys, they were providing us with an environment that said “be comfortable, we are not simple, we can connect with you and your culture.”

Having grown up in a town that depends on tourism for economic survival, I know what it’s like to have visitors arrive salivating for spirituality and a sense of unique welcoming. Dripping in turquoise, deer skin, and silver they are hoping to the get the “secret password” that will make them feel invited into our community – like they belong. It is hard to not want feed into their needs. Provide them a positive glimpse into the lifestyle and maybe even offer them a seat at our table. I think the key word there is “positive”. We want to give the best impressions, and coming from a cultural that is so often misunderstood, it is important that we break those misconceptions. But even though they are sharing our food, perhaps even sleeping under our roof, they are only given access to what we consider appropriate – this would be referred to as the “front-stage of the back-stage”.

This concept isn’t mine. I was introduced to it in my Anthropology of Tourism class that I took when I was an undergrad. I can’t recall who first introduced it (I am sorry professor Kaifa) it’s a concept that stuck with me.

Imagine a restaurant. The staff is friendly and welcoming, this is a “front-stage” view. If you head into the kitchen and hear your server talking shit about you and your request for water with no ice – that is the “back-stage”. This is, of course, an over simplification of these two spaces, but I think it works. You can also think of it as public view vs private view.

It is when we make ourselves aware of these 2 spaces that we begin to question every experience. We being to question “authenticity”. Yes, someone invited you over to their home for dinner, you might ask yourself is this just a “front-stage” perspective of what I thought was a “back-stage” experience? The reality is, most of us don’t really want the “back-stage” perspective. Being jolted into reality takes away the romance of the moment.

I think the real challenge here is not to focus on “authenticity”. Not to constantly ask ourselves – is this experience “front-stage” or “back-stage”? Because in doing so you’re immediately pulling yourself out of the moment. You are behaving as a “cultural collector”. Someone who collects cultural experiences as one would stamps. In my mind these people are only doing things to say they did them, without a real desire for a deeper understanding and connection.

If we can explore these ideas of “front side” and “back side” we might begin to see the line between “tourist” and “traveler” begin blur a bit.

We can use Pushkar again as an example. I am sure back in  the ’60s some travelers came upon Pushkar and loved it. It’s secluded in the desert of Jaipur, it has the feel of a location that only “insiders” know about. Then word spread and it slowly became a mecca for backpackers. The only “problem” with this is if you are going for what you perceive is going to be an “authentic” back-stage experience you may find yourself being let down. It is overrun with foreigners, foe holy men, and stalls of trinkets. The process of cultural commodification has completely taken over and we are left wondering what once was. We could head home and talk about how sad it is that such a lovely town is overrun with tourists. We can even look back to my earlier post on Boca, and how I was annoyed that there were so many tourists. But, we can change our perspective, put down the judgment stick, and realize that what was experienced was the current reality.

Cultural commodification is the final result of traveling. What starts out as a backpackers dream will most likely result in the perfect place for a 5 star resort. So whether you associate yourself part of the traveling tribe or the tourist sect you are feeding the same monster.

I am just curious about what happens when we look closer at our journeys. Our expectations. Our perceptions. How we view ourselves and those we come in contact with. Maybe we shouldn’t  turn our noses up so quickly. Let’s be a little more self-aware. I can start today….

And let’s face it, of course there always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, no matter how you see yourself when you are exploring the world, most of the time you will only be seen as a …tourist. GASP.

“You Don’t Speak Spanish? But, You’re Latina.”

I didn’t forget about “Real Talk Sundays”, I had some technical difficulties yesterday and so I am going to be “Real Talking” into Monday – I hope you don’t mind.

Let’s start with my handle on the Spanish language – I am dangling on to it by my pinkies. I can say my Spanish is better than I thought it was, but that isn’t saying much. It’s getting better every week, but it’s still a frustrating process.

My distant relationship with my mother-tongue is a result of forced cultural assimilation and the prejudice that was prevalent in the United States, specifically Colorado, when my parents were growing up. (Let’s be real, this is just as prevalent today). As a result, the language was lost.

Growing up in New Mexico allowed me to live in an environment that nurtured my cultural identity. As I grew older, the desire to connect with my roots on a deeper level by learning Spanish burrowed deeper.

It is difficult being a young brown girl whose tongue is not split in two. You don’t really fit in anywhere. You are shunned and considered “white” by Latinos who can speak Spanish and don’t share the same historical/cultural perspective; while at the same time considered “too brown” for everyone else.

This is a topic I can go on, and on, and on about. Believe me, I have, and will continue to do so; but not here, in this post….

The pain that was created from this “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” attitude has followed me around my whole life. It has pushed me to be educated about my people. It has pushed me to educate others. It has made learning Spanish one of my top priorities.

The Spanish here, is entirely different from the Spanish I would be using if I were living in Mexico. I knew that when I decided to come here. That doesn’t bother me. I am so grateful to have this opportunity, and I am even more grateful for the incredible patience everyone has shown me and their eagerness to aid in my journey.

To be continued. . .

“Whoooo Arrre Youuuuu?”

Alright…. so I have invited you to join me on this journey. I am asking you that you be interested in my stories and musings. Yet all I have given you is a brief snippet in my “About Me” section. Is that fair? I think not. I plan on having some legit “real talk” on this blog so it’s only right that I give you some insight about who I am, where I come from etc.

I am a brown-skinned mesa girl with a love for learning and I refuse to allow my socio-economic status rule my life and what I choose to do with it. From a monetary perspective I don’t come from much and I don’t have much. But paper is just that – paper. Do I want more if it – hell yeah I do, but who doesn’t.

I come from a family of artists rooted deep in tradition and cultural pride. Hailing from New Mexico, I received my BA in Anthropolgy and Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I was the first in my family to receive a higher education as well the first to travel for long periods of time internationally.

I was raised to be open-minded, to believe in myself and to be thankful for every breath of air I am lucky enough to ingest.

I write poems. I love to eat, I love good wine, dirty martinis, and whiskey on the rocks. I am an art enthusiast. I love music that can break my heart and make me want to dance.

I believe this world is too big and yet too small to not explore. I am a curious being who always ends up learning things the hard way. I tend to jump before thinking, I can be hot-tempered and a little controlling.

I love people who challenge me – inspire me – move me etc. I love culture, I love new experiences and understandings. I have a thirst for life and damn the person who tells me I can’t do something.

Thank you for reading, following, and allowing me to share my experiences with you. I would love for this to be interactive so comment, advise, suggest etc.

Ciao! 🙂576927_10101071461649163_1446656888_n