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Hound Dog

Oct 7, 2009, 8:58 PM

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Tamal Nights, Brilliant Days

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Saturday night in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas is tamal night and women all over this colonial city of maybe 130,000 souls hang out red lanterns signifying that they are selling homemade tamales and, perhaps, some other accompaniments to all who stop by their homes and damn are those tamales great when they are good. One will usually find three types of tamales. Asafran, mole and bolas. Asafran and mole tamales are enclosed in banana leaves and thin, flavorful masa whereas bolas are thicker and more filling tamales encrusted in what I consider to be an excessive amount of corn flour and wrapped in corn husks. Our two favorites are the asafran and mole which capture the flavor of the banana leaves and consist normally of chicken or pork in delicate turmeric based or Chiapas mole sauces and tortilla wrappings and along with a cold XX Lager cannot be beat for a Saturday night treat at home around the breakfast table.

Actually, a not-untypical Chiapanecan breakfast might consist of a tamal with eggs in various styles accompanied by a spicy salsa cruda and a local cafe de olla which is really a large cup of coffee boiled and served hot with perhaps some cinnamon and sugar and while this is something of a local redneck tradition, it is a fine way to start the day. If one has higher standards in Chiapas coffee prepared in espresso fashion with steamed milk, well one can simply walk a couple of blocks in this walker´s town and there you have it or a couple of blocks more and have at it again.

After a fine coffee and tortilla repast, one can stroll down any one of several pedestrian streets past splendid old colonial buildings a few blocks to the main plaza known locally as El Jardin and, at any time passing, may come upon the San Cristóbal municipal marimba orchestra at 8:00AM or so in concert or any number of other surprise events some of which taking place seemingly at random some of which may portend civil unrest or army muscle flexing and that´s what makes it entertaining and, pehaps a bit edgy but that´s OK is it not? Edgy towns are Dawg´s redoubt.

The morning sun in San Cristóbal at about 7,000 feet after a possibly gloomy fog-bound start of the day until about 10:00AM is brilliant and crystal clear in high mountain air when rain clouds do not interfere and by noon one can experience the phenomenon of bathing in warm, embracing sunlight on the sunny sides of streets while feeling the chill on shady thoroughfares. The clarity of the air and accompanying clarity of sound must be experienced to be understood. The pollution is normally at ground level where little care is taken toward waste disposal and rat´s carcasses are only removed in time but I say just avoid looking down and never drink the tap water. Multicolored colonial buildings take on a special brilliant tone in the exquisite high mountain light. A fine place.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Oct 7, 2009, 9:12 PM)



Maritsa


Oct 8, 2009, 4:11 AM

Post #2 of 8 (3087 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Tamal Nights, Brilliant Days

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I'm here in NC but you took me back to Chiapas real quick as I read your post. I was farther south, in Motozintla, but I remember my first night. The roosters starting crowing about 3:00 AM, and when I couldn't sleep I walked outside and sat in the dark, listening to them crow back and forth, following the shadows made by the breeze through the milpa, and watching the lights of Motozintla come on, one by one. I really miss it. Think I could spend the rest of my life there. Maybe I will.


La Isla


Oct 8, 2009, 10:47 AM

Post #3 of 8 (3052 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Tamal Nights, Brilliant Days

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Oh, Hound Dog, this most recent post of yours made me want to drop everything (including my laptop, which is on its last legs anyway) and move to San Cristóbal. Since that precipitous change of residence just might not happen in the near future, maybe I should start planning a trip to that most mysterious of Mexican cities, San Cristóbal. You're right, there is definitely an edge, sometimes a sad edge, to the place, and that's what makes it so fascinating. I'm going to save your post in my travel-planning e-file. I can almost taste the tamales, my favorite Mexican dish, especially the ones wrapped in banana leaves. Here in Mexico City I buy them often from the vendors who troll the streets for customers while the recorded message on their bicycles calls out "¡Tamales oaxqueños calientitos, deliciosos...!" I wonder how the "tamales chiapanecos" differ from these...


Zorba

Oct 9, 2009, 9:17 AM

Post #4 of 8 (2997 views)

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Re: [La Isla] Tamal Nights, Brilliant Days

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Sounds wonderful. Love the tamales. El queso de doble crema no esta mal either mate. Personally, I froze my ass off on a second class bus into San Cristobal.


Hound Dog

Oct 9, 2009, 1:57 PM

Post #5 of 8 (2967 views)

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Re: [Zorba] Tamal Nights, Brilliant Days

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Sounds wonderful. Love the tamales. El queso de doble crema no esta mal either mate. Personally, I froze my ass off on a second class bus into San Cristobal.

Hey, Z:

I said San Cristóbal had an edge and I was being diplomatic and if one is looking for comfort and tranquility that ain´t the place. One reason San Cristóbal has not as of yet achieved UNESCO World Heritage status although it is headed there, is that the city is surrounded by congested hardscrabble hillside favellas occupied by the disenfranchised desperately poor expelled from surrounding indigenous enclaves for political and religious insurrectionist tendencies and the Jovel Valley is not the place for anyone seeking to convince themselves Shangri La is a place where human confrontation turns to mush. In fact, oddly enough, in places of extraordinary beauty and historical isolation, human relations tend to be at least as complicated as down on the farm.

But you know that and I appreciate your wry sense of humor. Forget the buses. I nearly froze my ass off in hospitals and diagnostic labs just trying to survive a terrible ailment which I did temporarily at least. Disneyland Jovel ain´t.

I never promised you a rose garden.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Oct 9, 2009, 2:05 PM)


Carron

Oct 10, 2009, 8:35 AM

Post #6 of 8 (2911 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Tamal Nights, Brilliant Days

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Coldest and most intimidating place this New Orleans gal has ever been is San Cristobal. Not to say it doesn't have its pleasurable moments. Spend the day in bed with a fire in the fireplace. Except most of the places we ever stayed did not have heat. A very long hot shower is the best antidote against the chill.


Hound Dog

Oct 10, 2009, 12:31 PM

Post #7 of 8 (2894 views)

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Re: [Carron] Tamal Nights, Brilliant Days

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Coldest and most intimidating place this New Orleans gal has ever been is San Cristobal. Not to say it doesn't have its pleasurable moments. Spend the day in bed with a fire in the fireplace. Except most of the places we ever stayed did not have heat. A very long hot shower is the best antidote against the chill.

Good stuff Carron:

When we retired to Mexico in 2000.our friend who lived on the Bon Secour River on Alabama´s Gulf Coast said to us, "Are you out of your mind? You don´t speak Spanish and they´ll cut your throat.I responded that he had informed us he was moving from Mobile to the New Orleans Garden District, a most dangerous place if there ever was one and his concern for us as we established residence in Mexico, seemed a bit unfounded especially since he was moving from the Mobile area to New Orleans, arguably the most dangerous conurbation in the United States (prior to that hurricane)outside of Detroit and his response was, "That´s OK, we have armed guards on every street to protect us."

A fool´s paradise is mostly inhabited by fools.


Carron

Oct 12, 2009, 1:27 PM

Post #8 of 8 (2831 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Tamal Nights, Brilliant Days

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For many of my younger years I lived in the Garden District. Just read where Anne Rice, vampire lover and authoress extraordinaire, has moved from New Orleans to California after a temporary intermediate stop (and probably a terribly bland one at that) at a gated subdivision in Metairie. Gag me!!

The lady should move to San Cristobal for the "coolest" inspiration.
 
 
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