Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rooftop Gardening in Mexico!

I came home from vacation to Austin last spring break to find this planter on my roof.  It was a serious dream come true and all thanks to some good friends and above all my amazing husband who painstakingly hauled a truck load of dirt from across town (bagging it himself out of a friends yard who was moving) and hauling it to the back of our house and up a ladder one big bag at a time.  Not to mention building the planter box.  I can't imagine how much sweat he poured to make this happen but I'll be forever grateful.  

We didn't know where to begin and it was late in the season so off I scrambled to Texas to smuggle back some tomato and pepper plants.  

If you notice there's also the top of a pineapple in the corner.  SERIOUSLY, to plant a pineapple, all you have to do is take the top off one you're eating and put it in dirt.  I thought it was a joke but it's totally not!  It just...freaking grows!  

We've learned a lot these past few months and have had more than a few plants cross the green-brier bridge into the compost beyond, but it's been truly, absolutely, fabulous.  

The first time eating a home-grown tomato since living back home where my mom grew them by the bushel every summer, oh man, just, it's like eating pure sunshine.  

One of the biggest surprises/benefits from this has been the enthusiasm shown by my kids.  They've planted, weeded (YEAH Mexican child labor!! Woot!) and have been over all pant shitting thrilled with the entire process. 

Daisy eats whatever comes off of the plants like a raging zombie intent on going raw - veggie style.  We usually don't make it off the roof before she's cater-pillared her way through whatever's ready to be picked.  What's a little bug poop and dust when there's no pesticides or herbicides to worry about?  Nada, eat it up kid! 

(Little baby cantaloupes!)  

I'm incredibly excited now that I have a couple of seasons under my belt and can start really planning what the next year will look like.  I feel really fortunate that we can actually plant all year long here in this climate as long as we pay attention to what is able to grow and when. 

What has truly affected me over the past months though is that every time I climb that ladder up to the roof (and have only fallen ONCE thank you very much) is that when I look across the thousand or so rooftops in every direction I'm so saddened to see nothing but concrete.  Bare rooftops.  In the community where I live where hunger is real in many families that live around me something like my garden could be a huge help for those that struggle. 

I spoke with the coordinator of the outreach program that our school runs about how EASY and truly not expensive these gardens are to build.  He was excited about what I'm doing and agreed that this could be a majorly beneficial tool for the people that live here.  We're working on some ideas on how to get the word out and that makes me feel even closer to home than ever.  

 I feel closer to my mom with this garden, feel like I'm teaching my kids about healthy eating and know that in the future I'll be able to figure out a plan on how to eek out every inch of space for the maximum output of truly organic produce. 

I feel incredibly blessed. 
I AM incredibly blessed. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cooking for a Mexican

The other day I was thinking back and remembered what the very FIRST thing I every cooked for my Mexican man was while we were still dating.  The Epitome of Single-White-Girl fancy at the time and really, mom's everywhere I imagine - the Deluxe Ortega Taco Kit.  Hard AND soft shell taco's.  I believe at the time it came with a Taco Bell seasoning packet and as far as I was concerned was the shit. 

I was so fancy that I diced fresh tomatoes, shredded lettuce, got out the shredded cheddar cheese AND super fancy thank you - a dish of sour cream. Ohhh yeaaahhh.  

Ground beef and all the fixin's, I was gonna show this Mexican man my SKILLZ.  Aaaand no.  He was quick to inform me that these were not tacos.  That tacos don't come with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce or sour cream. OR Taco bell seasoning.  Lucky for him it was the couple weeks of dating and I was already head over heals for his booty because seven years later I would tell him right where to put those tacos with the hard shell.  He did eat them though, he choked them down and I give him credit.  

Years later I understand how absolutely disgusting those flower tortillas are that somehow were totally ok living in a cardboard box for what was possibly years.  I still love a crunchy taco on my white days but shudder at the thought of those medicine-y smelling store-bought flour tortilla abominations.  

Many years have come and gone and through the God given lake of knowledge known as YouTube and a good friend and fellow blogger (FOOD blogger, hallelujia!) Leslie Limon I've come a looong way.  Rice took me a good 5 years to figure out and salsa about .... well hell, salsa is still iffy, some days amazing and other days wtf-is-this-and-why-God??  And bless me I haven't burned the beans in over a year. *PRAAAIIISSE* 

It's crazy the judgment that is placed upon women here - I don't know if it's all, but certainly the gringa - on home cooking skills.  I knew within months that I had to figure out some basics so that the family could stop worrying that he would die from hunger.  

And then there's street cred.  Basics sure, but can I make homemade mole and not Doña Maria? (check). Pozole? (check as of this last month), tortillas hecho de mano? (check but gawd whyyyyy when the tortilla shop 3 blocks away sells them for cheaper than I can make them and come hot and fresh??), and perhaps the ultimate holy grail - tamales. (check sort of, I've helped the family a couple of times and that I think counts so I say "yes" because I could do it alone, but nobody does, cuz damn.)

People don't actually drink margarita's very much here (the horror I know!) but I sure can whip up a yummy one, and they always like it, even the ladies who always claim that they don't drink (and yet end up asking for 4ths *cough*)

The kids are getting in on the action these days and are working on their tong-skills for the carne asadas (cook out).  There's also the coming of age beer-fetching that is a requizite starting somewhere around the age of 4 that they've both mastered. *sigh* That part of my hillbilly past seems to have found me even here, but they feel important and useful so that's totally what counts. So there. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mexican Culture Love Affair

Someone asked today what I love about Mexico and I began to list food items. (lol duh)  I spoke of the weather, the people, more food, and then I thought about the culture.  I felt like a rusty door being pushed creakily open after years of mis-use but still on good hinges and squeeeeekkeed my thoughts out.  

I've been here seven years.  (holy crap, shit, how? what? *cough* *(didn't fart with that cough)*) I've been here seven years and in that time the culture has beaten me up, spit me out, embraced me and then welcomed me.  Sadly I see some of my fellow Expat friends continue to be beaten up and spit out because they have not yet made the choice to go with the flow.  Getting into another culture and staying above water doesn't happen to a person, they truly must choose it.  I think I understood this and made my decision more openly/widely just a few couple of years ago.  

I've felt so much more at peace since figuring out that I'm HERE.  I'm an American here but the only American culture I brought with me is my own, I didn't bring the U.S. of A. and inoculate Mexico as I think a lot of Expats might unknowingly feel.  

People here do walk slower in the streets.  It took a long time to not power walk everywhere I went here and look like a damn weirdo doing it.  My husband noticed yesterday out loud in the mall that I do the slow walk (he still power walks), but did so with a smile.  I don't even know exactly how/when it happened but I amble along these days looking in store windows and at trees and houses and people instead of straight ahead toward my mission. 

People here get to the point - eventually.  Depending on the subject matter you might have to walk around a metaphorically pretty bush for anywhere from 20 minutes to 7 hours to get to your point.  It once took us an entire day of visiting someone's house/family just to be able to loan them some money.  Talking to parents at school about their children when their children's behavior isn't correct is a fine art and talking about anything personal with someone who isn't a close friend is sort of taboo but can be done if you walk backwards around the metaphorical pretty bush while holding one hand behind your back and holding coffee in another.  (Lol, no, it's actually a lot more difficult than that).

It would be long and impossible to list everything and what I really want to say is to stop fighting.  Maybe even your home country you've made a new friend or mate and they have their own family culture that you're beating your head up against.  The amazing part is that I've never had to give up who I am or where I came from, I don't feel jilted by any of the changes because the only true changes I've made are the ones that have made me a better person no matter what country I'm in.  

Some of the cultural things here in Mexico I will never love or respect but I don't have to fight them - unless I choose to.  I can live in peace here because I've stopped head butting like a goat and have instead, eaten it.  A little salsa and hot damn, it's pretty good.  

Friday, October 23, 2015

I am SO back!

The blog has been BRUSHED off!  New pictures, out with the old, in with the new, the beautiful, the messy the spicy!  And whatever else I can figure out to write about.  It's been so long (seven years living here!) and so many changes - babies, jobs, friends, ect. that I'm not even sure what in the world I'm going TO write about.  But hell, the kids are older, I have time now, it's time to brush out the cob-webby vagina that is this dried up blog and find something to say.

I love my life here, I love the food, I love my friends, I love the crazy arse high-jinx that people get up to here in Mexico.  

It's time.  

See ya in a few  -  Gringa