Tuesday, March 31, 2009

2001: Oaxaca

My friends might tell you that my life moves from one great food experience to another. Certain meals: the food, the atmosphere and the company remain as fresh as the day I enjoyed them.

This one took place in a small town in southern Mexico. I was there traveling with my friend Kendra after college. We had started our trip volunteering with our church at a women's shelter in Baja. The director of that shelter gave us some items to take down to a former tenant/friend of the shelter who had moved back with her family down in Oaxaca. Reina and her two sweet little girls [who I imagine must be out of high school by now!] met us at the bus stop and we were invited to their home for lunch. Reina cooked and sold homemade tortillas for a living. How quaint we had thought! Entering their home, however, we were humbled at the apparent poverty they lived in. The family of four shared one cluttered tiny room; the kitchen was outside in the back, under a corrugated metal roof. I'm not sure if there was a bathroom.

We chatted about her girls and about the shelter up in Baja as she rolled out some fresh masa tortillas for us and cooked them up on her comal - in this case a metal garbage barrel. She served them with fresh chopped tomatoes, cilantro, salt and a little lime. The absolute simplicity of such a delicious meal was ... I can't quite think of the word I want to use: astounding? humbling? so pleasant? Either way, I haven't forgotten the meal or our sweet, hospitable hostess.