The last few days have fully cemented our love of Mexican food. From eating out less than once week in the US and Canada, we've now moved to eating out at least once a day. We've spent most of the last week in cities or near them which has given us ample opportunities to try lots and lots of new dishes. It is so different, and so much better, than the tex-mex food we'd eaten in restaurants in Europe. We camped outside the city of Puebla in the small town of Cholula. The threat of an approaching thunderstorm hurried us through the small tunnels dug by archeologists under the worlds largest pyramid.
The pyramid is still covered by trees and grass, so it doesn't look as impressive as some of the smaller uncovered ones.The Spanish built a church on top, whether this was to show their ultimate power over the subdued locals after the invasion, or if they had not realised that the hill was a overgrown ancient pyramid, no one knows.
The following day we headed off to Puebla in a taxi to have a look around and try out a new food market stuffed with vendors cooking local specialities. It gave everyone a chance to try something different. Sorry but we were too busy stuffing our faces to take photos of the delicious dishes.
Puebla was an attractive city with a pretty central square, lots of churches and pretty buildings covered in painted tiles.
We'd heard about a new campsite near Oaxaca in Tule from some overlanders in Cholula: www.overlanderoasis.com which turned out to be lovely and is a great spot for overlanders to park up and base themselves for a visit to Oaxaca. They have space for just a few vehicles but it is lovely and clean and the Canadian owners Leanne and Calvin were so welcoming. We were just settling in and checking Facebook when I saw a post from: De uma America a Outra saying "On the way to Oaxaca". They are a Brazilian couple from Canada with their 5 year old daughter Olivia. We had met them for just half an hour in Baja and had hoped to see them again somewhere on the way, especially as the girls got on so well even in the brief time they were together. I'd just pressed send on a message to them, telling them that we'd just arrived in Oaxaca too, when their camper pulled in front of the campsite. The rest of the day was spent chatting and playing.
Oaxaca is famed throughout Mexico for its cuisine, so it seemed a good place to take a cooking course. We've eaten so many delicious things but haven't a clue on how to prepare them ourselves. The Brazilians: Marcia, Andre and Olivia joined us for the 4 hour course at Casa Crespo, along with four friendly others. First, a trip to the market not only introduced us to a whole pantheon of fruit and vegetables that we'd never seen before but we also picked out the ingredients for the feast we were about to cook.
In the market we got a chance to try one of the local delicacies, grasshoppers fried in lime, chilli and garlic. Lucy was keen to give them a try but found them too garlicky for her tastes.
Back at the restaurant the meal preparation progressed at a great rate. We cooked 4 types of salsa including one flavoured with the worm that is found at the bottom of a mezcal bottle. A refreshing drink of cucumber, lime and just a touch of chilli. Guacamole, normal tortillas and tortillas flavoured with courgette flowers. Quesadillas with cheese and grasshoppers and herbs.
A special type of shrimp soup cooked with a hot stone dropped in just before serving.
The piece de resistance was the famed Oaxacan mole, Oscar the chief, rattled off about 10 different types that we could prepare but we chose the special mole for parties, wedding and funerals. This sweet, tasty sauce with a kick can be served over any type of meat. I think I counted 17 different ingredients including chocolate. It all had to be fried individually, blended and then cooked and reduced for over an hour. Luckily we had a sous chef to help with that part. It might not be the easiest thing for a quick supper after a day on the road but it was delicious.
A drink on the terrace, put us in a good mood for a delicious, long lunch. The three girls were brilliant throughout playing happily in a corner, until it was time to make the chocolate ice cream, made with rich Oaxacan chocolate, suddenly Lucy found a keen interest in the cooking process.
We staggered back to Tule with very full bellies to see the worlds widest tree in their central plaza. It is supposedly over 2000 years old and totally dwarfed the church beside it.
The following day we headed into Oaxaca to look around, it is gorgeous historic town. In the colectivo taxi in the way into town with the Brazilians again, with 7 of us we easily fill one of the shared taxis that run into town, we got talking about tamales. Steve has been itching to taste this morning snack of maize paste filled with a variety of fillings and sauces, wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. On a mission once in town as it was now nearing midday, we asked where the best place to get them and searched the nearby market to find the ladies tucked down an alley with their still warm bundles. All the different types were delicious, as were the empanadas.
We were then fully fuelled for an afternoon of churches, looking around and museums. We saw a rather fancy wedding where the helpers were dressed in beautifully embroidered Oaxacan costumes, they were happy to pose for a photo outside the church. Later the same wedding party had a band and dancers leading the guests to the reception and we managed to get close enough to see them properly once all the guests went in.