Multicultural cooking

img_7422It’s Mookie’s cooking night, and she asked to make potato blintzes. Bubbe, take note! How many generations of blintz-makers is this? I hope no great-great-grandmothers will turn in their Old Country resting places due to our adding herbs to the mashed potatoes. Mookie served them with the green bean recipe she developed herself, and the meal was delicious.

While posing, she took care to display the band-aid on her left arm. Every cook has stories of injuries endured in the course of duty, and this one is a burn on her arm where she accidentally touched it to the edge of the frying pan when we were making the crepes. Ow. It will have stopped hurting by morning. This meal was also notable for her having faced her fear of the immersion blender. She’s never said a word about the one we have at home, but this one freaks her out. Maybe it is louder. She used it anyway.

img_7420It turns out that the comal, so common in Mexican homes and for that matter on the streets of Oaxaca, is the perfect device for the final stage of blintz-making. Here in the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Eastern European Jewish and Mexican cooking meet. Yum.

Disadvantages of Oaxaca (English version)

(I wrote this last week as a Spanish assignment. The Spanish version is here.)

Mookie loves Oaxaca, but she misses her friends. I would too. It’s easier for me and Mookie’s Mommy; we each brought our best friend along, and many of our other friends are people with whom we usually communicate by phone and internet even when we are in San Francisco, so we don’t miss them more than usual. It’s different in the case of a nine-year-old girl who is accustomed to seeing her friends daily in person, not on Facebook.

She was hoping that at least one of her friends would come for a visit, but the summer went by, and now they have returned to school. At first, when we suggested that she chat with a friend via Skype, she said no–clearly, Skype doesn’t come up to standard. She wants to play together and show them her current house. But we set up some Skype calls anyway, and now she really likes seeing her friends that way.

Mookie also misses Japanese food. For one dinner, I made miso soup (free advice: nori cannot substitute for wakame–it falls apart), and Mookie made sushi for another dinner, but they didn’t come out like they do in a restaurant. But yesterday, Joy found a Japanese restaurant here in Oaxaca! We are going there for lunch today.

Desventajas de Oaxaca (versión en español)

(I wrote this last week as a Spanish assignment. The English version is here.)

A Mookie le encanta Oaxaca, pero ella echa de menos a sus amigas. Yo haría lo mismo. Es más fácil para mi y para la Mami de Mookie; nosotras dos trajimos a nuestra mejor amiga, y muchos otros de nuestros amigos son personas que nos comunicamos usualmente por teléfono e internet aún cuando estamos en San Francisco, entonces no los echamos de menos más de lo usual. Es diferente en el caso de una niña de nueve años que esta acostumbrada a ver a sus amigas en persona cada día, no por Facebook.

Ella estaba esperando que al menos una de ellas viniera para una visita, pero el verano pasó, y ahora han regresado a la escuela. Al principio, cuando sugerimos que ella charlara por Skype con una amiga, dijo no–claramente, Skype no cumplía el nivel exigido, porque ella quería que ellas jugaran juntas, y quería mostrarles su casa actual. Pero organizamos unas llamadas por Skype en todo caso, y ahora a ella le gusta mucho ver a sus amigas de esa manera.

Mookie tambien extraña la comida japonesa. Para una cena, yo hice sopa de miso (consejo gratis: nori no puede sustituir al wakame–se descompone), y Mookie hizo sushi para otra cena, pero no salieron como los de un restaurante. Pero ayer, ¡Joy descubrió un restaurante japones aquí en Oaxaca! Vamos a ir allí para el amuerzo hoy.

(Muchas gracias a Lázaro Rojas Rodríguez de la Spanish Immersion School)

Rey de las abejas

On the last day of Mookie’s curso de verano (day camp) at a local Montessori school, she was in a patriarchal little production about the king of the bees. Why do people insist on thinking about bees as male (I’m looking at you, Jerry Seinfeld)? The choosing of the queen, now that could be a matter of some drama. The choosing of the king bee, who then gets to depose the old queen by choosing a new one? Not actually a thing.

Despite all this, we were proud that our Mookie had the role of the king bee. This was particularly impressive since she was the only child in the program for whom the production was not in her native tongue. On the other hand, it appeared that she was also the only one who’d been in plays before, so her familiarity with saying one’s lines loudly and slowly and facing the audience at all times might have landed her the part.

Here, the king-bee-to-be sits reading as court dramas unfold all around him:


The staff insisted that the costumes not involve anyone buying anything. Now that is economic equality in action–though of course, some people have more costume-appropriate stuff at home than others. There were many, many tutus and butterfly wings in evidence. Being far from home, we didn’t have any of those things lying around the house, but Mookie fashioned an excellent crown decorated with bees–not pictured here, since she hasn’t been crowned yet in this scene–and the costume she is wearing was put together by the kids and staff.

I love this picture:



We had a day of serendipity today. The Guelaguetza, Oaxaca’s huge, multi-week annual fiesta, is underway. Joy and I had planned on picking Mookie up at her day camp and going on to a mole festival–that’s the distinctive sauce for which Oaxaca is famous, not the small burrowing rodent–and carried on with the plan even though it was starting to drizzle. But the festival was sold out. Instead, we tried out a Chinese restaurant (rating: adequate enough that we’ll go back), visited a couple dozen artisans’ booths, saw a couple of things we might not be able to resist buying even though they’re expensive–an alebrije of La Catrina, a really gorgeous traditional dress for Mookie–and happened on a terrific parade, with floats on flatbeds and people throwing candy, plastic toys, gourd bowls, and olives into the crowd. We know about the olives because Mookie was tossed a bag of them.

And in the Friday market in El Llano, a.k.a. Juarez Park, there was a booth selling jewelry and henna tattoos. Mookie and I both said “ooh!” Three years ago, when I got one at a fair, she didn’t like it at all–she disapproved of my changing something about myself, the way she does when I henna my hair–but this time she led the way. She chose a twining vine with butterflies and I chose a lizard. They’re not actually blurry, but this was attempt #17 with my left hand and enough was enough.

IMG_7097One day she will probably get a real tat, unless fashions have moved on and there’s some other form of body alteration that grabs her instead. And I will cry. (No, I’m not anti-tat; I just have a strong attachment to her body the way it is and don’t want to see it altered. It’s indefensible. Never mind me. Just hand me a hanky and move along.) But I will have only myself to blame.