The Weekly Newsletter
Menus and Stories for July 18 - 23, 2005

My summer vacation
Here are the "Danzantes" with their feathered head dresses, each weighing about 20 pounds. The dancing lasted for about 7 hours and happened on four different days, I think. All of this dancing was a part of a major festival in the village of Teotitlan de Valle, in the state of Oaxaca, in Mexico.

Market finds
Hibiscus flowers get made into a lovely and sweet drink ("agua fresca"). The squash blossoms get filled and fried, the Hojo Santa leaves become wrappers for tidbits of this and that, and the choyote squash, the green fellow in the upper left, becomes a crisp and delicious salad.

The Procession
Each panel is held on a young woman's head for a 45 minute-long march around the town. (YOU try holding something on your head with your arms up in the air for 45 minutes!) Little girls hold smaller baskets with tiny pictures of a saint. Boys get to carry long cane fronds or pinata-like creations. The march is led by, and is followed by, a brass band, two of four full-sized brass bands in this one small village.

Dinners to go
Dinners come with a freshly-made green salad, salad dressing of the day,
and made-right-here bread of the day. We take reservations until noon or so.
Please order by phone (252-1500), by FAX (252-02002)
or stop in to speak to one of us in person.

Dinners are ready at 4:30 and can be picked up until we close at 6:00 pm.

Monday July 18 Lemon Parmesan Chicken with Rosemary Potatoes 10.00
Tuesday July 19 Beef Tips with Portabella Mushroom Wild Rice 11.25
Wednesday July 20 Molasses BBQ Ribs and Fresh Vegetable Slaw 10.50
Thursday July 21 Chicken Monterrey 10.00
Friday July 22 Moroccan Shrimp, Couscous, and Gingered Carrots 12.25

Our website

Casserole of the week
We make a special casserole each week on Wednesday. Please give us a call by the end of the day on Tuesday and we’ll fix yours for you. Come by between 4:30 and 6:00. Get a half (for 4 appetites) or a full sized pan (for 9 or so.)

July 20
Spanish Chicken and Chorizo Paella
half 18.75/ whole 37.50

A Zapotec 1st course
Here are some little corn husk "Chalupas" (boats) filled with "nopalitos" which are marinated cactus leaves. The little green bites are drizzled with a bit of a marinade and a crumble or two of a lovely, freshly-made, local cheese.

Los "Angelitos"
Imagine a teenage boy skipping like mad around the plaza with screaming, whizzing firecrackers exploding from these bamboo forms. It becomes quite exciting as the fellows veer in bigger, wilder circles, the sparks coming frighteningly close to the crowd. All is a prelude to the midnight firework extravaganza with very loud and very close and VERY big explosions. Oh my!

Ceremonial candles
These intricate wax beauties are hand-made in the village. We watched the sweet couple dip long wicks into a big copper vat filled with melted bee's wax, creating a 3 foot long taper. The flowers are made, one petal at a time, and then carefully assembled - all by hand.

The church's altars are covered with them for the
Festival of the Precious Blood. All in all, quite mesmerizing.

A Note from Laurey
July 16, 2005

Whew! What a time it has been. I must say that the speedy travel of a plane can be disconcerting (not that travel is necessarily quick these days, with delays and cancellations and such.) I mean, just three days ago I was in Mexico in a quiet village tucked into ancient and sacred mountains.

The Zapotec people spent a lot of time looking for a spot to settle and, following the words that appeared to them, found a place on the slopes of a sharp pinnacle of rock. They were looking for the sacred place where Venus and the moon and big blue birds appeared all at the same time. The whole package appeared to them after a time of searching: herons flew under a full moon with Venus hovering nearby. They settled in and have been there ever since.

I felt quite at home there. Blue Herons appear to me from time to time, guiding me along. It seemed like I had landed in a new place that felt curiously familiar.

We tasted, looked, learned, visited the markets and got a tiny introduction to this lovely place. It was festival time, as you can see from the pictures. One of four major village festivals held each year, everyone was out and filled with the spirit of it all. It took a bit of getting used to for us, since every event was “announced” by gigantic firecrackers, the kind that whistle for three or four seconds and then explode with huge “Ka-BOOMS!” And, since everyone has work to do during the day, nothing even starts until the late afternoon, but it doesn’t stop until late, late at night. Oh, many events are accompanied by a brass band, even at 5 in the morning! If there is no band, a couple of drummers fill in, marching the saint around the plaza to a lively beat – often before sunrise! I finally got used to it all, but by then it was almost time to come back here – not to mention that the festival was over by then.

One of the sweetest things, however, more memorable than the food or the visual feasting, was the way that the people there greet each other. This greeting crossed all lines, old and young. Yes, the young people greeted their elders with a great deal of respect, but younger people gave the greeting to their peers too.

Here’s how it went: whenever anyone came upon another person, the newcomer would extend both hands, cupping them softly, palms together. The person who was being greeted would extend a single hand, laying it into the cupped, outstretched hands of the newcomer. A quiet whisper of “sh’a” was said, a tiny nod of acknowledgement, and on the greeter continued, cupping and greeting everyone who was already there. “Sh’a”, like “namaste,” perhaps, is a soft and spiritual greeting, at least it seemed so to me. As I watched these greetings, I felt quiet inside myself, drawn in by the slow and reverential salute. Why are we so quick, so harsh, so abrupt? Wouldn’t it be nice to slow the pace, really stop and really greet?

Ah yes, it was a fine time. I love bright colors and markets and food and so, all in all, it was a grand thing to be in this place that was so unusual and yet so welcoming. One day we traveled to the mountains and ate potato and corn tortillas, popping them into our mouths as soon as the cook took them off the “comal” the fire-powered griddle in her cabin’s kitchen. There was a gas stove too, but the cook preferred the hand-ground, hand-molded, hand-cooked-over-a-fire version of things, and so did we. She made us hot chocolate too, whipping up a froth of foam with a wooden beater and topping it off with a bright red, spicy cap of peppers and such.

Back here the berries are in full swing. I’ll be making blackberry jam next week, blueberry soon after. The stands at our tailgate market are full of fat carrots and beets, greens and tomatoes too, though the non-stop rain has taken its toll, I hear. The vendors' outfits are not nearly as exotic as the ones in the Oaxaca valley, but I do feel happy and lucky to be here in this fertile area of the world.

Chris was with me on this trip, graciously showing me one of her favorite parts of the world. We are now talking about having a special dinner here, her taking the lead on the cooking, though I'll pitch in too. I brought a couple of the key ingredients home with me, so keep your eye out for our announcement of this special meal, sometime in the fall of “A Taste of Oaxaca.”

(By the way, you say “Wa-HA-ca.”)


A salty snack
Okay, "Chapulines" are these little fellows. Look closely - yup - grasshoppers! They are nibbled, sprinkled, ground, enjoyed with a cocktail.

I DID try one but they were not my favorite. I guess its not much different than a potato chip. Wait a minute. Yes it is! Ah well. To each his own.

Contact Info:
"Gourmet Comfort Food"
Eat In - Take Out - Catering
67 Biltmore Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801


Monday - Friday 10:00 - 6:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 - 4:00 pm

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