January 29, 2010

Comfort food

Mexican power breakfast: Chilaquiles

I try to restrain myself, really, but I’m incredibly food centric. What we eat, where it comes from, the literal flavors of an experience… after my family, it would be fair to say that my life revolves around food.

Living in Mexico this past year has meant a world of new things to try, new flavors to differentiate, new techniques to understand.

It has also meant missing old favorites. I remember in high school, when we moved to Taiwan- and said goodbye to peanut butter and cheese which was more than a “food product”. When we returned to the states, a simple sharp cheddar never tasted so good!

Before we left to go cruising, my morning routine was a latte. Jamie made it for me every morning, and I’d carry it to the ferry in a steaming travel mug. It was comfort in a cup. The familiar comfort flavors I crave now? A few bites of good dark chocolate, every now and then. (My parents sent a bar of 70% chocolate for my birthday last month. Not that I worried, but I think this is proof they truly love me). A shaved bit of reggiano on a perfectly ripe tomato slice (plenty of gorgeous tomatoes around here, but you can forget the cheese. It’s… different). Basil. Lamb. Organic anything. A childhood friend of mind has a food blog, and I like to torture myself by reading about the exquisite kitchen adventures she has with her children… the ingredients I dream about finding by accident in a Mexican tienda... usually nothing we can come close to replicating down here.

Here, though, I’ve discovered a fantastic new comfort food: chilaquiles. It’s basically stale tortillas, cooked in an enchilada sauce, usually served with topped with sunny-side up eggs (if it’s for breakfast) or shredded chicken (any other time of day). A dollop of crema (which is somewhere between crème fraiche and sour cream), a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, and you have the makings of a delicious, comfort meal. Better yet: I believe I may have hooked the whole family with this new, spicier take on comfort food.

I’m told that Mexican women are supposed to learn how to make this before they get married. It’s got to be the best way to use leftover tortillas around (and we do accumulate them sometimes- those warm, fresh pillows of masa can get stale fast).

It’s ironic: in looking for a new comfort food, I think I’ve found something I’ll be hard pressed to replicate after we’ve left Mexico. I wonder what will be next?

January 23, 2010

What on earth do the kids do? Version 42.

Mostly, they have a lot of fun, making the most of their environment.

After a morning in Chamela that involved a little too much excitement (Capaz discovered their anchor had wrapped around a sunken panga, and had to untangle it by hand- freediving in 30' of water), Jamie brought the kids from around the anchorage (Capaz, Evergreen & Liberty) for some fun swinging out over the water with a line tied to our spinnaker pole.

fun & games on Totem

A few days later, down in Tenacatita, we took ourselves on a "jungle tour": cruising with our dinghies up the river behind the inner bay, winding through mangroves into an open lagoon, feeling for all the world that we had stepped into the heart of darkness.

into the heart of darkness

into the heart of darkness

There were a pile of other kid boats in the anchorage. Cue the beach party! In addition to our swabbies, the junior crews from Ohana, Oso Blanco, Sabbatical, Evergreen, and Capaz had a day of boogie boarding, sand castle building, and other water games.

kids dont' like cruising. much.

In the outer bay, nicknamed "the aquarium", we had a great afternoon of family snorkeling. Everything finally connected for Mairen, who was so excited about all the colorful fish she could barely contain herself. There are few things more entertaining than listening to a child squeal with delight through a snorkel. I didn't get any pictures of her, but when PJ and I swam back to the boats later, I did see a stunning eagle ray come ghosting past, making it look effortless to fly through the water.

Eagle ray

Amid the excitement, there's always some quiet time too.

Reading

January 14, 2010

More indelible memories

We had an amazing opportunity this past week: hands on participation in the release of endangered turtle hatchlings.

Before the release

Thanks to the effort of local volunteers and a small nonprofit, Olive Ridley turtles nesting on beaches in Banderas Bay have a stunningly better chance at survival. Nestled between mega resorts outside of Puerto Vallarta, a glorified shack surrounded by chain-link fence makes a positive dent in the future of this species. Volunteers patrol the beaches at night for signes of turtles nesting. They bring the eggs back inside the fencing for safe incubation, away from predators or the innocent but harmful curiosity of people. This time of year, the nests hatch at a rate of approximately one per day. As the turtles emerge, they are placed in a large kiddie pool for safe-keeping until the sun sinks toward the horizon. Arriving about a half hour before sunset, we were treated to in

But really? This was the real treat. Watching with wonder as these tiny turtles made their way toward the crashing surf. Watching them tumble in an oncoming wave, flip back over, and immediately resume their progress toward the water. It's hopeful, this steadfast determination to survive. Seeing joy and hope in the children's faces as they disappeared into the bay and into their future.

Go, little guys, go!

It's still only 1-2% of a given nest who are expected to reach maturity, but the numbers have improved dramatically in recent years. For us, it's another opportunity gratefully lived to teach ourselves and our children how delicate this beautiful marble really is, and how tangibly we can each have a part in making it a better place.

baby turtle release

January 7, 2010

Living the lush life in La Cruz

Pardon the radio silence, but Totem has somewhere between 1) insanely busy with, and now recovering from, the holidays and visitors and 2) soaking up the lush beauty that is La Cruz. I'm offering this bit of visual candy as a kind of apology.

Sunset in La Cruz

Thanks to an extended Pineapple Express weather system (yes, they affect us too) we've had more clouds than usual here- which translates to spectacular sunsets. This one actually included a rainbow, completely tinted pink in the sunset- one of the most amazing weather vistas I've ever seen! We've even had- gasp!- RAIN. This is unheard of, frankly. Average rainfall for this area, at this time of year, is approximately... zero. Well, we've had rain several times and even some spectacular lightning. The crew of Totem is hustling to get ourselves out of Banderas Bay (or at least, La Cruz)...posting will resume more routinely once we can extract ourselves...