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Monday, January 28, 2013

Part II: Las Rancheritas and the Food

My greedy plate:  Taco, tamal, chile relleno de queso, chongos en salsa, taquito or flauta, cactus salad, and salsas (with rice and beans below)

Part II:  Las Rancheritas and the Food
by Victoria Challancin

For over twenty-five years, Mexico has filled my heart to over-flowing.  The people, marked by that special generosity of spirit that graces them, dazzle me.  Over and over and over again.  Last Thursday at a fund-raiser, I experienced yet again, that great rush of appreciation I feel for being able to live, participate, and have my being in this amazing culture.  Here is Part II.

In my last post I wrote about a truly wonderful luncheon that I attended as a member of Mujeres en Cambio, a non-profit organization that works to enhance the lives of women living in the rural communities surrounding San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  As I said in that post, this grass-roots organization mainly works to raise money for scholarships, but also assists an incredible group of motivated women with their rug-hooking cooperative (click here for information and beautiful, poignant photos of the women and their families taken by photo-journalist Charlotte Bell).  

Last Thursday, as a fund-raiser, the women of the cooperative provided a beautiful comida, or lunch, for about 50 people, who bought tickets to support Mujeres en Cambio.  This was a true Mexican celebration, complete with music, donkey rides, authentic food, and joy.  Joy all around--on the part of the guests as well as the women who provided it.  Marking the 18th year of Mujeres en Cambio's existence as well as the inaugural opening of the Rancherita's, as they call themselves, new store, it was a celebratory day in every way.  And as an added bonus, the women were able to sell many of their products to the luncheon guests, who were charmed with the work and with the women.  

The Menu:
I should have taken notes, but this is the bulk of the menu of what the women served as I remember it:

  • Tamales made with rajas, or strips of roasted poblano chiles
  • Several guisados, or stews, made of beef and chicken
  • Chiles Rellenos, battered and fried poblano chiles stuffed with cheese and served with a tomato caldillo
  • Hard (fried) cheese tacos (large and small)
  • Flautitas,  little flutes of fried tortillas stuffed with various things
  • Nopalitos,  nopal cactus salad
  • Tortitas de Papa, fried potato patties
  • Several kinds of Mexican rice (red, white, and green)
  • Beans
  • Chongos, or curds, cooked in sauce
  • Salad of cucumbers, avocados, and tomatoes--with lime
  • Fresh, hot homemade tortillas, in two colors, blue and yellow
  • A variety of salsas (no Mexican meal would be complete without these condiments)
  • Purified water, of course
  • Agua de Jamaica, Hibiscus fruit water, or drink (I wrote about Aguas Frescas here)
  • Agua de Guayaba, Guava fruit water, or drink
  • Atole de Vainilla, a hot vanilla-scented cornmeal drink

 Nopalitos: a salad of cooked nopal cactus with fresh tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and serrano chiles

 The ubiquitous pot of ranch beans

 More beans and a salsa for the stuffed chiles

 Salad plates on each table--note the sprinkle of chile on the cucumber, always--and with lime juice, a must
 A steaming pot of vanilla atole, a rich cornmeal drink

Agua de Jamaica, ice, and Agua de Guayaba

 A pot containing homemade blue corn tortillas (the women slake the corn and grind their own masa,  or dough--a time-consuming process) topped with a tortilla cloth

 Another pot containing yellow corn tortillas, made with the same love, covered with another pretty cloth

 The women asked MEC to put up a sign that says:  We practice safe food-handling   All veggies purified  (very important here in Mexico)--and the women kept bottles of anti-bacterial in evidence on the serving table

 One of the many plant centerpieces--note the photo of the fabulous calaca, or skull which was featured on a rug

The women of the co-operative, ready to serve the meal

 A special carrot birthday cake Mujeres en Cambio ordered to celebrate their 18th year 

And the Village Participates...
In addition to the store, which sells only items made by the Rancheritas Co-operative, the villagers added a few things they made for sale and lovingly and with hope, placed them on the small stone wall in front of the new store.  Many of the men of this village, in addition to being subsistence farmers, work as stone carvers when they can.

 A stone turtle atop a corncob trivet

 An embroidered pillow with the Virgin of Guadalupe

 A home made stone plant holder with local plant, a stone turtle and another corncob trivet

 And I just had to purchase this whimsical corncob rosary with a cross made from cactus parts 

 Donkey rides were provided as well

A True Mexican Fiesta!

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Please ask permission before using photos.  Thanks!


Charlotte Bell said...

These are amazing. Please send me copies for their promotion. Just fabulous.

Eha said...

What a delightfully happy occasion to which I have to return. Of all the cuisines of the world I probably know the least about Mexican, and so have to learn to put names to ingredients. And if the two of us had been together near the table selling that corn-cob rosary, it would have been a grabbing-fest :) ! And God did bless you with fine weather! Now to go back and see whether Part One did travel the pond during everything going haywire here :) !

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

A wonderfully colourful celebration! The food looked wonderful and the cake was such a beauty too! And the warmth of the people, well that just completes a celebration :D

Hotly Spiced said...

I love the roses on the carrot cake. Just gorgeous! I would put a lot on my plate if I had that array of cuisine put in front of me too - looks amazing xx

Joan Nova said...

Wonderful. I remain so impressed with these women and the project.

Thanks for sharing.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I enjoyed your two part visit to Las Rancheritas. Such a nice celebration to attend. said...

I enjoyed reading the post. I have a few friends here in New York that are involved in the growth of women in Mexico. I passed your email to one of them.

Victoria Challancin said...

Thanks so much. The work has brought me so much satisfaction for over 18 years. Hard to explain.