Mariachi Coconut Mask Dolls in the La Manzanilla Friday Market
The Beach, The Vendors, Street Food...and a Recipe
by Victoria Challancin
Still basking from the afterglow of a week at the Mexican beach town of La Manzanilla in Jalisco, I thought I'd show you today a few more photos and give you a new recipe I am displaying in a beach purchase.
I wish I had a better photo of Isobel, but I didn't want to ask and thus took this from across the street
Isobel and Bargaining
Having lived in the Middle East for so many years, leading annual trips to Morocco, and just generally having poked about in markets all over the world, you'd think I'd be a great bargainer. Clearly, that isn't always the case. But I am a happy shopper, and I make lots of friends with my efforts. And I am never afraid to be silly or poke fun at myself.
Every where I travel, it seems I make market or souk friends. Probably because I look like an easy mark, or just possibly because I approach them with an open heart and a lot of curiosity. Isobel is just such a new friend. From the Mexican state of Guerrero, Isobel is proud of her wares, with good reason. Our conversation, which was in Spanish, though it is the not the native language of either of us (Isobel is a Nahuatl speaker and also proud of that). Here is a sample of conversations with Isobel.
While strolling near the alligator reserve, I spotted this gentle woman selling wooden objects, which were lovingly spread out on the ground on a mat. Knowing I wanted a salad bowl, but without any money on me, we started what I imagined would be the bargaining. So wrong. So wrong.
Me: Your wares are so beautiful. Are they from here?
Isobel: No, they come from the state of Guerrero, where I was born.
Me: The wood is so beautiful, what kind is it?
Isobel: In Nahuatl, my language, it is called caüba de zopílotle.
Me: Caüba de zopílotle?
Isobel: No, caüba de zopílotle. (Correcting me--clearly I don't have the fine nuances of Nahuatl).
Me: (Hoping to dazzle her with my smattering of terms...) I only know a few words in Nahuatl, mainly cooking terms like ahuacatl, chilli, xocolatl, xitomatl, and epazotli (avocado, chile, chocolate, tomato, and skunkweed).
Isobel: (Smiling, but clearly unimpressed) Yes, we use epazotli in our beans.
Me: (Having failed to astound her with my boundless food terminology in her language, I started on the bargaining). How much is this piece? How much is the small bowl? How much is the rectangular one with the three bowls?
The larger salad bowl, the one I had my eye on, was 230 pesos. I told her I had no money with me, but that I would come back or see her in the market and then she could give me a good price. A good price for me! We were both all smiles. We had bonded over language, once again probably over my poor use of it.
At the Friday Market, I found Isobel and after some general pleasantries, I asked her for my good price on the large salad bowl.
Isobel: Three hundred fifty pesos.
Me: (Yikes, I am going backwards!) (Laughing, I plunged on) But Isobel, you told me 250 before!
Isobel: No, that was for the small one. This one is 350.
Me: (Feigning shock) No, no, it is the same size as before. What about the other one with the three bowls?
Isobel: That is 150.
Me: One fifty? You told me 135!
Isobel: (removing one of the spoons from the set) For 150 you can have it with two spoons.
Me: Isobel! What good will it do me with two spoons? It looks like a poor orphan, alone and naked with only two spoons!
The vendor at the next stall hooted and said he would like to learn to bargain from me. I said, "I don't know why. I haven't gotten a deal yet!
Both smiling, we sealed our deal. I paid the original price of 230 pesos for the bowl and 135 for the rectangular piece (that's about US$18 for the bowl and $10 for the 3-bowl piece with THREE spoons). Not one peso less than she originally asked. I was happy. She was happy. And another day of unsuccessful bargaining was completed. And of course, later she found me on the beach and presented me with a keychain as a gift, a sure sign I had paid "too much" in the eyes of some. For me, it was lovely generosity from a lovely woman. I'll look for Isobel again. And practice my Nahuatl beforehand
Hand-blown Mexican glass
Car plate signs seem to be popular all over
More silliness in the form of Coconut Mask Dolls
Mexican artists love to make art out of found pieces of wood. It was the bowl that caught my attention.
Frying pecans to make a praline-like sweet
Rolling cigars with a blur of fingers in action
Fresh oysters and clams from a street vendor in nearby Melaque
What do you eat on fresh seafood in Mexico? Cilantro, guacamole, salsa, onion, tomato, more chiles, and crema with spices
Each morning we passed a vendor frying carnitas or pork belly. My husband and sister-in-law were horrified at the smell. I was intrigued and thankful for the taste they gave me. Utterly delicious!
Local fish tacos from the food truck
Avocado stuffed with shrimp--one of the best meals I had at the beach, from Yoli's
Salsa, crackers, and tostadas--always served with seafood here in Mexico
My new salad bowl, purchased from Isobel
Cook's Notes: The original recipe calls for Pixie tangerines, but as we don't have access to them, I substituted regular tangerines. The greens were simply a base for sampling the dressing; obviously, you could amplify this salad any way you wish. Add tomatoes, jícama, avocado, radishes, shrimp, chicken, and practically any fruit you might normally add to a salad, such as strawberries, pear, melon, papaya, apple, star fruit, mango, or use your imagination. In fact, this would be a terrific dressing on any pure fruit salad. Light, refreshing, tart-sweet, this dressing makes a wonderful addition to your repertoire of salad dressings.
Recipe: Tangerine Dressing
(Recipe Adapted from a recipe by Malibu caterer Diana Temple via shockinglydelicious.com)
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
1 1/2 tablespoon honey (or agave)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Grind of fresh pepper, or to taste
Zest of 2 tangerines
1/4 cup tangerine juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Add mustard through rice vinegar to a blender container and blend for 15 seconds until combined. With blender running, add oil in a slow, steady stream until the dressing emulsifies and holds together.
Taste and adjust for salt, pepper, tartness, and sweetness.
Makes about 1 1/3 cups.
My new salad bowl again, with a tangerine that contributed it's zest
Art for sale in one of the local beach restaurants, Figaro's
©Victoria Challancin. All Rights Reserved.
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