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Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Beach, The Vendors, Street Food...and a Recipe

 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.

 Yet more...

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

I love salads and am always looking for new ways to dress them.  When I found this recipe on the Shockingly Delicious blog, I new I had to try it.  It didn't disappoint.

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

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

Parting Shot:
Art for sale in one of the local beach restaurants, Figaro's

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like life and love, recipes are meant to be shared.  But please ask permission before using text or photos.  Thanks! 


Hotly Spiced said...

I don't think I'd be any good at bargaining either. I think you need to grow up with it as part of your culture. My sister lives in Beijing and she has to bargain for anything and everything. She says it's exhausting. Love your new bowl xx

Eha said...

Thank you for taking us along to the markets and I absolutely love the shape of that salad bowl :) ! I learned to bargain in Singapore and Hong Kong in the days there tourist throngs were as yet to arrive. Wasn't bad after a while but my then darling husband always felt somehow embarrassed : 'Oh, Eha - it's not so exopensive, go pay the guy!'. So I tried to back on my own and use all my 'wiles' and ended up paying just what the salesperson knew I would :D !

Joan Nova said...

Such a funny story and I love that you're getting out and sharing your colorful environs with readers.

My Kitchen Stories said...

I loved this journey Victoria. I am like you and tend to make friends rather than make good bargaining. i like the process of spending the time, though as Charlie points out it could be exhausting if you had to do it constantly. Everything is so colourful and vibrant . I am sure you will use your bowl so much, it's a cracker!

Eha said...

OMG [yes, not allowed, but in this case SO applicable!] - the avocado with prawns - could we all not have that every day . . . ? Keep on coming back to have a look . . .

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Victoria, this was one of my favourite stories on your blog. You clearly have a wide open heart and a generous soul and I would love to learn how to bargain from you! :D

V said...

Thank you all for your kind words. Eha--the prawns were really lovely. So simply prepared and served outside, with dirt floors, and a bathroom where you had to scoop the water out of a barrel to make the toilet work! And lovely people. And Lorraine, you probably don't want to learn from me as I seem to be there merely for the entertainment of the vendors, who always make their sale!

Nancy said...

I'm horrible at bargaining with market vendors. It's mostly because they are poor people who work so hard for so little money, and I just don't have the heart to bargain prices down. I'm also not stupid and can realize when someone is trying to take advantage of me -- I walk away. Congratulations on the new gorgeous bowl and utensils. The salad sound delicious.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I enjoyed tagging along the see the vendors. I'm the same as you when it comes to bargaining. :)