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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Truly Unusual Salad--with Graffiti!

Jícama, Carrot, and Apple Salad with Lime-Vanilla Dressing

A Truly Unusual Salad--with Graffiti!
by Victoria Challancin

I've been madly busy trying to prepare for a major trip which will take me to Paris and to Morocco, where I will lead my seventh trip to that incredible country, which somehow manages to be  a marvelous haven of peace and excitement at the same time.  And if you want to discover just why I love Morocco so much, just click here.  Maybe I'll entice you to join me next time!

Of course many of my friends are like me in that they love any excuse to celebrate--and thanks to them, I have celebrated a lot of late.  Last Saturday two good friends took me out to lunch, where, in addition to a greatly over-priced but comforting chicken pot pie, I enjoyed the most refreshing and unusual salad I have had in yeas:  grated jícama, carrot, and green apple with a hint of cilantro for color, tossed with lime juice and vanilla.  The vanilla is soft, yet haunting, offering just enough interest to evoke the question, "What am I tasting?"  A truly inspired marriage of ingredients.

As soon as I got home, I knew I had to make it, and I did.  Perfect!  And a hit.  Don't let this unique combination of ingredients put you off.  Truly, you need to just embrace this and give it a whirl.

Cook's Notes:  This salad couldn't be simpler.  If you don't have access to jícama, use grated raw beets instead.  No agave nectar?  Substitute honey.  Remember that the taste of the dressing is very subtle, so add the vanilla drop by drop.  I don't think the original salad had any sweetener either, but I thought that just a touch of agave nectar would cut the tartness a bit.  Of course, you just need to play with this as I did to make it suit your taste.  I was told in the restaurant the dressing had lime juice, which makes it very Mexican, but as I had a yellow lemon, I used that instead.  The original salad also had its veggies julienned, but I have a grater that worked faster.

Jícama, Carrot, and Apple Salad with Lime-Vanilla Dressing
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)

1 cup grated jícama (or raw beets)
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated peeled green apple
1 to 2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
3 to 4 drops of pure vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
The juice of one lemon or lime (use two limes if small)

Place the jícama, carrot and apple in a bowl with the cilantro, adding the apple last in order to retain its colo.  In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, vanilla, and agave nectar, adjusting ingredients according to taste.

A freshly graffitied wall celebrating the importance of corn in Mexican culture

Graffiti in San Miguel

Hip, edgy, modern.  All words that describe the San Miguel de Allende of today, which is a far cry from the sleepy, colonial, artist's colony I moved to almost twenty six years ago.  And while San Miguel may be hip, edgy, and modern, I certainly am not.  Oh so clearly not, as was proved when I visited a recent event that featured graffiti artists who gathered from all over Mexico to participate in the rather joyous painting of buildings in one of San Miguel's most popular neighborhoods, or barios.  

While I loved the idea of the event and the enthusiasm that accompanied it, unfortunately I didn't love most of the graffiti, which only proved to me that no matter what my own mental image of myself is, I am clearly not hip, edgy, and modern enough to appreciate this interpretation of modern Mexican life.  Or not all of it.  If you take away the giant vulture, the strange dragon, and what looks to me like Japanese cartoon characters, some of what remained was terrific.  Scroll down and tell me what you think.

A close up of the corn itself

A rather odd sea creature on the side of my favorite tiny grocery store,which I featured here in a post on a Mexican Green Grocer

Mother with child wrapped in a rebozo, or shawl, handing an offering
What started out as a rather nice jaguar...

but turned into this  (and this from one who loves skeletons)

Don't even ask me what this is...I have no idea, but wish fervently that I didn't have to see it each time I visit my grocer

The hand of the mother with child, offering a rose to the patron saint of Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe

On the wall of a mechanic's shop

Be happy I cut of the giant vulture's head

More images

Even the roughest-hewn wall got some color,this time with birds,including the beloved colibrí, or hummingbird

Some Fun Facts about Graffiti:

  • The modern word graffiti comes from the Italian; the singular form is graffito which in turn comes from the Greek word graphien, which means "to write"
  • Graffiti has existed from ancient times (I clearly remember my first encounter with really interesting graffiti in Pompei--interesting and some of it quite daring and naughty, as a friend recently reminded me)
  • Graffiti was recorded as long ago as five thousand years in cave and rock petroglyphs
  • Graffiti was frequently found on Roman architecture (Who could forget the incredible opening of the wriggling graffiti in the BBC mini series "Rome"?)
  • Graffiti performers are called "street writers" or simply "writers
  • Street writers also have their own individual "tags," or signatures that single out their work as unique
  • Spray paint is the most common tool of today's graffiti artists
  • Graffiti can be everything from simple scratch marks to elaborate murals
  • Often political in nature, graffiti can also be intended to send messages, sometimes gang-related
  • In most countries, graffiti is considered to be vandalism and is punishable by law
  • In some cities, graffiti is considered an art form worthy of books and galleries
  • Connected to pop culture (and why I am feeling so clearly "unhip), graffiti reflects popular culture and interprets current cultural trends
  • Two types of graffiti have evolved in today's world:  the "bombers," who simply want to mark as much space as they can with little thought to style, imagination, or art and the "street writers" mentioned above, who create works of unique art
  • The colst of graffiti to the London economy alone exceeds 100m pounds annually

Parting Shot:
And finally, a painting I can wrap myself around

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved'

Please do share the recipes, but ask permission before using text or photos.  Thanks!


Hotly Spiced said...

The salad sounds very interesting and I would love to be coming on that tour with you. I really need to do some traveling. I'm not a fan of graffiti either. While I can appreciate the talent, I just don't like the style and usually (as you have shown) the subject matter can be a little disturbing xx

Eha said...

That salad is so simple yet so different! Thanks for suggesting beets for those of us who may not be able to find jicama. And I would never have thought of that touch of vanilla! Looking at your graffiti exhibition I have decided that there is graffiti and graffiti. Hate the ugly stuff we too often see around our urban areas in Australia but actually very much enjoyed what you had to show! Also loved your notes on the subject. Don't basically like the idea but some of yours was so clever!! Now, don't quite know whether that makes me hip etc :) ! Talking of Morocco: once you go, lots of pictures for us stay-at-homes please!!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I think I have everything for this in my fridge-well I have beets and honey instead of jicama and agave but this sounds fantastic. I just broke my grater though so I just need to replace that ;)

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I have to say that this reminds me of the contemporary art show that I saw in Santo Domingo that was showcasing famous artists from all of Latin America...not really my cup of tea and I was an art major in college.

Nancy said...

Wow that salad looks amazing! If only I could purchase jicama here. Have fun on your trip to Paris and Morocco. One way of looking at this colorful, I like it, graffiti is that at least it isn't nonsensical gang junk. Lol:) Thanks for sharing Victoria. You always make me want to visit you and San Miguel -- un dia destos.

My Kitchen Stories. said...

Hi Victoria, love the idea of your salad and I can see why you would be so smitten. I absolutely love that graffiti. It is colourful and clever and wildly and yet still based on historical saints and facts. i would love to see it everyday, one day , one day!. You must be looking forward to that trip!!