On the “Complex, Beautiful Mosaic of Mexican Food”: A Conversation That Made Me Love Pati Jinich Even More
On Saturday I went to hear Pati Jinich talk about her new cookbook, Mexican Today at Omnivore Books. Pati is a Mexican cookbook author, TV show host and resident chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute in DC. I’ve always read her email newsletter and when I can I follow her TV series, Pati’s Mexican Table. But after hearing her in person, I’m like that nervous woman with her whole family in the front row cradling Pati’s first cookbook: a really big fan.
Max Rosenstock is from New Mexico, lives in the Bay, and knows the Oaxacan countryside so well I’m surprised when he hits a tope too fast. His project, Neta Mezcal, is soon to officially launch in the U.S.— and in the meantime he’s been traveling Oaxaca for years finding good mezcal. He reminds me of my Bay boy friends because he’s all brains and jokes under a hoodie and baseball cap, but unlike most of my friends, when Max rides up he’s got a trunk full of exceptionally good mezcal, ceramics and textiles. (I would like more friends like this). Here are some notes from heading to palenques with him.
I met José Luis Diaz at his restaurant, Chilhuacle Rojo, in the Oaxaca centro. He has a deep voice, two chile pepper tattoos on his forearm, and uses yadadayadayada to finish out many of his sentences, but never— as I noticed during our breakfast tasting menu— when describing a dish. Breakfast here was one of my best meals in Oaxaca. It was thoughtful with the pacing, our palates, and especially in the selection of ingredients.
The days of the week in Oaxaca are told by market days. Sunday is Tlacolula, Friday is Ocotlán, Thursday is Zaachila, and Wednesday is Etla. These are the days when there is tiangis, meaning people from the area come to surround the permanent market and sell anything from turkey eggs to cell phone cases. Usually you can find stuff to do afterwards in each town (artisans or murals to visit for instance). But usually there isn’t a textile mill turned arts center and a paper factory on top of the hill. Etla is 30 minutes from Oaxaca, and well worth the colectivo ride.
The morning in Latuvi smelled like fire and smoke, and purple shadows draped over the curves of the Sierra Norte as I looked out from the balcony. At night the trumpet-shaped brugmansia flower was so fragrant it wandered down the stairs towards the cabin. It would be more romantic if the roosters crowed in the morning, but they crowed all the time.