The Road To Chochoyotes

Today we spent most of the morning with our cook and companion Lourdes at her favorite market in Colonia Reforma. She showed us the places where on our previous visits to Oaxaca she had brought home the most marvelous quesos and the most flavorful pollo and camerones. She walked through the indoor market, held everyday and identified the mysterious and the interesting. She introduce us to her quesso merchant first and then we meet the pollo butcher. In front of us she trimmed the breast off of a chicken and slice it into 5 fillets, which she passed back to her assistant ( maybe her daughter ) who pounded them scaloppini thin. The whole procedure took less then 5 minutes and cost 35 pesos.

In our previous trips to Oaxaca, we had unfortunately intimate and continuous contact with the medical community, because of the condition of Bonnie’s mother. Her insurance had made it rather easy and inexpensive. But it was the level of attention, of concern and willingness to do the both small and large things (like housecalls) that had put us in mind of our childhood, growing up in the fifties, where this kind of attention was regular and normal from medicos. The Reforma Market pollo merchant put me exactly the same frame of mind. It made me remember Saturday morning shopping trips, where my mother would stick her head inside the butcher shop, call out her order ( which was regular and memorized by the butcher, but the communication, the quick repetition was really a way of saying hello, things are just fine ) and now she could return in 20 minutes and the chicken and steaks, stew meat, roast and chopped meat, would all be freshly prepared and ready as well as the gravy meat set aside separately for the sunday tomato sauce ( which was always called gravy by my grandmothers )

The skill of the Reforma butcheress was amazing but it was really the attention to our needs, and some knowledge that when we returned in a week, she would remember those needs and offer again the quick but still warm satisfaction. That the chicken was fresh and flavorful and tender were all kinda of givens. We hadn’t yet bought a bad chicken ( although earlier last years Lourdes and Bonnie had both encounter a chicken which after being prepared caused Bonnie to utter the colorful criticism “This chicken had died twice”. We had bought half a chicken in the Comsatti Friday market, which was quite good but had cost us 32 pesos. Not a great price but again the skill and attention of the butcher made me want to by from this man again. It’s really a very basic requirement of a transaction in food. Not just getting your money’s worth but getting some attention, some sanctification of the items we are going to consume in the most fundamental of ways. So many things we buy can do without this but food needs a blessing and I felt blessed the whole morning being with Lourdes and Bonnie in the Reforma market.

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