On Measurements and Mexico

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

On Thursday morning I'm off once again to Mexico to visit staff members who have returned home. This particular trip is the result of a wedding invitation colliding with an airline voucher that is about to expire. This will be my third wedding, but somtimes I go just to hang out. I love doing this. It never ceases to amaze me that although every single thing appears different, we are so very much alike. This trip I will be visiting Luis Ortega and his family in the city of Celaya in the state of Guanajuato. The family owns a butcher shop. One of Luis' little brothers, Camino, is getting married. I pointed out that I hardly knew Camino, but Luis said that it didn't matter. "Ven a la fiesta."

Preparing for this trip makes me think back a few years to when I trained my first Spanish speaking pastry chef. Having wet and dry measurements never made any sense to me and furthermore, I was preparing to teach someone who was used to working with metrics. I decided to switch all our dessert recipes to our set of beatup, but easy to read clear plastic measuring cups. Then I translated them all into Spanish. If they ever stop manufacturing this format of measuring cups, I'm in trouble.

I'm delighted to report that all my pupils were successful students. Francisco Guzmann, who I'll be seeing this weekend, went home and began making pineapple upside down cakes, which he sold to the schools.I've trained a lot of dessert girls (This is a generic term in a restaurant kitchen, applied universally without regard to age or gender. I've been one myself). I always tell them that they will never be out of a job, because good bakers are hard to find and hard to keep.

Every time I visit Mexico I am swamped with generosity. My friends are working class and they tend to live in gritty unglamorous places.Try as I might, I'm never allowed to buy so much as a postage stamp. Nobody ever has their own bedroom, but I always seem to get one.I could go on and on. For the next few days I'll be sitting on the hoods of cars drinking beer, listening to the trumpets of the mariachis in the cathedral or perhaps telling a swarm of giggling little children that the pinata is really full of angry wasps. My hosts will inevitably search for something weird for me to drink or eat. I always dig right in.

posted by Bill Smith at 6:42 AM


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