Not Yo Abuelita’s Mole

Every once in a while I get an insatiable craving for Mexican food. Unfortunately, Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas aren’t known for their ability to really satisfy a California girl’s needs when it comes to South-of-the-border classics. When times get tough, sometimes a girl has to take her destiny into her own hands. But being the adventurous eater I am, I couldn’t help but put a twist on one of my childhood favorites, chicken mole.

Chicken mole is a classic Mexican dish–some even call it the national dish of Mexico–known for its symbolic representation of the mixing of European and Indigenous cultures.  In fact, mole may be one of the first international dishes of the Americas, mixing ingredients from the local land, Europe, and Africa. The base of the dish, however, is deeply rooted in the history of Mexico. According to legend, during the early colonial period, the archbishop was scheduled to visit the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla. Upon hearing of his arrival, the nuns of the convent went into a panic knowing that in their destitute state they had nothing to serve him. And so, as nuns often do, they prayed. They brought together what they did have: chili peppers, spices, old bread, nuts, and a bit of chocolate. They mixed it together and poured the sauce over an old turkey they killed for the occasion. It was well-worth the sacrifice, because the archbishop was smitten with the dish. Why wouldn’t he be? The deep, complex, spicy, sweet, nutty, smooth flavor of mole could win just about anyone’s heart.

So what’s the twist? In order to make my chicken mole suitable for the star-spangled table, I decided to combine it with a classic American dish–chicken and waffles! That’s right, I made Fried Chicken Mole & Waffles.

The crispy fried chicken, buttermilk-cinnamon waffles, and the rich mole paired perfectly with Mexican corn cake, plantain chips, and guacamole made in the mortar and pestle Anthony bought for our 1-year anniversary.

Fried Chicken Mole and Waffles

To top it all off, Anthony and I decided to have a plate-off to see who could make the food look completely and utterly irresistible. I think the results really speak to our personalities. Whose is whose? Let’s see if you can figure it out.

Plate #1

fried chicken

Plate #2

photo

Did you know: Mole is so synonymous with celebration that in Mexico, to say “to go to a mole” (ir a un mole) means to go to a wedding.

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The Past Revisited

One of the last posts I remember really wanting to write before Notebook of  a Nomad’s short, wonderful life (click there if you want to check it out) was so suddenly extinguished was about the markets in Europe. I’m going to revisit this topic so I can start talking about what I did on Sunday.

I wrote a blog about going to the grocery store in Berlin, but that is not what I am talking about.

On a Sunday morning, throughout Europe, somewhere in every city the local people are maneuvering their way to the food cathedral that is the food market. Now while that serves as a pretty turn of phrase, the food market is more like a church than you might think.

1. People go there on weekends.
Most markets are only open Saturday and Sunday, and for the best pick–you better show up early.

2. The decor.
Markets in Europe are grandiose, many with vaulted ceilings and stained glassed windows. Sure, some are simpler, but there are also simpler churches.

3. Devotion
Church is to christian, as food market is to foodie. It’s where the devout go to practice their faith and indulge in satisfaction of their soul.

4. Unspoken Rules/Procedures
Sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand. Church has rules, we don’t need to talk about them, but we know them. The food markets in Europe have rules: Don’t touch things until you’ve bought them (unlike American markets), Bring your own bag, Don’t barter with food vendors-only clothing vendors.
Walking through a market in Spain or Italy will put your body into sensory overload–the colors of the food artfully and carefully displayed, the smell of fresh fruit, cooking meat, and of course–fresh fish, the sounds of people chatting with their favorite vendors and ordering “the usual”…

Of all the markets in the WORLD, El Mercado de la Boqueria in Barcelona, Spain is considered one of the best. It’s as well known for its food as it is for its food displays, most notably–its fruit stacking. Shortly after marveling at the craftmanship of La Boqueria’s fruit stacking, I returned home and read an article in Gourmet Magazine (or maybe it was Bon Appetit) about how big a deal fruit stacking is at this market.

Here is a slideshow of some of the wonderful things we had the pleasure of seeing at the market:

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Notice how the meat stand sells every single piece of the cow- eyeballs, tongue, stomach lining etc…

This is also where I had that amazing Coconut/Dragonfruit drink that I rave about every chance I get. BTW- I saw Dragonfruit at the Safeway across the street from my building (SCORE DC!)

Now how is this relevant to the way I spent my Sunday?

Washington DC is huge on the use of local, sustainable foods. Many restaurants in the area support local farmers and serve food grown in the nearby area. These farmers also take their food to one of my favorite places in Washington DC–Eastern Market. Just a few blocks from the Capitol Building, and my old apartment, Eastern Market is one of the most exciting places for any foodie in DC.

The market has three sections-inside, outside, and across the street. Across the street is primarily a flea market, which I don’t mind on occasion, but sometimes when I look at things there all I can think is “That’s a dead woman’s chair” and it really kills the whole antique thing for me.

Outside of the building is filled with stands selling fresh produce, honey, sauces, nuts. You can buy tomatoes of three different colors-red, green and yellow. Yellow tomatoes are just a tad bit sweet, how do I know? Almost everywhere is willing to give away samples.

Inside there are more traditional market sections (again MARKET, NOT GROCERY STORE): deli meats, fresh beef, chicken pork and fish, a bakery, a cheese counter (where a woman who takes cheese much too seriously will scowl at you if you ask her to slice your gouda because “that simply is not done”).

I didn’t take nearly enough pictures, and didn’t actually buy anything…I guess I’ll just have to go back next weekend!

To food, for sustaining our bodies and our souls.

“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”
~Voltaire