Went to my landlord’s home yesterday morning to make black mole…pronounced “molay” a Oaxacan specialty that is always made for the Day Of The Dead and served exactly at 11:00 on November 2 for the spirits of the dead who come back to eat with the family. It’s a relief to be away from the phone and the computer and the Zocalo that seems only to be giving me bad news the last few days.
A life-long friend of Gerardo’s, a newly minted teacher that will be teaching in the Mixtec about four hours away, was already there visiting. He majored in English which was quite good.
Joe, the other tenant in my apartment building who is here teaching English. arrived soon after. My landlord, Gerardo (another Gerardo from the one I have been hanging out with) and his mother Socorro put us all to work. She put a skinless chicken with onion on the stove to boil. Joe was in charge of charring the dried black Ancho & Pasilla Negro seeded chilis on the hot ceramic comal and putting them in water to soak. Then we fried dried French bread chunks, banana slices, garlic, cinnamon bark, some almonds, a cup of raw sesame seeds, a cup of plumped raisins, oregano, thyme, cumin and some pepper corns, cloves and salt in a bit of oil. Then fried some tomatoes and tomatillos. We put all the fried ingredients together with the chilis into a pot and drove to a nearby torilleria where they ground everything together making a thick paste. Then back to the house where we put the paste into another bit of oil in a huge ceramic pot…stirring constantly…watching the paste turn dark. Then Socorro slowly added cups of the broth from the boiling chicken…Joe stirring for about a half hour with a huge wooden spoon. At the last minute Socorro added a bit of wonderful Oaxacan chocolate.
Two pre-med college students who are staying with Socorro while they study Spanish and participate in medical rotations at Clinica del Carmen…the best hospital here…came downstairs. Their program was set up by their university UC San Diego. Out came the cameras, beer and mescal. Socorro placed a piece of chicken on each plate, poured the thick sweet black mole onto the chicken…added a pile of white rice and we ate until we couldn’t eat anymore.
In the middle of the meal, one of the boys received a call from his professor who is here with the students. She tells them that all 35 of the program participants might have to return to the States immediately. The boys are disappointed…and try to figure out a way to stay. “And it’s ok if all us expats stay here,” I asked! They laughed. Then we discussed the situation here…the boys were surprisingly well-informed and their Spanish was good. Joe & Gerardo translated for me. Two of their group was working at the Clinica del Carmen when Brad Will, the videographer who was shot to death by paramilitaries, was brought in. They are now petrified.
Then the boys ran upstairs to retrieve their hooka pipe (middle eastern pipe that burns flavored tobacco). As you draw in the smoke through the little pot of water attached to the pipe you can then blow it out…exchanging smoke with others…or making designs in the air…a kind of bonding recreational activity among friends. This is all the rage in California colleges right now, they said. The tobacco, flavored with kiwi, peaches and apples has no additives like tar etc. but does have the nicotine…very mild. At least it’s better for you than cigarettes…and it’s only used at parties. If you replace the light bulbs in the room at night with black lights, the smoke glistens in the air, they said. When I was in New York City visiting my son Josh, who was a chef in Manhattan, I did notice night clubs with hooka pipes but the sense of it didn’t register with me at the time. Never too old to learn something new.
Then two girls from the language program arrived from their homestay down the street. The atmosphere became electric…and Socorro had definitely had enough to drink. The boys described the best clubs to go to in the city (which certainly didn’t take them long to discover) and by the time another friend arrived, Joe and I decided it was a good time to make an exit.