Friday, December 23, 2011

Santa in GDL

 
It was a leaner but not meaner Santa this year who came to visit during this year's posada, which caused some skepticism from Ruby at first. She took one look at those scrawny legs and called the bluff. Iris went straight to his lap, however, and her older sister, once she realized that Iris might dominate the negotiations, took her turn cheerfully too. By then, Santa had retucked his pants into his boot tops, which didn't hurt either. Santa was sweet and gentle and we really appreciate him coming to Guadalajara. Ruby recently suggested that maybe Santa would like some carrots and celery instead of cookies on Christmas Eve, as he must get a little tired of cookies that night. She seemed to buy the story regarding the skinny legs and lack of belly that maybe Santa had thought a little bit about his health and started eating better this past year. The trickier questions of late involve exactly where he parked his reindeer the day of the posada.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The turtle wars

Chalk one up for the school on the turtle wars. Let's hope it doesn't end in a lawsuit in which their small victory becomes a huge defeat. Guess what they gave out at the end of our school's Christmas posada? Nasty little salmonella carrying turtles. Those of you who have long memories and have actually read this blog over the course of our tour here know that I've been on the warpath about the turtles before with our school. The sale of turtles with shells of less than four inches in width has been prohibited since 1975 because, yes, they carry salmonella. The bacteria apparently flourishes naturally on their skin and shells. A cursory search online will yield the news of various salmonella outbreaks in recent years in the U.S. that have been traced back to turtles. When Iris first began attending, our school had turtles in an open tank in the babies' classroom. Granted, we were not in the U.S., but a health regulation that has stood the test of time for forty years there (and numerous salmonella outbreaks have been traced back to turtles in the U.S., in spite of the ban) might be worth considering when one, you are a school that desperately wants more foreign, and especially English-speaking students, and two, you've got a mother of just such students who patiently explains why it's not a good idea, over and over again. It took me the better part of six months to convince them to remove the little beasts. At the time, I explained to no less than three administrators, including the owners of the school, why allowing bite size turtles in an preschool classroom was a bad idea. I was clear. I was concise. I was polite but insistent, in both languages no less. They understood. Or at least I thought they did, until they took the remarkably irresponsible action of giving away the gods only know how many turtles today. And to make matters worse, in a moment of parental panic (not wanting the girls to be upset, not wanting to appear ungrateful after all the work the school's teachers had put into the posada, which was great, and just generally not wanting to be those disagreeable gringos), we took two turtles home. By the time we had gotten to the house, tremendous remorse and utter despair at what idiots we were and not a small amount of annoyance with the school had set in and we had decided that the turtles were not staying. The girls, ironically, did not seem to care one way or another. After all, we have a huge dog who is ultimately a lot more interesting, entertaining, and affectionate than a reptile could ever be. Those fearing the worst for the turtles should be reassured. Mike headed back to work with plans to dump the turtles at the school with apologies and a subtly phrased reminder that they were not the healthiest of gifts for a preschool to give out, but our door guy already has two and wanted to expand the turtle family. Happy ending. We also avoided an awkward moment with the school's administration at the end of a very nice day on which we would prefer to appreciate their hard work. But yes, you might guess that I am secretly hoping that someone from the school sees this (I have a feeling they take a peek every once in a while, especially after last year's politically incorrect posada). So if you're family or a friend or someone in the FS or thinking about the FS who is curious about our life or just one of our stalkers, you can probably stop reading right here. If, however, you happen to be someone from the school, you should click on the links below and learn about salmonella. I know you can read English if you've gotten this far, so do it, for the sake of the children you take care of at your otherwise quite wonderful school, and also for the sake of the pregnant moms and grandparents and anyone with a compromised immune system. Salmonella can at the very least make one miserable and in the worst case scenario, it can kill. And there are enough food-borne illnesses in this country that we should take the precautions to eliminate another factor, especially among a vulnerable population like our children. Take a look at these sites to learn more:
Center for Disease Control Healthy Pets
or
US Food & Drug Administration Salmonella and Turtle Safety
And while I'm ranting, I bet there will be a lot of little turtle deaths within the coming weeks as a result of this ill-conceived gesture, accidental and otherwise. The directions for care that came with them were inadequate and while a turtle is not an expensive or difficult pet to maintain, asking parents in this economy, in this country, to lay out the cash for an appropriate tank, rocks, a filter, etc., a week before Christmas, knowing that half those families will go on vacation, was just not smart. I don't care for them, but they are living creatures after all. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Iris in her Tapatia tacones

You know your daughter has been living in Guadalajara too long when she dons loads of jewelry, the obligatory shades and her "tacones," or high heels for any outing. She can even run in the heels, which is more than most Tapatias can do, but that may be a reflection of her rather more practical heel height, coming in at a whopping inch rather than the six inch stripper styles favored by the local ladies. The panda bear instead of the Gucci bags also seems like a wise choice for the fashion forward toddler.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Colombo 2013!

In the midst of R&R, the chaos of visiting with family and friends and eating everything craved in the last year and soaking in the sun and clean air and shopping like crazy in anticipation of the coming year and of course, tangling with a two year old and a four year old without the respite of school or babysitter, we submitted our bid list. It was a tough balancing act (not so much because of the vacation with small children) but more for the need to find some sort of equilibrium amongst the factors we had ranked as crucial to us, in the hopes that the powers that be would show mercy in making the assignment. A reporting job for Mike (meaning a job as either political officer or in a pinch, econ officer) had to be offset by the need to find posts where we could live reasonably, (meaning we hoped to avoid a horrible security situation, be able to purchase milk and other basic necessities, find adequate medical care and send the girls to a decent school). We had axed most of the places on Mike's list where anything greater than a cold required a medevac, the only English speaking school boasted a dirt floor, car jackings occurred on a daily basis, or milk sometimes absented itself from the store shelves for months at a time. We had, however, compromised by listing a number of places with such attractions as malaria, packs of wild dogs, and milk at over $10 a box (which isn't even close to a gallon). Our top ten included posts in Africa (north and sub-Saharan), Asia (and there we covered virtually every sub-region) and eastern Europe. Most were what are considered by the State Department to be hardship posts, meaning that these are still developing economies with all the challenges that living in such places can bring. Much to our surprise and relief, we got our first pick, Colombo, Sri Lanka. It's a place that neither of us know much about, but it appears by all accounts to be remarkably livable, albeit at a great distance from the U.S. So the plan for now is to leave GDL next summer, spend roughly 7-8 months in DC, where Mike will study Tamil and do some training. I'm currently on the fence about studying Sinhala or just taking that time to reorganize, enjoy DC and figure out how to put together 2500 pounds of consumables to ship to Colombo--more on that later. Ruby will start kindergarten in Arlington, hopefully at one of the Spanish immersion schools in the area and we'll have to confront the frightening expense of some sort of school in the area for Iris as well. And of course, we now have to face the conundrum of housing for such a weird period of time in DC. The State Department makes it easy in some ways with its contract with Oakwood corporate housing but there are other much nicer options available if one is willing to deal with the enormous hassle of negotiating the kind of lease that we require, which must include strange rent arrangements to account for shifting per diem allowances and a diplomatic clause allowing us to get out of the lease as necessary if Mike's assignment changes. There's much to ponder and plan for, which is one of the reasons why we have over a year to figure out how to handle the DC end of things, and even more time to make arrangements for Colombo (right hand drive cars, for example!).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Low tide


Cousins at low tide, crab in hand.

Sandfish spotted.

Water warrior.

Getting wet.

She eventually just got naked.

Nate found an eagle feather.

Trevor captured a hermit crab.

Mike enjoyed his coffee and felt cool in his new t-shirt.

The Marine Life Center in the 'ham


Mugga and the cousins with the critters in the touch pool.

Irie entranced.

Ruby underwater.

Snack time in the treehouse

Blueberries and edamame.

High tide

Grandpa Bob came to visit us at the tree house. He brought a tent for the beach.
Three generations in the morning sunshine.

Irie, pixie-like, joined us to play fairy tea set for a while.

Iris, pouring tea for fairy friends. It's all fairies, princesses and mermaids these days..

Ruby, looking ethereal herself. Is there such a thing as a beach fairy?

The third and final leg: Tree house, beach house



We spent the second week resting and recreating on the Lummi peninsula just minutes from Bellingham. As my sister's house is in the midst of renovation upheaval, we rented a luxurious little casita built up in the trees with views of the northern Cascades and the Strait of Georgia. We searched for stones and shells and ate blackberries from the brambles growing along the path down to the water. A pair of great blue herons graced us with their presence, nesting somewhere up behind the house in the enormous trees and croaking over us in the night. We slept looking out onto the bay, watching the lights of passing ships slide by while bats dipped and swung after the mosquitos and awoke to the calls of the gulls as they flew in to feast on clams and crabs at low tide. It felt like home, even if it wasn't our house, in the way the northwest has always felt like home to me, a refuge from the stark cornfields of the midwest. And for now, it will be what the girls call home, even if it isn't a fixed location but rather a feeling, the chill in the air of the desert night on the east side of the mountains or the dampness of the ocean on the west side, smokey sockeye on the grill, the sweet summer berries, the pungency of evergreens everywhere, the verdant produce at a farmer's market, and that strange cultural blend of hippies and loggers and dot.commers and happy transplants like myself doing their thing in the PNW.

The second leg: Ellensburg



We headed east along the Colombia, hanging a left somewhere after a pit stop at The Dalles' Burgerville (uh oh--second round of fish and chips, along with truly northwestalicious blackberry shakes) to snake through the wine country of the Yakima valley and up over the hills and down again toward "Elsenburg," as Ruby still calls it. We spent a few days in the 'burg catching up with dear old friends (thanks for the lovely meal and the quake advice for our bid list and sorry the girls were so crazy with colds and vacation fatigue, Marie and Stephen!) and spending time with friends who are newer (but feel like old ones anyway, although we wish we had met them sooner when we were still in town). We did the obligatory nostalgia tour of our old house and campus and our favorite neighborhood park, leaving souvenir cocktail sticks from Tonala here and there, and yes, believe it or not, we ate Mexican food. If you asked Ruby, she would probably say those enchiladas from El Caporal were the best meal she ate the entire vacation. She hummed to each quesolicious bite. The rest of the time we spent just hanging at Sarah and Derik's beautiful house out a ways in the valley, on what was essentially a three day playdate for Ruby and Iris with their girls, Lanie and Lily. Lanie and Ruby go way back, along with their friend Alice, who came over to play one day too. It didn't take the girls long to renew the bonds of friendship.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The first leg: Portland

Is that a fairy in the garden?


Ruby, reunited with her first man crush after Daddy, our friend Andrew.

A trap, constructed by Ruby with Andrew's assistance.

Elephants!
The girls traveled like troopers all day on the first leg of our R&R, with a brief respite in Seattle to pick up a car and grab some fish and chips at Southcenter Mall, of all places. The food court there looks out upon Mt. Rainier, which was hiding that day, although we had seen it in all its monstrous glory from above before landing at Seatac. The mall felt like home, in astonishing ways--home because it was a familiar mecca of American consumerism, and home in a GDL kind of way, because easily a third of the people there were speaking Spanish. We walked out into the parking lot and I kid you not, the first vehicle I happened to fix upon was a gigantic black Escalade with a silvery decal declaring its owner's love of Guadalajara, Jalisco. I hate to sound like a sappy character from Grey's Anatomy, but seriously? Yes, seriously. Anyway, we hopped in the car and headed south, past Tacoma which has apparently gotten quite a face lift since I last drove out of Seattle that way, past Olympia, down the Colombia, to PDX, where we spent the next few days indulging in too much of everything, in that glorious, northwest summer at its height kind of way. We finally got our hands on some of Pok Pok's famous wings, which apparently do deserve the acclaim they have earned, and practically made ourselves sick grubbing takeout from Chennai Masala and Hoda's. There was home brew and excellent wine and greens from the garden and zero sales tax and a trip to the zoo, all of which which added to the fun. We just generally lounged and lingered at the home of our dear friends Andrew and Robyn, catching up and playing with girls and enjoying the respite from our minor rat race in GDL.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Irie birthday two!"




The above phrase must be uttered while thumping one's chest, followed by a laborious show of two fingers for her two years, which took her a while to get the hang of this past week. Iris turned two a few days ago past, with much ado from friends and family and more to come when we head up the PNW in two days. She's confused by the fact that she shares her birthday week with a grandpa, her father, and an uncle too, and keeps insisting, when other's bdays are mentioned, "Irie birthday mine!" Here she is, enjoying cupcakes and ponies and of course, her beloved sister on her special day.

Monday, August 8, 2011

R&R in the PNW

It's R&R season for most of us here in GDL are rotating through this foreign service ritual. Many friends have already made the trek north to various parts of the U.S. and we are anxiously awaiting our turn to head up in a matter of days. Iris is looking forward to the plane ride, while Ruby remembers enough of cousins and doting friends of ours and hers and good food and fresh air to turn herself inside out while waiting for the trip to begin. There's a reason why so many, although not all, posts have R&R. You really do need to get out once in a while and recharge your batteries after the grind of life in a foreign country. Even if GDL is foreign service light compared to what we will likely see on the next tour, I'm really looking forward to a break from the narco news, the grind of traffic and less than civilized drivers, the grime, etc. Most of these matters aren't all that grievous, but like many things in this country, one wonders if a little effort couldn't make it so much better. And that's a daily frustration that one sometimes need to walk away from for a spell in order to take on another year. So bring on the organic heirloom tomatoes and all the splendor of summer produce at the height of the Pacific northwest summer, bring on the spunky red wines and the hoppy microbrews, fish and chips or maybe breakfast at Etta's down in the market, Vietnamese at Tamarind Tree in Seattle's Chinatown, the Lebanese joint in SE Portland our friends always take us to, a spree at Target and Nordie's Rack, the inevitable trip to the mothership REI, and a gazillion other consumer pleasures, but most of all, bring on the company. We can't wait to see you all! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Feliz cumple, Chu!



Chucho, our first baby, turns ten today. We got an early start on celebrating with cupcakes yesterday. Ruby and Natalia, our sitter and Chu's best friend these days, as she is his only hope of ever getting walked, made one especially for the beast. It was gone in a matter of seconds, but he enjoyed the sprinkles afterward, licking them out of the carpet with all the care he usually gives to his vacuuming responsibilities around the house. We're hoping to take him to DQ this afternoon for a birthday treat as well. We don't normally devote this much attention to the poor dog, but ten seems like an achievement.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The list

"Got the list. Might be late." was the text I got earlier this afternoon. Deep breath on my part, as the arrival of the list in Mike's hands is only the first step in a waiting game that plagues the lives of foreign service officers and their families every two to three years. This list contains the jobs available for bidding for our next posting. We've got another year here, but it's never too soon to start packing or purging or preparing in one way or another, and fortunately, the DOS needs all that time to figure out not just where people are going but to get them and their stuff there in a reasonable fashion. This initial version of the list is a bit cruel, as perhaps as many as half of the posts (virtually all of the ones in developed countries with good food, good health care, good education, etc.) will disappear in another week or so, taken by those officers coming out of Iraq and Pakistan and other posts that are considered high hardship places. Then it will be up to us to figure out which of the remaining places work best for Mike's career, our family, the dog, etc. It's a complicated calculus that one could waste hours of one's life worrying about, but it might be smarter to simply say, well, there's a bunch of places that we really don't want to go to and here are a bunch that we're willing to try on for size. Health care matters a lot when you've got small children but maybe education is not so crucial at this point. Would be nice if there's decent food available locally, as I don't care to feed two small children and myself imported mac and cheese for two years. Not sure if we want another Spanish speaking post or if we should head into some new linguistic adventure. I am just going to accept the fact that we will inevitably end up somewhere harder to live than Guadalajara, and I can also embrace the fact that somewhere new and novel rather than a country you are already acquainted with holds a certain attraction, even if it will be more challenging.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On the sisterly bond


These girls, for the time being anyway, simply adore each other. Iris's first word each morning and upon waking from her nap is usually a querying "Buby?" and Ruby, in turn, can hardly bear to let her sister sleep in or take that very necessary nap for too long. At school, the teachers have confessed that Ruby regularly begs to visit Iris and of course, because she is persistent and because they are indulgent about that sort of thing, she does so on a regular basis. I have also learned of late that Ruby begs the babysitter, who is a sweetheart and reluctant to put her foot down, to let her sleep with Iris. If Ruby had her way, she'd be in the crib with Irie, but they sometimes settle on Ruby in the bed next to the crib. They will share a room soon enough, and I bet that Ruby will sneak down from the top bunk to snuggle.
Summer school has just begun and the girls are together in a group of kids ranging from Iris's age to six. Ruby is taking her big sister duties seriously, as I asked her to keep an eye on Iris with the bigger kids. Two boys pulled a stick gun routine on Iris yesterday, but Ruby put her foot down about that immediately. She was a little disappointed that they then turned their guns on her, but it sounds like she took it in stride as pretty typical on the part of some of her little male companeros. She served herself and Iris their lunches, out of lunch bags they are so preciously proud of as the normal routine is that of a group lunch. Never mind that the tops didn't make it back onto the pasta salad containers when the bags came home. Iris reported, with no small sense of import, that "Ruby sit wif Irie."
They are fast friends and budding co-conspirators, hiding together, plotting together, playing together. I walked into the kitchen the other day to find them chanting "caca caca chucha" to a snappy little tune, which roughly translates to "poopy poopy p_ _ _ y." Ruby took the news pretty well that it was not an appropriate thing to sing, confessed she had learned it at school without having the faintest idea what it meant, and agreed that Iris would soon embarrass us in the grocery store or somewhere else if they kept singing it. We'll see if it resurfaces. In the meantime, we are enjoying the sisterly love while it lasts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Parque Colomos, 9:15 am

Stillness bordering on cool, for the first time in months. Skunk, pine, the dryness of the needles compressed by a tropical storm edging its way upland from the coast. Meat and onions, morning prep for comida and a merciful absence of cologne. A few middle-aged men out to stave off the premature heart attacks and various ailments plaguing their generation. Mostly women, youngish mamas and older, with remarkably few babies in strollers. The deep green of dry trees awaiting the imminent rain matched by equal amounts of the dusty ochre of the season, both punctuated by bougainvillea, lilies and the bright, tight tee-shirts sported by the park's visitors. Joggers among the younger set, speed-walking among the older crowd and those too top-heavy, by choice in this town, to handle the rigors of a run. Quiet, without the weekend crowds and children and chaos, the clouds cushioning the dull crush of the city beyond the trees.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Last lonche!

The school year is winding down, with just a few days remaining for Iris and another week beyond that for Ruby. Today was Ruby's last lonche, which in my opinion is real reason to celebrate. Mike was up at six making 48 dinosaur turkey cheese sandwiches and I had made my Costco trip earlier in the week to round out the meal with with baby carrots and because it was her last time this year, juice boxes and chocolate chip muffins for a treat, in direct violation of the "suggested guidelines." But I figure we had already violated school policy by having a father participate, as the school handbook specifically tasks "mamas" with this not so small job (update to the 21st century, please, bc I know someone out there from our lovely school will read this!). I've been on the fence about this piece of school life all year, especially once Iris started attending too. The idea is to have each mother (and yeah, I know the reality is that it is the mamas, but c'mon, let's at least set the expectation for fatherly participation--which has happened quite a bit in our household) provide lunch for the children in your kid's classroom once a month. That's 25+ kids in Ruby's class, and in Iris's case, because she is in a smaller classroom, it's twice a month for about 15 kids. We don't have a cook, as some of the families clearly do, and I only farmed it out once when I felt the pressure of actually providing the dish that we had been assigned and I of course had no idea how to make it. It was, in short, a lot of cooking. But making lunch every day would have been a ton of work too, so I'm not sure the grass is greener. We made lots of soup and veggie mac and I occasionally tried to approximate what I had been assigned but I always worried that Ruby might feel the sting of sending food that was just a bit weird. By the end of the year, the school had recognized the cultural challenge and often assigned me things like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which ironically, I resisted sending because out of my own gringa paranoia, I didn't want to be responsible for sending some child into anaphylactic shock. It all worked out though, and both girls are better and more adventurous eaters for the exposure to others' cooking and I hope the other children's parents would say the same. But I'm glad for the break now and we'll see how a little summer school daily lunch-packing feels in comparison.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cuadro!

 Ruby, our budding artist, showed her first painting (hence the cuadro! of the title) in a show. Her art studio, of which there are several branches in the ZMG, asked students to submit one of their paintings. Ruby chose her Monet, which isn't half bad for a four year old. The opening was held in Cafe Martinique, which aside from its lovely terraced dining area downstairs, also possesses some great space upstairs for just this kind of event.

 Yes, we ditched Iris for this event too, as she has become a holy terror in the past few weeks and we wanted Ruby to feel the full glory of her first show. And honestly, Ruby deserves a medal for the many cheeks she has turned to Iris's smacking, hair-pulling, toy-taking and just general toddler style reign of terror. More on Iris later, as she, in addition to being a bit of a stinker, has also moved into a riotous linguistic phase which helps take the edge off her rapidly developing ego.
 As you can see, it was a pretty swank affair, and I've gotta say, either the teachers do a fantastic job or there's a whole lot of artistic talent out there or both. And seeing the takes of kids ranging from three to fifteen or so on Van Gogh, Morrisseau, Monet, Warhol and a bunch of others was really pretty wonderful.
Not surprisingly, the highlight for Ruby was not all the praise from us or the glitz of the opening or seeing her work up on the wall, but the lollipop.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Miss fish

video
We took a chance on a decrepit hotel in San Pancho last weekend. The surf is pretty rough there--I'm still digging sand out of my ears from a very short-lived venture into the waves and an equally short-lived confrontation with my own mortality, which I curtailed by heading for the pool and a beer to quell the adrenalin overload. Iris was absolutely terrified of the crashing surf and stayed well away, while Ruby ventured out for a little digging and wave tag but preferred the pool as well. In spite of the general state of decay around the joint and in our rooms, the pool itself was absolutely perfect for our purposes, with a few crabs for ambiance, a fantastic view, and pretty decent food at the little restaurant. The delightful company of lots of friends and their respective little ones, all of whom were staying in a house nearby made for two great afternoons floating around in the sun. Miss fish mastered the art of swimming to the bottom of the pool to fetch her little dollies, who now have swimmers' hair from all their time soaking in the chlorine. Both girls played so hard they almost made themselves sick, but they have of course recovered and are begging for a return trip soon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

GDLicious: Oh la la!

A large Mexican family (extended version, of course) goes through a couple kilos of tortillas a day. No meal is complete without them, no matter the hour of the day, and most people will tell you they prefer the corn ones, which are indeed healthier. But as much as I love a steaming fresh tortilla, sometimes those Euro-peasant roots kick in and what I really want is a crusty, holey, yeasty baguette. Folks in this town eat a fair amount of bread, mostly the bolillos sold in the stores and out of baskets on street corners, and the larger supers have bakeries where the bread at least looks appetizing. However, most of it is made with the most extraordinarily refined flour, often with a large helping of lard or margarine to keep it from turning into a brick within the day. It took us a good half a year to find a not just good, but great bakery. We went out for a huge St. Patty's day dinner at Lula Bistro (the chef, Darren Walsh, is an Irishman) and they served little rolls that had us back a few weeks later to investigate their origins. I was happily shocked to learn they were not made in house, and that a mere citoyenne like myself would be able to get her hands on them at Oh la la! (Av. Sebastian Bach 2074). Of course, there's a Frenchman involved. In addition to some rather dangerous chocolate croissants, you will find the crustiest baguettes in town there, along with a very respectably chewy pain de campagne and whatever else they felt inspired to make that day. Bon appetit!

Friday, May 20, 2011

GDLicious: Dip de atun

Once I got over my obsession with the salsa that comes with Juanito's roast chicken (Providencia between Labrador and Alberta, take out and delivery, tel. 33.1149.4005), I moved onto a new fixation, the chipotle tuna dip served with totopos at Santro Pez, also on Providencia but on the opposite side between Labrador and Virginia. The restaurant is really more of a watering hole. You ask for a drink and two or three always arrive, as the place thrives on specials and a very lengthy happy hour. The food's decent and not very expensive, with the quesadilla de camaron and the doradito de marlin being favorites in our house. There are better and cheaper fish taco places in town, but this place is a real restaurant rather than just a tent or a stall, and in their favor, they play truly decent music. No classic rock, no pop, just burning salsa most of the time. Anyway, to get back to the dip, the stuff here solved one of the mysteries of Mexican cooking for me. While Mexico was recently recognized as a world cuisine by the UN, and certainly deserves the honor when one thinks of regional cooking in Oaxaca or the Yucatan or a few other places, one walks into most grocery stores and is struck by the enormous variety of two products, to which entire sections of each store are devoted. First, you've got the salchicha section. What on earth do they do with all those hot dogs? I still haven't figured that one out yet. Second, the tuna section is usually pretty massive too, along with a whole variety of olives, pickled veggies, and other kinds of canned and often smoked seafood. Some of this you can chalk up to the Spanish influence, as throw together a plate of that stuff with some jamon serrano, a little cheese, some bread, and you're good to go for a light cena. And I haven't touched tuna in years, given the overfishing issues and the fact that they scare the daylights out of you about eating it when you're pregnant. In fact, I hadn't had any in so long that I didn't realize what the dip was made out of when I finally asked the waiter for the ingredients. It's not exactly a healthy recipe, but is it ever delicious with some chips or even better yet, the tostadas found in every little tienda or super too. All you need is a can of tuna, drained, some chipotle peppers (adobados), a ton of mayo, more than you would really think is reasonable or smart so that it takes on a more dippish rather than sandwich spreadish consistency, a squeeze of lime juice, and then whatever else you might want to throw in, like cilantro, to brighten up the flavor. Whip it into a consistent paste, chill, and then serve. Provecho!