FOTC – Think About It

"Bret and Jemaine are Flight of the Conchords, a folk-rock band from New Zealand living in New York City in search of stardom." IMDBIt was on my way back to Mexico from New Zealand in 2009, when I discovered  Flight of the Conchords. In their HBO show, these two Newzealanders (Kiwis) are trying to succeed as a band in New York. It took me a couple of episodes to finally  enjoy the Kiwi sense of humour, the NZ accent and the cultural references to Aotearoa and the NZ British heritage.

In each episode they perform a bunch of original songs, all of them with a very particular sense of humour; Albi the Racist Dragon, I’m not Crying, Inner City Pressure, Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor, etc.

One song that caught my attention was “Think about it, Think, Think About it”. Some of its lyrics are quite deep: “Children on the streets using guns and knives,
taking drugs and each other’s lives”; or “Good cops get framed and put into a can and all the money that we’re making is going to the man”; or “There’s people on the street getting diseases from monkeys”. They emphasis on “What’s wrong with the world today”, fair enough.

The line that interested me was related to child labour. While I was in Auckland University I took a paper called “Global Civil Society” and one of the issues discussed in class was related to transnational corporations Nike: What are your overheads?manufacturing goods in developing countries without adequate labour conditions. One case of study was the Nike Sweatshops  in Cambodia and Pakistan, mostly for the manufacturing of soccer balls and trainers in the 1990s.

This line was:

“They’re turning kids into slaves just to make cheaper sneakers
But what’s the real cost, ’cause the sneakers don’t seem that much cheaper
Why are we still paying so much for sneakers when you got little kid slaves making them”

I literally used part of the song for a presentation on Nike’s sweatshops. We should really be more conscious of how and where our goods are being manufactured and decide if we really care enough to ask these companies to improve their manufacturing methods (please talk about these issues while keeping it funky).

What is wrong with the world today? Think about it, think about it, think, think about it“. – FOTC

Ps. ‘Andreas Behring Breivik was convicted of terrorism and premeditated murder, and given the maximum sentence of 21 years’ imprisonment.’ – BBC. He was declared ‘sane’ by the second team that examined him. Take a good look at the way the information is presented “convicted of terrorism”.

Ps2. If you feel like investing in Mexico nowadays, buy eggs, they doubled their price in 1 week, true story.

An Ode to Pork Fat

Yes, master

As some of you know, I’m a cuisine enthusiast, I love cooking and trying new recipes, but there’s one thing I love cooking and eating: Pork. This is one of my weakness, thankfully, pork is an important ingredient in Mexican traditional cooking. If you are throwing a Christmas dinner without pork it’ll be a big disappointment (true story). My mum did it once, I still haven’t forgiven her for that.

Once you go porkfat you never go backPork in its many presentations can be found all around Mexico. Pork stewed, roasted, pickled, sealed, fried, etc, every region has its own recipes for cooking pork. My favourite is “Chicharron“, which is a dish made of fried pork rinds. One place that has taken this dish to perfection is a butchery located in Monterrey, Mexico. Carnes Ramos uses a traditional method for its famous “Chicharron prensado” (pressed crackling). They deep fry the pork cheeks with the Ramos’ secret recipe, and later pressed into perfection. The result? A tender juicy meat followed by a perfectly crunchy crackling. If you come to Monterrey, stop by “La Ramos” and order a Kg or so of this beauty, you won’t regret it (well, maybe you’ll feel a little guilty afterwards… just a little).

I´m just going to leave this one here…

When I thought that pork couldn’t surprise me anymore, it did in a very odd but magical way. Last weekend I attended a friend’s wedding, during dinner I watched the waiters serving soup, it looked orange-ish and I thought it was a sort of carrot cream. It smelled meaty and smokey, then I got the chance to taste it, it was beautiful, what was it? Chicharron cream (pork crackling cream or Creme du Chicharron). A beautiful blend of pork crackling, roasted tomatoes and garlic, dried ancho chilli, bayo beans, chicken stock and fresh cream.   If I could marry a cream, that was it.

Sorry for the nationalistic picture…

I gotta go, I’m hungry now.

Ps. If you want to try an outstanding recipe, go for Gordon Ramsay’s Pressed Belly of Pork, F***ing delicious! – “It has these wonderful layers of fat, packed with flavour” G.R.

Ps2. “Putin hasn’t made a monster of himself. He has made a fool of himself.” Said by Stephen Fry on his letter to the jailed Russian band Pussy Riot. (Imprisoned after performing a protest song against Vladimir Putin).

Ps3. On a related subject, Lauro Tijerina, aka “El Carnitas” (His alias literally means: deep fried pork meat, a dish from Michoacan, Mexico) was captured today. He is the alleged regional manager of one of the main drug cartels operating in the state of Nuevo Leon.

An Illiterate Leadership

Literacy is important in every society, it determines a group of people’s ability to be informed and their potential to understand current events and their history while fostering creativity and initiative. Therefore, literacy does affect the capacity of each society to analyze, discriminate and disseminate information. Sometimes, this ability isn’t determined by their level of development: Cuba, although, considered a “developing country” can be found in the top 10 of the global Literacy rank; Mexico is ranked 129, in case you were wondering.

The definition of literacy states that it is an “intellectual process of gaining meaning from a critical interpretation of the written text” (It is taken from wikipedia, please donate). Literacy isn’t only knowing how to read and write ‘stuff’, it is also the proper usage of information and insights from any written product that will lead to informed decisions.

Some people say that literacy in our leaders isn’t as crucial as their personality, leadership and experience, I disagree. However, some world leaders aren’t that bright, and that could be linked to their literacy level, leading them to wrong decisions. The (apparently) elected Mexican president for the next administration (2012-2018), Enrique Pena Nieto, is one of those ‘illiterate’ leaders.

Unfortunately, if you don’t appreciate culture and literature, it is very unlikely that you will encourage others to read and become informed. Don’t you think?

“The leadership benefits of reading are wide-ranging. Evidence suggests reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight.” John Coleman – For Those Who Want to Lead, Read

Ps. Pena Nieto showed his lack of culture and literacy when he tried to explain to the audience which three books have influenced his life the most. This happened during the International Book Fair in Guadalajara (this video is very hard to watch, please forgive me).

Ps2. My favourite books: 1984, Le Petite Prince, Siddharta, Life of Pi, Catcher in the Rye, The Chrysalids.

Guadalajara and Tortas Ahogadas

I finally arrived to my beloved Mexico, and what a better place to visit first than Guadalajara. Located five hours to the west of Mexico City, it’s the second largest city in the country.  “Guanatos”, full of historical structures, amazing cuisine and friendly people, it’s a must-do when visiting Mexico.

When I got off the plane I was expecting an abrasive heat, due to being used to the North of Mexico’s weather before going to New Zealand; instead, a lovely 25 Celsius and a refreshing breeze welcomed me. Guadalajara is located in the state of Jalisco; for further reference, the municipality of Tequila is located in the same state. That’s right, Jalisco is the home of that famous Mexican spirit: Tequila.

The highlight of my trip, besides visiting the historic sites and going to a football match (Mexican most popular sport), was eating two typical dishes: Torta Ahogada and Birria. If you go to Guadalajara and you don’t try tequila from a local distillery, Birria from “El Chololo” and a torta ahogada, well, you didn’t really visit this Western Pearl.

Torta ahogada, as described in the link, is basically a birote bread (kind of hard and crunchy) filled with pork meat and submerged in a spicy red sauce (with a ‘just tomato’ sauce if you aren’t into spicy food). Maybe Tovin Lapan, from the University of Michigan could explain better the essence of this unforgettable dish in his article: “Ode to the Torta Ahogada“. Everybody has his/her favourite spot where to get the Torta Ahogada, I ate it at the “Las Famosas” at the city centre, and it was amazing, the combination of bread, pork, sauce and onions is a full on experience. If you are planning a trip to Mexico, give Guadalajara a chance and spend a long weekend there, you wont regret it.

Ps. Same sex marriage shouldn’t be an issue; this right should be granted to those who wish to engage in a long term commitment legalized by their government and tolerated by their con-nationals, period.

Ps2. I’m feeling much better, if you were wondering. Moctezuma’s revenge was awful, and I’m a little hesitant to over indulge myself with pork fat, hot sauces and seafood… at least for now.

Mexican Gold – London 2012

It isn’t a coincidence the gold medal obtained by the Mexican Soccer Team at the London Olympic Games 2012. This generation of young Mexicans has been working hard and rationally since they won the Under-17 World Cup in 2005. Their effort and perseverance shows in the outstanding results they have gained in the last 7 years.

Thankfully, Mexico is getting used to these triumphs. If you aren’t familiar with the Mexican identity and the “bucket of crabs” syndrome, Mexicans tend to underestimate themselves and harshly criticize their countrymen in their successes and achievements.

This cultural flaw (as I consider it) is (little by little) not as common anymore. Mexicans, not only in sporting events, have shown the world and their country that they are capable of amazing things. We’ve seen great results in literature, science, sports and economics which have placed Mexico (and Mexicans) as an example and role model for many developed countries. Mexico winning this gold medal at the Olympics shouldn’t surprise the world nor Mexico, and we all must get use to appreciate these efforts and to individually emulate them within our borders (I mean in Mexico, and Texas, and California, and … well, wherever we have Mexicans pursuing their dreams).

“We just entered the history books of Mexican sport. We have given our people an immense joy. This is unforgettable.” – Defender Marco Fabian

Ps. The national media will be flooded with news regarding this great result against Brazil, however, I recommend following the international media for an objective perspective.

Ps2.Oh, by the way: Members of a Mexican drug cartel were seized in Madrid, Spain yesterday. One of the detainees has some pictures in his Facebook account standing next to the incoming president Enrique Pena Nieto at a campaign event (naughty naughty).

Moctezuma’s Revenge

After living the good life in New Zealand I decided to go back to Mexico, my country. As you know, Mexico is an old country, full of culture, traditions, history and amazing food. I arrived first to Guadalajara, beautiful city, which I’ll talk about more in my next post. After Guadalajara I continued to Monterrey, where my sisters and friends live. The first thing I noticed when I got to this northern city was the heat, it wasn’t just a wee difference, I went from 10 C in Auckland, to 25 C in Guadalajara to a ‘not heavenly at all’ 45 C here in Monterrey.

Finally I reunited with my family, met my newborn nephew (gorgeous) and ate amazing Mexican food. During my first day at Monterrey I had fresh seafood platter, ceviche, tacos, beer, tequila, home made salsa, grill meat, etc, etc. Everything was going excellent until something happened. I might have eaten something bad because around 5pm I started feeling sick (Fever, stomach ache, the shivers, and diarrhea).

I’m still sick and I stayed up all night, went to the toilet every hour, and woke up feeling like crap. It was painful and there’s nothing you can do about it. In Mexico we call that Moctezuma’s revenge ( jocular term for travelers’ diarrhea). This term applies to tourists visiting Mexico. This made me jump to one conclusion, New Zealand diet has weaken my Mexican digestive system.

Food goes bad faster in warmer weathers, keep this in mind when you come to Mexico. Regarding of the recipes and things I’ve seen so far, I’ll be writing about them soon. In the meantime, I’m just eating soup, drinking lots of liquids and staying close to the toilet.

Ps. I blame my mum’s homemade salsa.