The Kitchen: My Happy Place

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After coming back from awesome New Zealand, I moved to Mexico City, and I´ve been living here for the last two years. I´m loving it so far and I´ve met amazing people in this city, as well as knowing more about my professional capabilities and skills.

But there´s one thing I do miss, either from Aotearoa or my hometown, Tampico, and that is having a decent kitchen. I know what you are thinking, a good cook doesn´t need fancy spaces nor expensive appliances to deliver amazing dishes, however, before this new place, I used to cook in a kitchen only a hobbit could fit in.

My mates and I hanging out, you know, just chilling before going to an adventure, and stuff

My mates and I hanging out, you know, just chilling before going to an adventure, and stuff

Of course, I´m no Jamie Oliver grilling freaking salmon in the middle of the woods, but this kitchen was way too small for me and my usual need to cook for large audiences.

Just recently, I moved in with my youngest sister, we found a flat in one of the most interesting and quiet hoods in town, Colonia Napoles. What about the kitchen? It suffices, and has a nice working oven, pantry, and lots of space to chop, mix, marinate and other regular things I like doing there.

Because "Mise en Place" shall be mandatory in your kitchen, the way Jesus told his disciples back in the day, true story.

Because “Mise en Place” shall be mandatory in your kitchen, the way Jesus told his disciples back in the day, true story.

Oh, and my sister brought a nice size fridge with her! So, all set now.

"... and then I told him that I was just fine, you should have looked as his face, priceless"

“… and then I told him that I was just fine, you should have seen the look on his face, priceless”

My next posts will be about the three awesome dishes we cooked this past weekend, they were legendary, true story. Because for me, as a Mexican, the kitchen isn´t only a room in the house, it is where things happen, stories get told and family bonds in a much stronger way.

The Kitchen is where I used to hang out with mum and dad, where gossips are shared and rivalries settled.

The kitchen is where the magic happens and the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

 So, every time I come home from work exhausted, thirsty and hungry… I go to the kitchen and cook whatever comes to my mind, not whatever suffices, but something that inspires.

The ordinary... extraordinary

The ordinary… extraordinary

Ps.The dress was black and blue, assholes.

Ps2. Have you been following closely Mexican politics lately? No need to say that The Economist, New York Times, El País and more recently Financial Times have charged with all they have against the current administration. And when I said “with all they have” I meant “with all the obvious corruption and violation of human rights that the federal and regional government have allegedly committed against the Mexican citizens”. As they said in one of these media outlets “They don´t get it that they don´t get it”.

Ps3. ISIS is all over the news these days, and without question it´s a matter that should be in the top priorities of the UN Security Council, however, so is Ebola, and without any more American or European infected this disease has become uninteresting to the mainstream media.

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2015 Resolutions (or whatever)

After giving it some thought I realized I do have some expectations for this 2015. I mean, they aren´t quite impossible, they are just some things I´d like to accomplish this year.

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Optimism

Keep up the good work and a smile on my face; that ought to be my moto for this year, open my arms to the enjoyment of life and the small things it has to offer.

 

 

Read more

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I know, all of you might think that because I´m a bright mind and, you know, smart and stuff, I must be one of those guys who reads a lot of books, but not really. I know, surprise surprise.

This year I want to and I need to read more of everything; books, reports, essays, news, articles, blogs; I want to know more about all sorts of stuff.

On the right, how I picture myself reading at night…

Fruits and veggies

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Right, I must admit it, I´m 33 and I´m not eating enough veggies and fruits, instead I´ve been eating a lot of street food and plenty of red meat, which might not be beneficial for me (still not scientific evidence to prove it, though), so this year this is changing, I will become healthier on this matter, you are what you eat, and I don´t want to turn into some kind of BBQ ribs (…mmm… if only).

Fitness

3c7I´m definitely going to start running again, or something like that, and I mean real workout, I´m not talking about running after the “Tamales-Man” (I know, I made that one up, I´m awesome). While I was with my family during the holidays I realized that I couldn´t do some stuff like “reaching for the top shelves” that easily anymore, or talk on the phone and walk at the same time without running out of air.

So, screw that, I´m going to become healthier and the next holidays I´ll go back to my hometown, look at those top shelves on the screws and say “See, you bastards, I´m back, and I will have no mercy on reaching for several items from your top compartments”, you will see.

New Zealand

New-Zealand

Yeps, that´s a moose in the South Island… look it up on Google.

Let´s face it folks, and I´m talking about you lads out there, away from the mainland, aye, you, my fellow kiwi mates, you guys miss me, and I understand that and I´m aware that I´m the only one that can change that; so this year I´ll do my best to see you guys again. Pinky promise.

That´s it folks, if I think of something else I might not let you know, however, let´s see how this year develops and wish you all an awesome 2015.

Ps. Oh, Mexico, if you were wondering, is really not doing well, the current administration is trying to figure out how to get out of the trench of manure it got itself into.

Ps2.  My mate, @gabrielsaldana shared the following image with me this morning… enjoy.

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Duc In Altum

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Duc in Altum, it is Latin for “Into the deep ocean”, or something like that, my Latin is sort of rusty at the moment, but trust me on this one. It was taught to me during junior high and high school, almost 20 years ago (damn) by the Jesuits. My professors and academic community encouraged us to always go forward, looking for new challenges and frontiers, for adventures and knowledge, to open or wings and fly away…

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How do you like that for the opening paragraph of this post? Pretty epic, right?

 

 

Anyway, so later on, these thoughts and the urge for adventure, made me travel around the world and to visit many places, from France, Canada, Norway, Argentina, and my second home, New Zealand. Recently I got the chance to read a great article written by Kellie Donnelly, titled “The Hardest Part Of Traveling No One Talks About”. In this entry she describes perfectly the way I´ve felt after my trips abroad, specially the last one, coming back from New Zealand to Mexico after three years away.

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Indeed, traveling changes you; it transforms you into a different person and makes you an addict for just flying away. Realizing that coming back home is an obligation that you enjoy, that your friends are grownups now, with kids and responsibilities, with a retirement fund and a decent relationship gut. You find your parents and relatives a little older now, their hairs are greyer and their eyes look nostalgically into the distance. They listen to you blathering about your adventures and sincerely enjoy your stories, as you enjoyed their bed time tales when you were a kid.

Coromandel

Kellie describes perfectly that “travel bug” that annoyed me at the beginning of my return. Now it is clearer, it isn´t that you don´t like your home country anymore, it is much more; the need to get to know the world, as an addiction that is only beneficial for you, and your free soul.

As she concluded:

“This is the hardest part about traveling, and it’s the very reason why we all run away again.”

Kidrunning

 

Ps. All  the pictures in this post were taken by myself, pretty neat, huh?

Mussels and Leffe Blonde

I can´t believe I haven´t told you about my favourite day of the week when I was in New Zealand! It wasn´t Friday, nor Saturday, it was freaking Monday, bro. Monday was the day when my mates and I would take a break and go to De Fontein on Mission Bay. (Wednesday was recycling day and business time, obviously)

Why on Monday? Because if you had your loyalty card you´ll get 2×1 in mussel pots, that meant ordering 1 kilo and you get an extra kilo, served in any of the different sauces they had: White wine and garlic, lobster bisque and brandy, coconut cream and lemongrass curry, blue cheese and spinach, or the chef´s special. My favourite? Coconut cream and lemon grass curry, it was freaking delicious.

Beautiful

This place was/is always hectic, people waited lined up outside to get a decent table and being able to try its spectacular flavours and massive servings, you don´t only get a pot of mussels, you get the french fries and dipping sauces. But wait, no Belgium restaurant will make sense if there isn´t good Belgium beer to wash down these delicacies.

leffe-blond2My recommendation? Leffe Blonde, its taste, body, and freshness is essential to enjoy mussels and fries and the beautiful view that Mission Bay in Auckland presents you.

Remember that mussels are the cheapest source of protein in New Zealand, as you don´t need to pay more than NZ 3 to NZ 4 per kilo at the supermarkets, and that my mates is freaking nothing, even in comparison with Mexican standards.

If there is something I miss from Aotearoa has to be going to De Fontein on a Monday arvo. Trust me, if you have some spare time in Auckland, take a wee break, go to Mission Bay and dig into that bucket of mussels, just marvelous.

Auckland Eastern Bays

#100HappyDays

I know what you are thinking, “Really? Are you honestly going to follow one of these obnoxious trends on the internet? Are you willing to keep track of 100 happy moments in your life for 100 days?”…

Seriously, I know this is weird, but when a friend told me she was doing this I got sort of excited about it; not because she is doing it, but the fact that she presents herself to others as a bitter-grinchy-realistic person. Although we all know she is a freaking cotton ball, nice and with a kind heart, however, the fact that she was into it, looking for that happy moment of her day for a 100 days, got my attention.

As explained on the website: http://100happydays.com/ this activity is simple, you just go looking for that happy moment every day, post it online, either using Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (these are the ones I´ve chosen), with the hashtag #100HappyDays and the day you are posting from the challenge. It isn´t that hard really, and is fun! 

I´ve always considered my self an optimistic person, and I reckon that the reason others are pessimistic or always feeling blue is because they look at life from the wrong angle. Happiness is all around us, and if you are reading this you have a lot to be grateful (Unless you are a gay person living in Uganda, an unhappy Venezuelan in Venezuela, or a revolutionary chap in Ukraine… Hey, at least you have wifi).

The website starts with this great sentence: “Can you be happy for a 100 days in a row?” It later says that 71% of people didn´t complete the challenge arguing that they didn´t have enough time and they were “super” busy.

The website says it all if you are smart enough to notice what it implies. What they are really saying is: “Happiness depends on you, and in order to be happy you ought to give yourself some time to… well, to make yourself happy”.

Why would I do that? People successfully completing the challenge claimed to:

  •  Start noticing what makes them happy every day;
  •  Be in a better mood every day;
  •  Start receiving more compliments from other people;
  •  Realize how lucky they are to have the life they have;
  •  Become more optimistic;
  •  Fall in love during the challenge.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go for it, you have nothing to lose, unless you don´t have a smartphone or a digital camera or… well you know, “some time”.

Every time I need to put a smile on my face, I just look at this picture for a couple of minutes 🙂

Ps. My boss recently lent me a cooking book, like a really Mexican traditional dishes cooking book, she said “There you go, have it for a couple of weeks and cook something from the book”. So, I´ll be posting one of its recipes this weekend, wait for it.

 

The Personality of Your Face

I was having a  not so bitter conversation with my boss on our way to the office the other day, I stated that people´s personality could be predicted by their facial features. To this, she abruptly disagreed, and asked me for scientific prove to defend my point, I was tired and not really willing to take part on this discussion, so I promised myself I´ll clear this foggy theory with the appropriate (and convenient for me) amount of evidence.

This chart explains it all… well, not really, I just have a crush on both of them. (and Amy Adams, but that´s for another post)

According to the “Leading Personality” WordPress blog, the art or science behind facial reading is explained by physiognomy, really, it isn´t a term made up by me, look it up, don´t be a lazy chap. But wait a second, one thing is to read people´s faces and to imply how they will react to you or the environment, and another is to suggest that people with certain face features will be more oriented to some kind of political views, spiritual beliefs or just good or evil.

Well, go figure

First of all we need to identify the aspects that will help us to understand faces and personalities: one, the physical characteristics of your face (face shape, lips, eyebrows, nose, chin, etc); and the way that person reacts to certain situations, by this I mean how much this person expresses emotions through his face.

Pretty much

The main question is: can we tell the personality of somebody just by looking at his face? I reckon this is possible, and there are plenty of studies that state that according to your facial characteristics you are more probable to react in a specific way to some external stimulus (ha… stimulus)

Apparently, the way you look tells us a lot more about you than you think. Somehow certain facial characteristics, shared among certain groups, define the way they interact among themselves as well as their personalities. For example, if you have a round face you are more likely to be sensitive and caring (however, with strong sexual fantasies); what about the people with oblong faces? According to the Leading Personality blog, they are more likely to weighed along narcissism and problematic relationships; but be aware of those with a square face, although intelligent and decisive mind, they tend to be aggressive and of dominant nature.

I have another theory of my own, that the more we look like a certain historical or popular figure, we create an intangible and unconscious bond with how these individuals behaved/behave. So, if you look like Danny DeVito you might reflect some traces of his personality on the way you interact with others. But hey, that´s just me and this is totally bias; but, don´t be surprise if you have an aquiline nose shape and you have a strong commanding power, determination and pride.

Just remember he is famous and… well, you aren´t

They also mention something about hair type, but I´m bald, so you go and look it up yourself.

Ps. Find bellow this great ad aired by Telecom NZ almost three years ago, when XT technology didn´t work as promised, Paul Reynolds apologized in this 1 minute ad. In my opinion, the fact that this company faced the issue and apologized to its clients publicly and with great sense of humour must be followed by other transnationals around the world.

Venezuela is not Alone

This is merely inspirational and bias,  and does not represent the opinion of the Venezuelan people whatsoever. It´s my own, because you know why? This is my damn blog and I can talk about politics from the bottom of my heart if I want to. I can express myself about Venezuela without needing to show you reliable sources or academics´opinion backing up my thoughts on the matter.

Nicolas Maduro´s government is wrong, period. 

Regardless of the people protesting on the streets, the international media criticizing his government and the international human rights organizations following closely how the Venezuelans are being treated by the authority, Maduro´s administration lacks common sense, respect for civil rights and severe violations to universal human rights.

I just finished watching an interview to the Venezuelan Ambassador in Dominican Republic. The lad was disrespectful, rude and obnoxious to the journalists who granted him some time on live television to present the point of view of the government he represents abroad. He served only as a repeating machine for Maduro´s rhetoric, shallow, loud and ignorant. Claiming that the fascists, the American Empire and the international media are responsible for the chaos that Venezuela is currently facing. This guy is incredibly wrong, and the people who back up Maduro´s administration are wrong as well. Why? Simply because he is repressing his own people, not only during the recent protests, but since the 2000´s started, Venezuela hasn´t really reached its potential, and its people haven´t enjoyed freedom nor peace.

Nowadays, Maduro isn´t only hurting Venezuela, he is strangulating the freedom of its people, scarring the Venezuelan society from the inside.

Venezuela, a country of millions of bright men and women is being silenced by this dictator; while the Venezuelans abroad cry for help and restless send the same message to their friends and relatives:

“You are not alone, help is on its way”. 

Ps. Mexico isn´t doing great either by the way, while the president goes abroad presenting Mexico as an investors haven, our society crumbles while violent groups have overthrown the authorities. Some regions now have civilians defending themselves, and as far as I know, this is supposed to be the government´s responsibility.

Mexican Satay

This is one my favourite recipes of all, it´s simple, just requires a few ingredients, time, and it goes well with pretty much anything. It must be said that no one taught me how to cook it, I just learnt to make it myself after tasting it throughout my life in its different versions.

That´s right, I´m talking about peanut and dried chillies salsa, or as my Kiwi friends told me once, “Satay”. This recipe was later renamed “Mexican Satay”, for obvious reasons.

 

 
 

Ingredients:

  • 1 garlic clove chile-de-arbol-pepper-1
  • 2 red tomatoes
  • 4 to 6 dried chillies (known as “chile de arbol”, just look at the pic, bro)
  • Half an onion
  • 1 handful of regular peanuts, unsalted.
  • 4 spoons of canola oil
  • Salt and pepper

Get a good frying pan, put the oil, medium heat, place the onions, now the garlic, wait until the onion sort of sizzles and softens; and you want that garlic a little bit burnt, let the aromas fill your kitchen. Add the peanuts, they will cook really fast, let them brown, now the chillies, you just need to heat them up a little, and as the peanuts, let them brown as well. Finally, add the tomatoes, they must be cut in quarters, you want their juices to deglaze the pan (those sexy sons of bitches juices…).

Oh yeah…. let them drip…

Now the fun part, get that freaking blender of yours, put all the ingredients inside and add maybe half a cup of water, now blend the shit out of it! Remember the salt and the pepper? Well, on the same frying pan, put a spoon of canola oil, salt and pepper, heat it up for a minute and then add the stuff you just blended.

It will be bubbly for a while, lower the flame and let it cook for 5 minutes. Be sure that it has been salted to taste, and serve.

This is what you are looking for… not those droids

This “salsa/satay” goes fantastic as an entrée, with tapas, or just as a regular salsa for your tacos. I once used it to marinate a whole chicken (I know, a whole chicken!), later I put it on the grill, it was delicious!

Ps. Happy non-denominational holidays everyone!

That´s right… now try to get this mental image off your head today

Just the Uncle

More than a year ago I left not only a beautiful country but my other family and friends. I´ve missed them so much all this time, but yesterday, I received one of the most amazing gifts in a long time, I got to see my step niece and nephew. My good friend Ana is visiting her family in Monterrey, Mexico, so it was a good opportunity to meet up. Yesterday we had a wee reunion, so Ana was taken to my sister´s place, when she got off the car she said “look who is inside the car”, these two were inside and the first thing that crossed my mind was “They were so young when I left they might not even remember who I am”… but they did

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Today we went for some coffee, not great kiwi coffee as back in New Zealand, but average Starbucks instead.  While I watched them playing around, laughing, running, making jokes, smiling, I couldn´t but remember those amazing days in New Zealand, since the moment I arrived to the day I left they were an important part of my life.

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These two kids taught me many things, the most important thing I discovered about myself through them was that I´m good with children and that I´m a caring loving adult. Honestly, that´s one of the things sometimes I worry about, you know, that question that from time to time wanders in your head: “Am I a good person?” (sometimes followed by “Did I lock the front door this morning before going to work?”)

As I mentioned before on one of my post about the “Impostor Syndrome”, there are some things that trigger our self-esteem , and these kids certainly helped me out with that. They are caring loving children, innocent and bright and, in general, freaking awesome.

So these two little fellows represent happiness not only to me, but to their family; they bright up my day, and no matter where they are they put a smile on my face, reminding me that life is simple, and that some good ice cream could solve any problem you might have. 1506565_10152065337236893_1171385022_n

“Self-esteem is made up primarily of two things: feeling lovable and feeling capable.” – Jack Canfield

I know, no recipes nor anything about traveling around the world, neither tacos nor politics, just these two kids who make my heart melt every time I hear them say “Uncle Luis”.

Veganism for Carnivores

I know, most people who´ve met me are fully aware of all my nasty jokes and remarks against vegetarians and their eating habits, but until we find a cure for that we shall respect and tolerate their munching disorders. What you might not know is that I love veggies and I became a vegetarian myself a long time ago for a wee period of time, when I was in Europe (damn you, Europe!).

This happened to me mainly for economic reasons, a Mexican in France finds it really hard to afford a good steak or even chicken (sacre bleu), so I turned my cravings to couscous, potatoes, pasta, lentils, beans, veggies in general and cheese. During this phase, I didn´t only learn to put more veggies or only veggies into my diet, I also got to improve my cooking skills as I wasn´t relying much on meat to enhance the flavour of my dishes (I´m sorry, bacon, but it happened, ps, I love you).

Later in life I lived in New Zealand with a vegetarian for almost three years, so whenever I was cooking for the flatmates I had to consider a vegetarian version of my dish for her. At the beginning this was sort of new, but not obnoxious at all, as she liked my food and really appreciated our effort to treat her veganishly well.

Did you see how yummy that broccoli looks? Nah? I didn´t either.

If you are a hard-core carnivore, who believes that salad and veggies just look cool as decorations on the side of a T-Bone or thick Sirloin (medium rare, please, never order a good steak “well done”), well let me tell you that you are totally missing out.

Nothing compares to munching from a good tray of grilled veggies (courchetes, pre boiled kumaras and potatoes, red onions and red peppers, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, in the oven at 200° for 45 minutes, done), or a refreshing couscous/chickpeas/fresh-coriander and lime juice salad, or a beautifully fluffy quiche (seriously, have you tried my red pepper quiche? Go ahead).

So next time you are assuming that a vegan diet lacks nutrients, proteins or flavour, well, don´t be such a “Murican” and give it a try, you won´t regret it.

Ps. And you vegans, don´t be such smart arses about your veganism thingy going on, we get it, you don´t eat meat, you don´t have to rub it on our faces every time we take you out for lunch.

Ps 2. … until we find a cure…