Living, Mexico

International Women’s Day

March Cover

Editorial of the March issue of The Eye. Thanks for reading! http://www.TheEyeHuatulco.com

“We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful.”

Eric Micha’el Leventhal

March 8th is International Women’s Day, and so this issue is dedicated to women. I was born bold and have never shirked a good discussion regarding the horrendous status of women in the world, I am the mother to a wonderful daughter and I am a woman myself – all of which would make it seem that writing this editorial should be a piece of cake.

However I find each time I start to write I come up against some emotion or tone that I do not want to convey: anger, hurt, dismay or the worst – sounding like a ‘victim’ of my ‘womaness’ in any form. ‘Victim’ has become such a dirty word, associated with weakness and pity. Those of us fortunate enough to have horrible things happen to us in places with psycho-babble help at our disposal are taught to refer to ourselves as ‘survivors’ because it connotes empowerment and strength rather than injury. But I am starting to wonder whether our ‘survival mode’ makes perpetrators less accountable. What becomes measured is our ability to deal with pain and injury rather than making those doling it out accountable. We stop talking about the ‘harm’ done for fear of sounding like whiners.

Somewhere between being strong and capable our softness gets brushed aside. I don’t want to be a whiner and I certainly don’t want to let bad experiences come to define me, but I think there needs to be a moment of being the victim- acknowledging that we become affected by our experiences. I don’t want to be an emotional Navy Seal- all hard edges and ready to conquer whatever life throws at me. I want to embrace the sensuality of my femininity without hiding the scars, I want to remain open and generous in a world that challenges me to do so daily.

I think the answer lies somewhere in between. Maybe rather than cringe at the word ‘victim’ we need to change our connotations. Victims are not weak or to be pitied – they have been hurt. We are all victims of the human experience in some way or another – every single one of us has been wronged by circumstances or other people. This universality does not need to diminish the importance of individual experience. Possibly in acknowledging the pain and hurt, rather than simply surviving it, we can find common ground that will lead to greater empathy and compassion with those around us.

Let us honor the softness and vulnerability of the human spirit – in both men and women. Let us not have to shout to be heard but allow our whispers to shake the world.

Living

Happy Love Month!

february-coverHappy Love Month! This is my editorial from The Eye magazine this month. For those of you who don’t me personally, I am the editor of an English-language magazine in Mexico called The Eye, in addition to owning a restaurant and a cooking school. The magazine really allows me to explore different aspects of life in Mexico and connect with amazing writers and of course our readers. You can check out current and back issues online at http://www.TheEyeHuatulco.com or if you are fortunate enough to be in Oaxaca or Huatulco you can pick up a hard copy.

 

Editor’s Letter | Beach, Village & Urban Living in Oaxaca

“I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.”

― Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

I am feeling very exhausted. Everywhere people are bubbling over with their opinions, demanding their right to be heard but it seems we are so busy talking that the entire planet has actually stopped listening. All mouths are open and everyone I meet is ready to let me know where they stand on the state of world politics – by this I mean American politics – since WWII, America has prided itself on being the leader of the Free World and the consequence is that much of the world feels totally within its rights to weigh in. Add that to the fact that America has rarely hesitated to weigh in on the politics of other nations – and we all carry our opinions about those actions – layers and layers of ‘I thinks’ and ‘I believes’- each of us holding onto these values, believing that they have come to define us.

Strangely for me, an outspoken feminist, the day of The March did not incite in me the feeling of power it seemed to for the rest of my contemporaries. As I looked through my social media feed and saw photos of many people I respected taking to the streets, I felt sad rather than exhilarated. I felt even sadder when I read comments from those who were against the march. I asked myself… ‘Can I respect people whose opinions are so offensive to me and different from my own?’

Here’s what I realized. The wall has already been built. Without laying a single brick we have completely divided ourselves by allowing our beliefs to define and separate us. None of the issues being presented at the moment are new; access to abortion, equal pay, sexual assault, immigration reform, gay rights, police brutality. These are not just issues concerning the USA – these are issues we need to be concerned about worldwide. Human rights are a problem worldwide. There are many people around the world who do not have the privilege and freedom to attend a march or have access to rant on social media. If you are even reading this, you are most likely a lot ‘freer’ than the rest of the world.

If we really don’t want a wall, we need to stop talking. We need to stop shouting at people to love more. Shhhhhhh. Enjoy the silence. Listen to your heart beating inside your body. Before your gender, your culture, the randomness of the country where you were born, the religious and political beliefs you were raised with- before all that, you were just a beating heart, in the bubble of quiet of your mother’s womb. It was safe. You were most definitely loved.

Can I respect people whose opinions are offensive to me and different from my own? If I really want to be a part of the change I want to see, then I am going to have to learn to.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Jane

Living

Happy New Year!

the-eye-jan-2017This is my editorial from The Eye magazine this month. For those of you who don’t me personally, I am the editor of an English-language magazine in Mexico called The Eye, in addition to owning a restaurant and a cooking school. The magazine really allows me to explore different aspects of life in Mexico and connect with amazing writers and of course our readers. You can check out current and back issues online at http://www.TheEyeHuatulco.com or if you are fortunate enough to be in Oaxaca or Huatulco you can pick up a hard copy.

Happy New Year!

“The Seven Social Sins are:

Wealth without work.

Pleasure without conscience.

Knowledge without character.

Commerce without morality.

Science without humanity.

Worship without sacrifice.

Politics without principle.

From a sermon given by Frederick Lewis Donaldson in Westminster Abbey, London, on March 20, 1925.”

There has been a lot of chatter about how crappy 2016 was. The list of mishaps for humanity and social consciousness is staggering; Brexit, the US election, Syria, school shootings, a return to misogynistic and racist comments being socially acceptable and all the fake news, to mention just a few of the cringe-worthy items that happened this year. Headlines have become so ridiculous and we seem to be living in a time where truth really is stranger than fiction. With all of that, most of us are hoping that 2017 will be better. However, I doubt it will be. How can I be so cynical? Because 2017 isn’t a thing, it’s time. People in 2016 were full of hate, greed and intolerance. We are those people.

Even if you are thinking, ‘Well not me, I was good,’ or maybe you are thinking about all the good stuff you did in 2016: helping people out, donating to causes, listening to your daily affirmations on your new phone or in your car while you drove to work. I’m sure you work hard for all that you have and that you mean well – me too. But if 2017 is going to be better, we have to be better – a whole lot better! I don’t know if we can do it. We are selfish by nature.

How far would you go? Would you invite a stranger to live in your spare room to help the refugee crisis? Would you stop driving to help the environment? Would you tolerate a woman’s right to have an abortion, even if you don’t agree with it? Would you let a person choose which bathroom to use based on which gender they identify with, even if you don’t agree with their choice?

We need to: Love more. Support women’s rights. Protect children from human trafficking. No more walls. Read books. Stop watching shitty TV. Eat real food – support farmers. Walk more. Take public transportation. Talk to our neighbors. Stop buying stuff we don’t need – it won’t make us happy. Stop feeding the hate machine. Stop hating immigrants – it’s called globalization and it is part of our progress. Improve human rights in other countries- we need to stop buying cheap goods made by little hands. Pay more for less.

If we are really going to be better in 2017, we are going to have to sacrifice some of our comfort, some of our feeling of entitlement and start nourishing the love machine until peace, not violence and hatred, is the norm of our human condition.

See you next month,

Jane

 

Food, Living

It takes a village… the building of our Chiles&Chocolate Cooking School

picmonkey-collageI have been involved in several building projects while living in Mexico but none has been as exciting or as rewarding for me as our Chiles&Chocolate Cooking School. Located in the village of Zimatan, I wanted the building to fit in with the architecture of the buildings in this rural area. Most of the houses in the village are rectangular with small windows and galvanized metal roofing. Since our cooking classes showcase the beauty and dignity of Oaxacan cooking, our building needed to be a testament to that as well. In the same way a mole recipe evolves using the ingredients of a particular area, our building needed to use materials that were found around us; river rock, stone, wood and I felt the same should be applied to labor.

Village life is very gender segregated. Women in my village are not even permitted to attend town meetings unless they are the ‘head of their household’- meaning they have no husband. So I was more than a little nervous as this project was my first time building without a husband to negotiate and deal with decisions such as where to put the septic tank.

Blandino, the mason, and his two sons, who live in the village, collected rock from around the property to build our retaining wall and patio. In other projects I have been involved with we always ordered our cement blocks already made from the hardware store. Blandino mentioned that Andres, a man in our village, made blocks, so we decided to make them on-site. This decision led to us having a higher quality block, it was about the same price as buying the ready-made blocks, but we also created a job.

Seeing Andres make blocks was amazing. All cement was mixed by hand, poured into molds and then set in the sun to dry. When it came time to get a door, the metal smith in the village made one and the electrician who installed the lights lives just a few doors down.

In the cooking classes I talk a lot about the dignity of what we term ‘women’s work’- cooking, housekeeping, child rearing. My experience of being a stay-at-home mother in Mexico during my daughter’s early years was life changing and forced me to reevaluate my own ideas about gender. It was the beauty of this time that led me to want to give cooking classes.

I always have thought of the cooking classes as a way of shedding light on the dignity of ‘women’s work’ but as I look around the cooking school it dawns on me that the building is truly a testament to the beauty of ‘men’s work’.  Much in the same way it takes a village to make a tortilla; men to grow the corn and women to grind, form and cook it on the comal, our cooking school is the product of a long line of tradition.

For more information about our classes: www.HuatulcoCookingClasses.com

Food

Porcini Sea Salt

porcini-saltOur latest salt is made with wild porcinis from San Antonio Cuajimoloyas, a village 56 kilometers away from the Oaxaca city. Located 3200 meters above sea level, the high-altitude is the ideal climate for mushroom foraging in the rainy season.  I had the privilege of attending the annual Mushroom Festival in Cuajimoloyas last July and in addition to porcinis we collected over 200 different types of fungi during our 6-hour hike.

The name porcini means “piglets” in Italian. They’re also known as the king bolete, cèpe (in French), Steinpilz (the “stone mushroom” in German), and a host of other fun names from all over the world. The Latin name is Boletus edulis.

Porcini mushrooms are a famous and delicious addition to any dish. Forage the ultimate umami flavor with our Wild Porcini Sea Salt. Hearty porcini mushrooms are mixed with natural sea salt to produce a mouthwatering, savory blend that shines in any cuisine. Like so many other good edible mushrooms, porcini are mycorrhizal. This means that the underground vegetative growth of the mushroom, called the mycelia, enters into a symbiotic relationship with the roots of plants. Why would you care as a chef? It means that because of this complex relationship that occurs in nature, porcinis aren’t easily cultivated and are seasonal.

Sprinkle Wild Porcini Sea Salt on beef, veal, pork, poultry, fish, rice, potatoes, pasta, polenta, popcorn, soup, cream sauces, tomatoes, dipping oil, rubs.

Other sea salts in our line are Rosemary Sea Salt and Hibiscus Sea Salt. They are available at our restaurant Café Juanita in Marina Chahue, Huatulco and at our cooking school, Chiles&Chocolate. http://www.huatulcocookingclasses.com

 

Living

Election Thoughts

libertycrying1

It’s an awkward situation. You can hear your neighbor next door raising his voice, punching a wall, talking shit. Should you say anything? Is it any of your business? It’s so ugly. The voices get louder, he’s calling her all sorts of names, the kids are crying and then a fatal punch… boom.

It’s late. I should be in bed as I have to get up early, but I am drawn to the election results like a bad accident and as the numbers go up in favor of Donald Trump I feel sick. I am not American- is it even my problem? Am I entitled to feel the complete disgust that is washing over me?

I loved the posts earlier in the day of women flocking to Susan B Anthony’s grave because it highlighted the importance of gender in this election- wait… that is still too narrow, as ‘election’ implies that for just this moment, as though it is important- because maybe something just happened. But that’s not it… Gender is ALWAYS the issue. Yet, it is the issue that gets brushed aside like some Mad Men ad exec asking a woman to bring him coffee with a hearty guffaw and then calling her uppity if she dares to protest.

The election season in the US has been a shit-show, a live-Jerry-Springer for those of us on the outside, but during the whole thing I have been amazed at how gender has taken a backseat to ‘black-lives-matter’ and the economy (women still earning 77 cents on the dollar with men in the US) with a gentle pat on the back and condescending ‘we’ll get to you later dear… calm down.’

In many places throughout the world, women are denied access to education, married as children or forced into human trafficking. Gender issues transcend race by being inclusive of the majority of the population and yet in this past election were sidebars. Anti-women propaganda and behavior was labeled ‘inappropriate’ rather than criminal and women’s issues were barely discussed with any real seriousness.

With the results of the US election, I feel a great sadness for the women that came before me. For the first time, it feels like their strides have been too short. I feel sadness for myself and my daughter, for the women in my Mexican village who are not allowed to attend town meetings, for the single mothers of the world, for women earning half of what men earn, for the women who believe their sexuality is their greatest asset, for the women wishing they had a voice in their own homes, for the women who need to work against ‘feeling’ like a victim in a society that victimizes them every day with a worldwide political system that belittles their power.

I am so tired of Donald Trump and the culture of slicing and dicing up our self-esteem and measuring our worth. I am sick of the American media machine that had a female candidate defending being ‘nasty’. Enough! There are more important issues and they involve humanity. They involve slowing down the ‘hate and winning machine’ and working on ‘empowering, cooperation and finding solutions.’

What do you say to your neighbor when you see her the next day with a black eye and a swollen lip? I don’t know.

 

 

Food

Save the Fish Taco

4073ADD6-FACA-4F2E-9FD8-74F984CE9B25.jpgLiving by the ocean, it is amazing to me that when I go to the corporate-owned supermarket the only seafood available is imported and most likely farmed. To get local fresh fish one needs to go find the guys with coolers on the street corner or small fish stalls.

While for most of us fish is an occasional meal, chicken, beef and pork being the most common protein in the North American diet, for much of the world fish is a main staple.

About 1 billion people largely in developing countries rely on fish as their primary animal protein source. In 2010, fish provided more than 2.9 billion people with almost 20% of their intake of animal protein, and 4.3 billion people with about 15 % of such protein.

At Café Juanita and Frida’s Fish Taco Food Truck, we are committed to only serving locally caught fish. This means occasionally not having fish or at times ‘making do’ with fish that are less popular.

When I first moved to Southern Mexico almost 20 years ago the waters were abundant with marine life. My then-husband routinely went diving for lobster, came home with fresh yellow fin tuna or amberjack.

In the past few years I have noticed a large decline in the amount and variety of fish available. Part of this is due to warmer waters and less cold currents that my favorite fish favor. Causes of this are global warming, overfishing by large-scale fisheries, pollution and contamination.

A few things you can do to protect the ocean and guarantee delicious fish tacos will still be available in 20 years!

  1. Eat sustainable seafood.

Global fisheries are on the verge of collapse. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), three quarters of the world’s fisheries are now overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation. Ask your seafood restaurant or fish market to buy from sustainable fisheries. Look for special terms like “line caught”, “diver caught”, “sustainably caught” or “sustainably harvested.”

  1. Reduce energy use.

Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is making our oceans more acidic. One consequence could be the loss of corals on a global scale, as their calcium skeletons are weakened by the increasing acidity of the water. There are many simple ways you can reduce your energy use. Ride a bike, walk or use public transportation. Use high efficiency appliances in your home. Turn off appliances when they aren’t in use. Turn up your thermostat a few degrees in the summer and down a few degrees in the winter. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs in your house.

  1. Use reusable plastic products.

Plastic debris in the ocean degrades marine habitats and contributes to the deaths of many marine animals. Because floating plastic often resembles food to many marine birds, sea turtles and marine mammals, they can choke or starve because their digestive systems get blocked when they eat it. Help prevent these unnecessary deaths—use cloth grocery bags and reusable water bottles.

  1. Properly dispose of hazardous materials.

Motor oil and other hazardous materials often end up washing into coastal areas because they aren’t disposed of properly.  This pollutes the water and hurts the overall health of our oceans. Be sure to dispose of hazardous waste in an environmentally safe way.

  1. Use less fertilizer.

When fertilizers are used in gardening and agriculture, the excess eventually ends up in the ocean. One result is a “dead zone” — an area with very low levels of oxygen in the water — the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico during the spring and summer. Since all marine life requires oxygen to live, including fish and shrimp, they must flee the area or die. Many other coastal areas are at risk too. So, use fertilizer sparingly and remember more is usually not better.

  1. Pick up garbage and litter near beaches.

Much of the plastic and debris found in the ocean has its beginnings in beach litter. As beach crowds increase, so does the amount of trash left behind. Don’t let your day at the beach contribute to the destruction of our oceans. Bring a trash bag with you for your garbage and volunteer for beach clean-ups.

  1. Buy ocean-friendly products.

Avoid products produced through unsustainable or environmentally harmful methods. For example, avoid cosmetics containing shark squalene and jewelry made of coral or sea turtle shell. These products are directly linked to unsustainable fishing methods and the destruction of entire ecosystems.