Living

How important is money?

Here is my editorial from this month’s issue of The Eye magazine.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees.” English proverb

The above is one of my least favorite idioms. As a kid when someone would say this to me I would think, “money is made of paper and paper comes from trees so actually money DOES grow on trees.” Nobody thought my logic was very funny.

As an adult, I understand the meaning behind the proverb and I still don’t like it. Money IS just paper, or these days usually plastic. Money’s only use is the value we place on it. Its power lies in how it is spent.

In fact, more than ever we exercise our power, our political choices and our values in how we decide to spend our money. We are living in the consumer age.

What is your relationship with money? Do you read the menu from right to left – allowing price to dictate your tastes? Do you feel resentful when paying your bills or are you filled with gratitude about the services and goods you received in exchange? How much money do you need to be satisfied? Do you dream of fancy cars and big houses or is it enough that you can treat friends to dinner or a concert without feeling affected financially?

We live in an age where getting a deal is a badge of honor and growing your money is a source of pride. But what if every purchase came with a different criterion than cost? What if we valued paying more knowing that the people who made our goods were earning more? Low priced goods, from clothing to electronics to food, come with costs beyond money. Low wages, poor working conditions, GMOs that produce environmental damage, are all things that we endure to get the lowest price we have come to value.

What if when you bought a sweater you didn’t just check the price and the washing instructions? What if you checked to see where it was made and by whom? What if before buying a new computer you researched the company’s ethical practices in relation to its workers and the environment, rather than just looking at consumer reports about the functionality of the product?

This brings me to one of my favorite proverbs… “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Someone is always paying. Our affluent and comfortable lifestyle has been built on the labor and exploitation of others.

So spend compassionately! Tip well! Pick up the check! Buy less crap and spend more on ethical well-made products! Invest in experiences! Follow your money beyond your purchase and see where it’s really going.

See you next month,

Jane

Check out more of issues of The Eye: www.theeyehuatulco.com

 

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

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

Almond-Cacao Frozen Yogurt

We have an excellent organic market in Huatulco twice a month. Last week I scored some fresh plain yogurt- plain as in fresh from the cow with no extra additives. It had a chunky curd like consistency and tart flavor. Beside the woman who sold me the yogurt was a table selling a house-made almond-cacao spread and BOOM I knew what had to be done! I dusted off the Cuisinart ice cream maker and made a delicious cream based frozen yogurt that was the perfect balance of chocolate tartness.

Here’s the recipe:

In a saucepan heat

2 cups of sugar

6 tsp. of cornstarch

2 cans of evaporated milk

½ cup almond-cacao spread

Handful of chocolate chips

Cook over medium heat until chocolate is melted and the mixture is thickened. Stir constantly with a whisk to prevent burning.

Remove the mixture from the heat, and cool.

Stir in the plain yogurt. Refrigerate until chilled.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve with whipped cream and almonds.

Mexico

Restore

Yesterday I held a three-hour restorative yoga workshop. While I love a powerful practice with lots of inversiDSCN3368 ons and chaturangas, a practice balanced with poses that encourage you to let go and stay longer is equally important. We need to check-in and come back to what the essence of yoga, it is a union between the mind and the body. Restorative poses help for 5-10 minutes become meditative, and you can feel the body releasing and opening, muscles and the mind softens with each breath.

It’s the same feeling I get when I go for a massage, and I first lie down on the massage table, my entire body lets go. I feel the gentle release at the base of my spine, like putting down a bag filled with bricks. We are constantly holding the body up, even often doing things that we think of as sedentary like watching television. Wherever you are reading this right now consciously let your shoulders soften and let you head fall forward so you can feel the stretch in your neck, then soften your jaw and let the skin of your face become slack. Focus on this softening of your body for ten breaths. Then gently open your eyes and lift your head. How do you feel? Hopefully restored.

Now start the week with an open heart.