Friday, October 30, 2009

amana mañana

During my recent search for a house, I had several requirements for a place to live.

The first was access to high-speed internet. It is my window to the outside world.

But the second was almost as important: a good kitchen. I like to cook. And I like to eat what I cook. So much so that the retirement gift I requested from my employer was a set of good-quality cookware. I certainly could not find it here.

Most Mexican kitchens are Spartan, but utilitarian. They get the job done.

But I discovered early on that many of the homes in my part of tropical Mexico do not have kitchens. The cooking takes place outside over a charcoal-powered flame. Only a bit more sophisticated than my Boy Scout camping days.

Some homes have a "stove" -- based around a frame that holds both the pot and the charcoal off the ground. The photograph at the top of this post is an example.

Outside cookery has its advantages. The cooking smells are not trapped in the house. There are days when I infuse peppers into my cooking oil that I wish I was cooking outside. The kitchen ends up smelling like a Roman square following a police-dispersed political riot.

It is also economical. Buying charcoal is cheaper than dealing with the cost and inconvenience of propane. The trade off is that charcoal affords next to no heat control.

If the setup sounds a bit primitive, you do not have to go too far back in American history to find houses where the kitchen was in a separate building from the main house -- usually for fire prevention.

I may have a small kitchen in the new house, but it is inside.
And it will be near a high-speed internet connection.


Todd said...

I am constantly amazed at the ability of people here to make the most out of the least.

The "Kitchen" they have at the soup kitchen we are involved with is so minimal and the quality and quanity of food they put out is amazing!


Islagringo said...

Yeah for both items. Do you have indoor plumbing?

Babs said...

My kitchen is a slight step up from the photo.......well maybe I'm exaggerating. What not having a real oven has done for me is to make me be more innovative when cooking for dinner parties.......

Leslie Limon said...

Whenever we decide to move from our current rental, I have 3 requirements for a new home. A working kitchen indoors, an indoor bathroom and Internet access. When we lived with my in-laws, you had to walk through the patio to get to either the kitchen or bathroom. Not fun during rain season and winter! And not good for a family with asthma.

So glad that you found the two things you were looking for!

Anonymous said...

I think you should set up an outside charcoal stove and learn to cook a few authentic meals on it. You might find that this takes you into the culture in more ways than you can now imagine.

A Nony Moose

jennifer rose said...

Steve, many high-end Mexican houses do not have fancy kitchens. Like bathrooms and laundry rooms, kitchens are considered utility areas not worthy of the touches that Estadounidenses have grown to expect like Corian and granite. Those rooms are considered places for execution of private business.

When I designed my house, I wanted a kitchen that would be a comfortable gathering place at parties, because people, at least the the U.S., tend to congregate there. I was so proud of my kitchen, with its granite counters and custom cabinets, but when I would invite Mexican friends to linger there, you would've thought that I'd asked them to join me in the bathroom.

Steve Cotton said...

Todd -- Of course, No more than 100 years ago, Americans and Canadians knew how to get by with very little, as well. Now, we stand in awe.

Islagringo -- I took that for granted, but see Leslie's comment. I guess I shouldn't.

Babs -- My new-fangled pans do not work very well on the smaller counter-top cookers. I cannot use my wok and saute pan at the same time. Of course, why should I be trying to use both at the same time, you ask. Good question.

Leslie -- I looked at several homes that had the bedrooms separated from the living quarters. Interesting, but I thought the same. What happens during the rainy season?

ANM -- You seem to be confused at my adventurous goals here. Of course, reverting to Boy Scout days may do a lot of good for me.

Jennifer -- There is no doubt that my NOB notions are not shared by my Mexican neighbors. My new house is located in a very poor neighborhood -- the type of neighborhood where an old blanket serves as the front door. I have seen many a shaking head at my antics. I cannot wait to meet them.

- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Upon exploring Mexico for a couple of weeks, my 94 year old mother said, 'Never have I seen people with so little do so much'. To echo Todd. It is amazing.
Steve, when I lived in CA I had Henkles and Calphalon cookware, still got the Henkles but am now cooking over gas with clay. Almost exclusively I cook in the traditional Mexican pottery and love it. It heats up fast and holds heat well.
I believe less is better.

Steve Cotton said...

Mexican Trailrunner -- I love cooking in clay. But I have never had luck getting crispy vegetables out of clay cookers.

Anonymous said...

So after you cook dinner on that "stove," you should head down to the river and pound your clothing with a rock.

Nothing like going native.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where the ex insisted on a stainless-steel professional stove, a seeming extravagance at the time. Now it's much-loved.

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- It would be an improvement over the top-loading washer that seems to simply trap dirt in the creases of the washing.

A stainless steel professional stove? I am on my way to Boston.