Thursday, February 05, 2015

pasta and phil

Spaghetti is for poor people.

So says my Melaque friend J.  (She will chide me as much for not using her name as for using it.  So, "J" it is.)

She may have her reasons for disdaining spaghetti.  Whatever they are, I think she is wrong.  To me, spaghetti (in fact, all pasta) is a gift from God.

While working on my lecture (I may as well call it what is: my performance), I decided to take a break and cook something at the house.  Last December, I bought five packets of Italian-crafted spaghetti.  They were a bit expensive ($56 (Mx) each; about $4 (US) for a pound package), but I really liked its rough texture (better for retaining sauce) and its taste.

Almost everything else I needed was at hand in the pantry: tomato paste, basil, oregano, basil, chili powder, worcestershire sauce, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and an Argentine Malbec for the sauce base.  All I needed was some minced meat, which I bought from the butcher down the road, and I was on my way to one of my culinary favorites.

I should avoid making spaghetti at home.  I like it far too much.  After two large bowls, I started feeling a bit like Mr Creosote from Monty Python's Meaning of Life.  (You didn't think I was going to link to it, did you?  We do have some standards here at Mexpatriate.)

And then a voice from above saved me from my gluttony.  Well, not a voice, but a sound.  The percussive explosions of cohetes -- those small sky rockets with the big voice announcing the approach and passing of one religious procession or other.

In this case, it was my neighborhood's patron saint -- San Felipe de Jesús (Saint Philip of Jesus).  His feast day is this week, and there will be all of the usual excuses to indulge in mild passions of the flesh that accompany Mexican fiestas -- religious or otherwise.

It turns out this particular saint had a penchant for pleasures of the flesh himself.  Born of Spanish parents in Mexico City in 1572, he led the type of spoiled childhood of a son of the conquest.  Because he was born in Mexico (and not in Spain), his vocational opportunities were limited.

He took one of the routes open to him by joining a religious order -- the Franciscans.  His heart was not in it.  A couple months later, he left the order and decided to be a merchant (a lowly job for his birth) in the Philippines.

The kid may as well have been Hamlet.  Within a year, he decided he wanted to be a Franciscan, again.  Because there was no bishop at the time in Manila to ordain him, he was on his way back to Mexico City on a ship to be re-admitted in his order.

Then, things turned bad.  He may as well have ended up in the hands of ISIS.  The ship was wrecked on the coast of Japan.  The Japanese feared the priests (along with all of the soldiers and cannon on board) were part of a European invasion.  (Like that tunnel between the Vatican and the White House during the Kennedy years.)

Philip's end was not a pretty one (along with the other priests on the ship and several Japanese friars and priests -- 17 in all).  Their ears were sliced off, they were paraded through Japanese streets, and in an act of religious parody that would have warmed the heart of Jihadi John, they were tied to a cross and pierced with spears until they died. 

That was 1597.  Within 38 years, Japan was closed to all foreigners.

In an odd sense, Philip's life sums up the colonial period of my little talk later today.  New Spain's caste system warped its society.  Simply because he was a Spaniard born in Mexico, and not in Spain, Philip's career opportunities were limited.  Of course, even though he lived to be only 25, he did end up as a saint -- and I guess that may be right up there in the hierarchy of jobs.

I doubt I will use that line later today.  If I have time before I head north, I will tell you how my performance went.

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