Saturday, August 28, 2010

3 tips to keep mosquitoes away

It is the height of mosquito season (if there is a season) thanks to the intermittent rainy days and sweltering heat. Besides mosquitoes being really annoying and making it impossible to sleep, dengue is a huge risk this time of year, so we have to combat them.

Here are 3 tips I've discovered and used this year, none of which include spraying chemicals all over my body, although I've done that on occasion too.

1. Make your own mosquito repellent.
This tip comes courtesy of a local radio station. You'll need a small handful of cloves (the amount you'd use to make clove tea), some rubbing alcohol and baby oil. Use 1 part rubbing alcohol to 10 parts baby oil.

Directions: soak cloves overnight in the rubbing alcohol. Discard cloves, and mix alcohol with baby oil and apply to skin. Obviously the solution won't "mix," so whenever you're going to use it, shake well and apply quickly.

Results are mixed. You will smell like gingerbread (a plus, in my book), but I don't like feeling oily so I haven't used it much. Seems to keep away mosquitoes for a while but you'll need to reapply often.

2. Burn smelly oils and incenses.
We have burned a lot of citronella incense in our household this rainy season, usually in the late afternoon, and it seems to have had the best effect against mosquitoes. Recently we bought a small oil burner at a tianguis to burn citronella essential oil. Basil (albahaca) essential oil works too. Dilute the essential oils in baby oil to make it last longer.

Everything mentioned above (essential oils, incense, oil burners) can be found at most outdoor tianguis as well as natural stores.

3. Buy an electric tennis racket.
This is by far the most ridiculous solution, and won't help with a larger mosquito problem, but it certainly is fun! If you're out in the street a lot you've probably seen these being sold at intersections. I was kind of against getting one but Gustavo is obsessed with all kinds of odd gadgets and couldn't resist.

A minimal static current runs through the inner layer of the racket, and "explodes" any small insects upon contact. It makes a loud spark, audibly and visibly, which always makes me jump. If you drive by our street around dusk you'll probably find Gustavo blindly swinging the racket in our front garden, just to hear the satisfying "zzsstt! zzsstt!" every few seconds.

Additional advice: This is common sense more than a "tip," but using a fan at night not only helps with the heat, but is the only thing apart from mosquito netting that will keep bugs from buzzing around your ears. We lost electricity for just one night and I woke up covered in bites.

Good luck!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The best pizza in Guadalajara: Funicula

In 2007 I interviewed a surfer-photographer based in Bucerias for a Guadalajara Reporter story on expat bloggers ("Expat bloggers add fresh perspective to Mexico"). While I didn't include it in the story, he told me that he never misses a chance to stop by a pizza joint called Funicula when he passes through Guadalajara.

I never forgot the advice. It's taken me three years to finally visit Funicula, and now I'm an addict. They serve traditional wood-oven pizzas with not-too-thin crusts and toppings that are difficult to find elsewhere in town: artichokes, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies, fresh herbs.

The menu includes creative ingredient combinations, and although I couldn't find an online menu, I do remember one thing we ordered recently: "la pazza," half pizza, half calzone. They also serve pastas and other Italian specialties, plus showcase a long wine and beer list. Price range is excellent: 70-80 pesos for a pizza (one size fits all, about medium, easily shared between two people).

And to rave a bit about the setting: it's gorgeous. Downstairs includes an outdoor patio, the second floor hosts the kitchen, and upstairs you have warm, romantic lighting with an open eating counter overlooking the street.

The only drawback is that seating becomes very limited on prime nights at dinnertime, and wait times can reach an hour. The last time we went was a weeknight around dusk when Funicula was just gearing up for a rush, and only a few tables were occupied.

Lopez Cotilla 1906 (Col. Americana). Tel. 33-3615-1237.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mariachi Festival coming up!

I admit that when I first came to Guadalajara, my taste for mariachi music was on par with my taste for polka. I still can't say I'm a fan, but I do recognize the difference between hearing mariachi on the car radio and witnessing it live.

Mariachi is loud, brassy, impressive and very fun. It proves there are power in numbers. If you ever have a chance to be within a few feet of a mariachi band at a party or wedding, it's hard not to love it.

Guadalajara's international mariachi festival starts in a few days, and if nothing else, it's fun to watch the opening parade. Here's a summary of the festival and it's opening events (in English):
Wednesday, August 25, 8 p.m. Mariachi Tradicional El Carrizo will play at the opening of the “El Mariachi de mi Tierra” art exhibit at the Museo Regional (Liceo 60, city center). No charge.
Thursday, August 26 and Friday, August 27, 5-7 p.m.,  traditional mariachi groups will perform in the Plaza Fundadores behind the Teatro Degollado.  On Saturday, in the same place and at the same time, they will be joined by more modern mariachi bands dressed in their elegant attire. No charge.
Two grand traditional mariachi galas close the festival-within-a-festival on Sunday, August 29, at the Teatro Degollado. They take place at noon and at 6 p.m. Both have free admission.
Guadalajara’s 17th International Mariachi Festival swings into gear Saturday, August 28 with a host of events in different locations (see chart right).
The schedule will be much like last year’s, with nightly galas in the Teatro Degollado and free performances in restaurants, public malls and plazas and local churches.  The colorful parade takes place Sunday, August 29, 10 a.m. in downtown Guadalajara.
Read more in the full Guadalajara Reporter article.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Molcajete style salsa, sans molcajete

I know, I just got a new molcajete, so could use it to make just about any molcajete salsa I like. But for anyone without a molcajete, a blender (arguably the most important device in the modern Mexican kitchen) works just fine.

By "molcajete style" salsa I mean that chunky, fresh, hot-off-the-stove flavor. It's the kind of salsa that's perfect for tacos or grilled meats.

The ingredients are very basic:
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 green chiles (I used 3, but wouldn't recommend it. The salsa was so spicy I couldn't see straight.)
  • 1/2 a white onion or a 1 very small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, depending on your taste, finely chopped
  • salt to taste

STEP 1. Place tomatoes and chiles on a comal or small flying pan on medium to medium-high heat. Turn them over frequently to char the sides.
(The idea isn't to completely burn them -- we're leaving the skin on for flavor.)

STEP 2. Put charred veggies in the blender along with salt. Pulse until smooth(ish).

STEP 3. Add the chopped onion and garlic to the blender. Pulse a few more times. At this point if you feel the salsa is too thick, add a couple tablespoons of water.

Have a taste and season with more salt if needed.


*I'd like to add that there are probably a million variations to a molcajete style salsa, and this is a very simple one. Any other suggestions are welcomed!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Parrot update

We now have two parrots. Last Thursday Sabina was sunbathing on the back patio and a male parrot arrived out of nowhere and wouldn't go away. After luring him into the house with Sabina as bait, he decided to stay.

Meet Chicharito (Little Pea).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The new Chivas stadium: high expectations, no planning

Wednesday night we braved the drizzling rain and general clusterf*ck of people and traffic to see the finals of the Copa Libertadores in the new Chivas stadium. Short summary: the new stadium was amazing and designed for great views, but zero infrastructure was planned around it.

It took us over two hours to drive less than 10 miles, and once we managed to get to the periferico, the entire highway was collapsed. It was a free-for-all. Chain-link fences on the periferico were pushed down, and the way people were driving should have been filmed for a National Geographic program called "human nature: survival of the fittest."

We made it to our seats by minute 9 of the game. Adolfo Bautista (el Bofo) scored a nice goal at the last minute of the first half, then the Chivas were obliterated by two goals and lost.

A photo recap of the journey:

The collapsed periferico.

Me hanging out of the window, now stopped on the one lane entrance down to the stadium.

The stadium, at last! Thousands of fans dressed in their red and white best.

 It would make for a good Where's Waldo setting.

The halftime show had fireworks bursting from the spaceship. Pretty impressive.

A happy Chiva, in the end.

Click here to view the full set on Flickr of my Chivas game night photos.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My new molcajete

I just picked up this molcajete at the San Juan de Dios market. The molcajete is an essential part of the Mexican kitchen, primarily used to make salsas. It's the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle, made of porous volcanic rock.

It's great for just about anything you want to smash: garlic, whole cloves, chiles, guacamole. It's also the name of a dish served in a molcajete: grilled meat or shrimp with nopales, onion, cheese and salsa, fired up in a hot oven and served with hot tortillas.

The molcajete is going to be dusty right after picking one up at a market, and will need to be cured before use. To cure a molcajete, rinse it a few times then throw in a handful of uncooked rice. Grind the rice to a powder, dump out, and repeat until the rice looks white and clean.

Alternative methods to cure a molcajete:
  • Do the same as above, but with rock salt instead of rice.
  • Boil the molcajete in water (no soap) for 30 minutes.
  • Grind a whole head of garlic in the molcajete, spread the garlic paste on the sides and leave overnight. Rinse off the next day.
  • Do the above (garlic), but instead of leaving overnight, bake the molcajete with paste in the oven for 30 minutes. You can also add onion and a bit of cooking oil to the paste before baking.
The molcajete seasons over time just like a cast iron frying pan.