Cuaresma means Lent

I’ve been meaning to write here since Ash Wednesday, which begins the Catholic season of Cuaresma, or Lent. For the non-Catholics visiting who need a primer, Lent lasts for 40 days beginning Ash Wednesday and ending Easter Sunday. And if you’re doing a little math in your head right now and have figured out that there are actually 46 days, here’s why we say Lent is only 40 days: Sundays don’t count according to the church’s calendar.

In Mexico, as well as in many other countries, it’s common for Catholics to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays throughout Lent, though some observe meatless Fridays year-round. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also supposed to be fasting days, during which Catholic adults eat only one full meal. Though, depending on who you ask, you might find some who fast on all Fridays during Lent. You may also be familiar with the practice of Catholics giving things up for Lent – and perhaps you’ve wondered what that’s all about. Fasting and giving up vices during Lent are a way for Catholics to connect to Jesus, making a sacrifice that is supposed to help us understand his suffering. Ideally, we aren’t just giving up sin during Lent, but abstaining from sin after Lent as well. For example, giving up your favorite dulces (a particularly popular item for children to give up) but then going back to eating them after Lent is over is not really how it’s supposed to work…. 

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Wordless Wednesday: Garabatos

We’ve been talking a lot about guilty pleasures since last week and there have been many great answers about your favorite Mexican guilty pleasures in the comments, on our Facebook fan page and sent to me on Twitter.

But one that nobody has mentioned and I feel is extremely worthy of the title is a little cookie called the garabato. So please forgive me, but we’re about to get a little wordy this Wordless Wednesday because these galletas are worth knowing more about!

They’re made with two shortbread cookies, a smooth dark chocolate fudge center and drizzled with dark chocolate. Paired with a café con leche, it’s like pure cookie bliss. And they come in two sizes, mini and regular. Or, as I like to say: naughty and extra naughty. Why? Because I’m certain these cookies are loaded with butter and sugar, which is why they are such a delicious temptation to begin with. I may actually attempt making them in the Tortilla Test Kitchen later this year – there’s only so long I can go with a craving before I must satisfy it, even if it means experimenting in the kitchen!

The establishment that sells these amazing little treats is, appropriately, called Garabatos, and besides having an array of artisan pastries (I’m also a big fan of the dedo de novia, a tube-shaped sort of baklava) they also have a cafe menu with typical botanas, sandwiches, salads and the like.

On our last trip to Mexico, José was craving garabatos before he even arrived. Since I got there a few days in advance, I picked up a small box with a dozen mini garabatos just for him. I’m not going to incriminate myself here and tell you how many trips we made to Garabatos over the few weeks we were visiting, but let’s just say we had our fair share. On the day we headed back home to Chicago, I found a Garabatos in the airport and I had to have one last fix. As you can see from the photo, I couldn’t even wait to photograph my treat before taking the first (er, and second) bite.

  • Have you had garabatos?

Wordless Wednesday: Guilty pleasures

I saw Mundet manzana verde in the grocery store last week in glass bottles and though I tried to resist because I’m trying to quit drinking sugary sodas and juices, I just couldn’t help myself.

This bright green and slightly tart apple-flavored refresco is a serious guilty pleasure for me. It’s a bit different than the regular Sidral Mundet apple-flavored soda that has more of a light caramel color and a mellow taste.

  • What are some Mexican guilty pleasures that you like to indulge in?

Wordless Wednesday: La Iguana

When we were vacationing in Huatulco this past December, we found our hotel had another kind of guest… It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this iguana was rather large and lived in a little sinkhole between the grass and the concrete along the path to our room.

Each morning, the hotel staff set fruits and vegetables by the opening to the iguana’s little cave. José tried to bribe his sister with $200 USD to stick her fingers into the cave but her answer was “¡ni de chiste!” and rightly so.

Still, we were all fascinated with this iguana – who seemed to be molting quite a bit and the end of his tail was bare, which really gave me the willies when I saw him crawling around – and he was a topic of daily discussion during our visit.

  • What kind of animals have you seen in Mexico that you don’t normally get to see where you live?

Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad

Today in some parts of the world, it’s Valentine’s Day. But in Mexico, it’s called Día del Amor y la Amistad. While Valentine’s Day is mostly a celebration of romantic love, Día del Amor y la Amistad encompasses love and friendship.

We don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day in our house, and in fact, this past weekend we sort of forgot about the fact that all the restaurants were going to be full of people celebrating Valentine’s Day when we called to see if we could get last-minute reservations at one of our favorite places. Of course, we couldn’t get a table, so instead we cooked dinner together at home. If you ask me, as much as I love eating at restaurants, there’s something special about cooking together that makes a meal truly enjoyable.

And as any of my friends and family will tell you: a home-cooked meal is how I show my love best. Whether it’s rajas con crema for José, salsa de tres chiles (video recipe coming soon!) for my mom or Crock-Pot cochinita pibil for my best girlfriends, I love cooking for the special people in my life.

Take a few minutes today to remind your friends and family how much you love them. Whether it’s a hug in person, a phone call, an email or a big ol’ batch of Mexican comfort food like papas gratinadas to go with dinner, there’s no better feeling than to know how much others care about you, so don’t forget to spread the love as liberally as you’d add queso to those papas!

If you’ve got escuincles, check out these adorable print-and-color valentine cards from our friends at Spanglish Baby and Viva Greetings.

And head over to our Facebook fan page if you have a chance – today we’ll be talking about the foods we love – including non-Mexican foods, just for one day – including linky love to recipes from some of our favorite food blogs.

From our home to yours, ¡Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad a todos! We’ll be celebrating by reminiscing about our recent trip to the beach in Oaxaca (pictured above) over a home-cooked meal.

  • I’d love if you’d leave a comment below to let me know which recipe from The Other Side of The Tortilla you’ve served to your family to show them how much you love them or what your favorite recipe is that you’ve seen here and why.

Wordless Wednesday: The Best Carnitas in Mexico

When I dream about carnitas – and yes, I do dream about carnitas – this is the place where I’m always eating. This little hole in the wall has the best carnitas in Mexico City, if not in the entire country, according to José.

I’m not about to challenge his ruling (after all, he is the king of carnitas), and though I’ve not eaten them in every state yet, I will say that Rincón Tarasco has the best carnitas I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Be sure to get there plenty early, though, or else risk them having nothing left but riñones. They’re only open until they sell out of everything and then they close to prepare for the next day all over again.

Those truly dedicated to their carnitas know to show up around 10 a.m. to have the best pick of available meat. They’re closed on Tuesdays.

VISIT RINCÓN TARASCO:

Av. Martí No. 142 K
Col. Escandón
Distrito Federal, México

  • Where is your favorite place in Mexico to eat carnitas?
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