Mexico: Part 1 - The Feels

The trip was like the last bite of a quixotic dish; one that you then take the time to lick the plate clean. 

Xochimilco, Yolcan MX

Yet, you just stare at the plate after that last, simple, swab reveling in the reality of what was and what now is.

Xochimilco, Yolcan MX

 

For the month of October I spent my time traveling throughout Mexico, beginning my journey in Mexico City, and moving onwards to Monterrey, Santillo, Oaxaca, then finishing off where I has begun.  I didn’t really embark with much of a plan. This past year up until my trip had filled me up to the brim in my core; it’s been a lot. Honestly, my daily work and consistent inconsistent planning of what little unknown parts of my life will be translated into drifting into Mexico. My mind didn’t have the capacity for planning and I guess it was nothing new jumping into another unknown. Yes, there were specific ferments I had on my mind to learn about, but in order to learn about specifics, it always takes taking a step back and just seeping into the bigger picture. I just wanted to be in Mexico.

 

So I set off to be.

 

If I were to sum up Mexico, it felt, in a sense -- big. Large stretches of various things each being apart but on the same plane, each a center of his/her/their universe, yet then things come together, collide, -- bang.

 

Felix, my sourdough, and Lukas at our Contramar Pop-up

 

From the moment I planted my feet in Mexico, I was fully in a state of absorption. A grave amount of my time in Mexico City was spent collaborating with two uniquely unreal and wildly whimsical chefs; Felix Ferdinand and Lukas Mraz for two pop-ups. The first at Can Can and second at a breathtaking space that was a part of Contramar.   

 

Contramar Pop-Up location

 

I’ve never been trained within food. Pop-ups are simultaneously thrilling and terrifying; a wind I’m catching for the ride. Yet, it excites me that there’s excitement for collaboration in the bits of this life we’ve taken to, to focus on, bits that we’re all passionate about. My devotion for fermentation to be intermingled with the other's drives within this grander world of food is just so, comforting. I understand a wonder can be held in the field of what I do, but I marvel at the work of chefs; chefs like Lukas and Felix. I have always held an admiration for Lukas' food, and even though I was just being introduced to Felix on this trip, the same admiration held strong. It's something to be around chefs planning a menu, the translation of a flavor from an inanimate thought to a reality is a marvel. It's also something to take those inanimate thoughts and translate them into somethings for a new public. A different approach to the idea of communications in a city and country that we spent a great deal of time under the umbrella of "translation". 

 

Fermented Tomatillo Ceviche prep for the menu for Contramar

 

Something that I’ve never really forgotten is when a friend had once told me that I see producing ferments as cooking, the same way a chef approaches raw ingredients to make a meal. Instead of the actual “cooking” process where a chef can expect an end result, I “cook” with the help of bacteria, with that same goal in mind – converting hydrogen into helium. 

 

One year Garlic Misozuke in a two year Chickpea Miso

 

Upon entering and drifting through the streets of Mexico, it’s hard not to have food graze across your eyes, your nose, your skin. Food culture is alive and Mexico will not let you forget it. Walking down the streets of Mexico City reminded me of growing up in New York City but in a varied light; my bacon egg and cheese too much milk and a “spoonful” of sugar coffee carts transformed into varieties of fruit, juice, empanadas, tacos, tamals, gordita stands…. The same way every New Yorker would have their cart enroute in the morning, this felt no different in Mexico City.  I felt sentiments throughout street food and bliss at markets, everything felt so alive. 

 

Tacos al Pastor

 

Moments between prep for our pop-ups and the pop-ups themselves, we ate. We ate. I can also attest to the fact that not only was I in full absorption the moment I touched ground in Mexico, but my stomach was in full capacity every moment it could physically be, and Mezcal flowed through my veins. 

 

Quintonil

 

Pujol

 

Contramar

 

Snacking on Pinoles at Contramar

 

and I baked. The thing that began this fermentation journey I'm on now was back, for bits, bites, bakes, and pieces of my time throughout Mexico City and later in Oaxaca. Crackling choruses and hollow reverberations.

 

Pulling out fresh loaves for Contramar Pop-Up

 
 

I can't finish off talking about this beginning without mentioning that what hit me the most and held so strong throughout my journeys in Mexico was the warmest, caring, and upmost generosity of each and every single person I had met in Mexico. So this is the grand shout-out for the unreal start of Mexico to Felipe, Ezekiel, Bernardo, Akim, Alberto and the insanely wonderful ladies from Grupo Contramar, Ana, Isa, and Magda. The most amazing gang that kickstarted a month

Besos -K