Friday, October 13, 2006

Vamos a la tienda de madera

Another little slice of life in Mexico tale.


We needed about four feet of 1x2-inch wood trim to support a shelf Steve is installing under the kitchen sink. 


We walked to the nearby lumber yard and found only a couple of the hired help on the premises.  They didn’t have anything like 1x2 in stock but Steve pointed at piece of weathered scrap would and said in Spanish, “something like that.”


One of the workers picked up the scrap, which was about the right length, and walked to the back of the shop.  He planed all four sides of it and then split it lengthwise to the width we needed.


We asked him how much?  He kinda shrugged and indicated that the office was closed.


So, Steve gave him a tip and we were on our way home.


Try that at Home Depot.

Vamos a la Dentista

We were both due to have our teeth cleaned at a minimum, so when we got a glowing referral from our friends Jeff and Kathi on Bold Spirit, we made an appointment with a dentist at the nearby Plaza Marina Mall.  (Yes, they have malls in Mexico, as well as telephones, electricity, etc.)


We had our teeth cleaned last year by a dentist right here at the marina and we were not impressed.  It was a very slapdash job and we were in and out in about 20 minutes each.  Consequently, we were prepared for the same, despite the good references.


Wow!  Were we shocked! First of all, the cleanings were extremely thorough and professional.  Steve’s was performed by a dental hygienist (Marta), while Kay’s was performed by one of the dentists (Dr. Melisia).


During the course of our cleanings several problems were uncovered.  Both of us had cavities that needed work (Kay suspected this even before her previous cleaning), and Steve needed  X-rays and a periodontal exam as well.


We were all set for a bunch of appointments some time in the future but were told:  Kay could get her cavities filled immediately,  Steve could get his X-rays done in about ten minutes, and by the time he was done with those, the periodontist was due to arrive!  Yikes, talk about not having time to fret.


Kay is very happy with her fillings.  Steve was impressed with the state-of-the-art, computer-based X-ray system, and the “bedside manner” of his periodontist, with whom he will be meeting in the near future for a couple of procedures.


And the cost?  Between ½ and 1/3 of US rates.  A lot of that is probably due to the lower, if not nonexistent, cost of malpractice insurance down here.


Given the fact that our health insurance does not include dental care, we are very happy to have found this modern, conveniently close dental clinic here in Puerto Vallarta.


By the way, to those back home who have their panties all in a twist about the illegal immigrant problem, especially as it relates to Mexicans, we have a very simple solution!  Stop hiring them!  To only blame the illegals is to look at just one side of the problem.  When your glass house is clean, feel free to throw stones.  Meanwhile, we know American farmers and ranchers that can’t survive without them.


If all of you stop hiring them, believe it, they will stop coming.  And that would be sad, because Mexicans are some of the most friendly, honest and hard-working people we have met in our travels around the world.



Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sopa de Tortillas

One of our favorite things to eat in Mexico is Tortilla Soup or Sopa de Tortillas.  We’ve already had it two or three times since we returned to Puerto Vallarta (aka PV or Vallarta).


So, when some friends told us about a Tortilla Soup cooking class they were scheduled to attend, we were happy to jump in.


The class was taught at the Spanish Language Experience, a Spanish language school, in El Centro, the heart of downtown PV.  In addition to six classrooms, they also have a full kitchen and dining room that will seat about 16 in an interior courtyard.


The instruction was all in Spanish by the two female chefs.  The soup is made with tomatoes, marjoram, garlic and water.  After being boiled it is garnished with strips of dry roasted strips of tortillas, slices of avocado, dollops of crème fresh, and—subject to taste—crumbled, dried chile that has been fried crisp in oil.


We always knew most of the ingredients (although we have had it in several variations), but we didn’t know the “secret” steps required to make it.  We now know that part of the preparation begins a week prior to making the soup.  Sorry, we can’t tell you—it’s a secret.


Once the soup was ready to serve, we all sat down in the dining room.  Along with the soup we were served fried nopales (a type of prickly pear cactus) with slices of panela cheese on top—very good for you.  To drink we had Jamaica (ha-my-ca) juice made from the Jamaica flowers.  All in all, a very traditional Mexican meal.


We have probably had Tortilla Soup in at least 15 different restaurants in Mexico and in the States as well.  In fact one of the better servings we’ve had was at a Mexican restaurant in the tiny town of Belfair, Washington.  However, our favorite is still the recipe served at Ernesto’s Good Grub in the Versaille district of PV.  Ernesto’s Sopa de Tortillas is so popular that the last time we were there he said he’s thinking of not re-printing his menus because it seems that’s all anyone orders! 


So, now it is up to us to give it a try on our own. We don’t think Ernesto should be too concerned.