Monday, August 25, 2008

One of things I miss while I am in Oaxaca is breakfast.  It’s not that Oaxacans don’t eat a morning meal, it’s the differences in what is likely to be served.

In the US, we have many dedicated breakfast foods which are predominantly served in the morning:  bacon, eggs, sausage patties, pancakes, waffles, bagels, cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat, toast, English muffins, breakfast pastries, etc.  Sure these items can appear at other times of day and IHOP serves breakfast all day, but they are prototypically foods for the first meal of the day.  And not only are these foods associated with breakfast, but personally at least, I have come to expect my first meal to usually be taken from this menu.

Here, this isn’t the case.  There seems to be much less of an association between particular foods and certain meals of the day.  (I would say that eggs skew toward being a morning food here, but that is at best a trend, rather than something more categorical.)  As a result, today at Margarita’s sister house, for our first meal we had chicken in a green sauce.  It was quite good and I’m not going to refuse food that required no effort on my part to prepare, but still, it struck my American sensibilities as an odd thing to be having at 10 in the morning.

Part of this clash with my preferences may be my own doing, however.  Here, meals are spaced out a bit differently than they are in the US.  People often start their day around 6 or earlier with possibly coffee (or some other hot drink) and a little bread, a meal that can be referred to as [cafeto’].  This is followed by a big meal around 10am [xtììlà], another big meal in the afternoon around 3pm [yhuugwe], and then the day is finished off with something light, again usually coffee and bread [cafeto’].  (Actually, there is a dinner meal [xiella], too, around 6 or 7 when men return from the fields, but it’s not something we’ve been typically eating; a late yhuugwe carries us over until the nighttime coffee, usually.)

So, if I would get up early enough, I could convert the 6am nosh into a breakfast more familiar to me, like cereal and milk, or even just stick with the local coffee and bread.  Then when the 10am meal comes, I might be psychologically prepared to have something that seems more lunch-like to me.  As it’s been going though, I’ve been getting up later and am offered the 6am food and 10am food back to back, which is too much food for me first thing in the day, and again, odd food to start the day with.

After xtììlà today, however, I did score one of my favorite Oaxacan food items:  sugar cane [ettia].  It’s something I was really looking forward to and I can’t believe we have been here over two and a half weeks without any.  But luckily, as our meal was winding down, Benjamin was starting to get antsy, so I took him out for a walk.  We went by a place I had seen before that was offering bags of sugar cane pieces (and other fruits) and I was able to buy a bag for 10 pesos—I wasn’t even charged a gringo tax.  The sugar cane was really good and juicy; I wish I had some more.


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