Sunday, July 03, 2005
Ratoncitos de Nata/ Unexpected Surprises
One of the most wonderful things about being alive.....AND paying attention...is the way an unexpcted, previously unknown and unimagined kernel of happiness can pop up and delight one!
The other day on the way home from the Mercato Independencia.....a warren of stalls selling tacos de borego (sheep) and mole and rice and flower stalls selling armfuls of nearly narcotic tuberoses and gladiolas and hot pink carnations and butchers selling spooky skinned cow heads minus the eyeballs and tongues dangling on hooks and loops of intestines and hooves, and pork skins the size of half a pig still with bits of skin and a few hairs on them!!! &.....rows of freshly killed chickens with piles of their heads and bright cadmium yellow feet resting nearby.....next to stalls that sell a combination of Indian and Catholic religious items/statues and piles of dried herbs and barks and strange pods and copal incense and potions for "Buena suerte"...good luck, and happiness in love and amulets affording protection from the Evil Eye and mysterious unguents and salves...the most curious to me that made of "grassa de coyote" or coyote fat for arthritis and rheumatism. I have never seen a fat coyote...they seem pretty scrawny to me..but...it must be so! And then there are the gazpacho vendors.....here in Michoacan, gazpacho is made of chopped melons and pineapple and mango and apple...perhaps with some cucumber, served in a tall plastic cup to which pineapple juice is added and then ground chiles and even a sprinkling of parmesan (!!)...and next to THAT...the great piles of sticky dried sweet fruits attracting clouds of bees that no one seems to care about.....on and on......a Mexican Casbah, complete with a soundtrack of Mariachis and rows of high top sneakers in turquoise, hot pink and lime green and crimson for sale next to the huarraches.
So leaving this sensory smorgasbord, driving on a fairly quiet street.....my periphal vision caught a hot pink building with a wide open doorway, the walls spilling over with frothy pink and white bougeanvilla. I stopped and walked over to what I saw was a bakery. There are lots of bakeries here, many pastellerias...bakers of cakes, but this bakery, "Los Ortiz, Horno Todo El Pan" is a bakery of only artisanal breads. Walking inside, one gets the sense that the place is vast and one feels as though they have walked back in time. The walls are tiled and there is a mural painted on one wall....the floor is tiled, of course. One wall is lined with cases and the center of the room is filled with the largest wooden tables I have ever seen. HUGE. Brobdignagian! The place was quiet and smelled of years of yeast and flour.....and baking bread. It was about noon and I was told the fresh bread would be ready about 4.30....but a few things were left. A Pan de Sal....a freeform integral/whole wheat loaf with a pleasantly salty taste AND my real reason for rhapsodic hyperbole about this bakery.....the ratoncitos!!!!!! Lined up in rows on these tables for giants were batallions of bread mice. They were the size of large eggs...made of pan de nata, a sweetish bread made with cream....with small chocolate chips for eys, almond halves for ears and a bit of twine for a tail. Each ratoncito made by someone's quick hands was slightly different...giving each ratoncito its' own personality. I was immediately smitten and had to take some home.
Then it got even better! I don't remember exactly how much these twee little bread mice cost but it wasn't much, then the man at the counter reached behind him into a basket and pulled out and folded up some wonderful diecut and printed boxes...made to look like wedges of swiss cheese, complete with holes. Each ratoncito went into its'little own box. How fabulous!!!! I was utterly and completely charmed.I have painted a watercolor of the ratoncito and his box...posted above.
And....I must admit, that being a great lover of many things....but not a great eater of breads....that it has just occurred to me that I don't know if they're wonderful to eat or not. I imagine, that warm from the oven...how could they not be. My remaining ratoncito; the model for the little watercolor above( I gave his kin away) is 3 days old and I think I will not eat him.
Posted by Wendy Edelson at 1:46 PM