Well. After many a day of unseasonable heat--though breezy, thank goodness--we have a full frontal blast of gray and chill. It is, however, survivable with a sweater and thick socks. My nose is always cold, though. Still. After enduring the humid heat of Louisiana, Texas and Florida for decades--not specifying how many decades--I, for one, am enjoying this weather.
In my eternal quest for antique books and odd corners, I have taken to walking miles through all of the Old City downtown, and relentless heat combined with up-and-down sidewalks create conditions of cardiac trepidation. And ... smelly walking shoes. I have, nevertheless, found quite a few amazing treasures and will write more about them next time.
(I believe this is the Church of The Bethlemites)
We were invited to a churrasco (barbeque) quite a few days ago. It was grand. Reminded me of French cook Gérard Oberlé's comment on feasting friends: "Gifts, like cigars and orgasms, must be grand! It is the exceptional dishes that maintain friendships not the skimpy leftovers." It warms the heart to be the recipient of such generosity and great food.
The amount of meat being grilled was somewhat stupefying, and the hosts were just grilling more and more ... and more ... beef, even though people had stopped eating, for the most part.
I suggested to the host that perhaps it would be good to stop cooking meat till the people had consumed at least half of the big mound of steaks already done. I was informed--talked to as if I were a nitwit, actually--that this would not do, as the idea was for steaks to be freshly grilled whenever somebody wanted one. They just went on grilling more meat so that there would always be plenty of freshly cooked meat at all times.
I mean, I understand the care for excellence in steak quality, but there is such a thing as excess, perhaps? I mean, this was excellent quality steak, it wasn't really going to suffer greatly if it had been left on the tray for 30 mins or so.
I argued that at such rate, they would be left with tons of leftover meat and have to eat steak sandwiches for a whole week. I was informed that they do not eat leftover meat at this household, and that the day-old grilled meat would be no good anymore, so it would have to be disposed of.
Upset at the idea of such waste, I suggested they at least take it to some charity shelter--this being a nation in which millions are undernourished and thousands actually die of starvation--but my idea was not well-received, to say the least.
I was left thinking, is it surprising that so many of the poor here actually hate the rich? I mean, I try to imagine how I would feel if I never see the good side of a steak and learn that others throw away pounds of perfectly good prime steak, rather than take it to some charity shelter, orphanage or something.
And believe me, poor people hear of these things. Servants do talk and so on.
Reminds me of the "let them eat cake!" attitude, and of Nero fiddling away while Rome burned.
I am not a religious person, but I would not want to face my maker at the end of my life and explain why I trashed pounds of beef when thousands starve ... but hey, that's just me, I guess. I'm just saying.
Not that I am ungrateful for the invitation either, these people are very kind, but these things just sort of bother me. I have a bit of that Puritan waste not, want not instilled in me. On the other hand, perhaps it was some sort of miscommunication. I really hope so. I also felt conflicted because I thought it was ungrateful to feel upset, but like I said, that's me.
Hey, I'm a Jew in a gung-ho Catholic country, who wouldn't get a little neurotic?
There is more to feel guilty about. Though, okay, I ought to feel guilty, perhaps, but I don't really. I care about endangered oceanic species, I just cannot keep all of them tabbed in my mind.
I went to the market and bumped, in the butcher's & fishmonger's area, into a stall that sold turtle eggs and shark fins. I was tempted to buy shark fins--though in the back of my mind there was a faraway voice telling me that something was supposed to be wrong about shark fins--and in the end, didn't purchase any because I have no idea how to go about cooking it.
I found out later that overfishing of sharks is seriously bad for the overall oceanic environment. It is not that it is illegal here, though perhaps it should be. Then again, many things are illegal, but the violation of the laws is generally ignored. Who knows, then, all that is and isn't legal?
Okay, so eating endangered species is wrong. I am not against hunting per se, though I have problems fathoming the mindframe of anybody who thrills to killing other living beings for the sheer enjoyment of it. I do understand that sometimes an overpopulation of a species is bad. But hunting for sport is seldom really about controlling overpopulation.
On the other hand, I am sure that is what other living species think of humans! We just get lucky that we cannot be systematically hunted by other species but our own. And that is bad enough. I, for one, never have faulted the sharks that attack humans on our Florida coasts. They do what they are programmed to do and we are, after all, invading their turf.
Nevertheless, I believe that a more judicious husbanding of the earth's resources is necessary, that it won't happen, and that we shall end up living in a hell of our own making. But I have been feeling dystopic lately, what can I say.
Still, I like to shop for fresh fish because being from the south (of the USA), I am keen on fish fries. It has to be fresh, though. I love the whole cornmeal-coated deep-fried thing.
A friend told me recently that Mennonites make great bread. These were at Mercado Central food shopping, they clearly live here. Mercado Central, right behind the Cathedral, is a great place to go people-watch.
Since we are on a foodie track...
If I can recommend a restaurant here, I recommend Ciao!, an Italian restaurant we visited recently in the Historic Center. Lovely old house refurbished into a very cool restaurant, maintaining its original architecture and floors. The whole place is really pretty and pleasant.
The bread is great and comes with an olive oil and roasted pepper concoction which is delicious. The fresh seafood salad was less than US$10 and a large dish of pasta was around US$5 to US$7. You can read their menu at their website here.
Great food, good prices. Big, cold drinks, well prepared. Did I say this before? The bread was great. Overall, good service, pleasant ambiance, great value for your money.
On with the food thing.
I tried to register for a class on cheesemaking at INTECAP, a vocational/technical school here which enjoys a great reputation. The buildings are impressive. Wide-spaced, new, clean, cutting-edge technology. They work a lot on computer/digital programming and stuff, and food technology and gastronomy
So. I got there and some students were registering with their foreign passports, just like that. Cool. No student visa required, obviously. However, the class I wanted had filled up almost immediately, days ago! That is rare for Guatemala, where everybody leaves everything till the last minute... just as I did that day!
Damn. I was not happy. I realized later, however, that I would have had to leave for the US midway through the course, so I guess all's well that ends well. Still miffed about it, though.
But if you all want happy. This is a sight from close to our place one day.
Walking by, a marimba playing for money. That is common 'round here in the Old City sector, lots of street musicians. This day, several older couples had begun dancing with the marimba, around 6 couples. One started and the rest followed suit, joining as they strolled by walking on a Saturday afternoon. I'm telling ya, they were dancing up a storm!
I will begin to post more often. It is just that usually I am very busy, sprucing up the inn--placing plants, making gardens, bringing in comfy chairs and cushions for sitting areas, distributing magazines and books all around--and then I work on several projects and get writing gigs, but I am also getting a bit better at organizing my time. Sort of, that is.
Keep posted because Lent and Holy Week are coming up and here in the Historic Center, we are in the midst of it all, and these are really religious celebrations worth checking out.
Bed and Breakfast - Lofts - Parking
In the heart of the Historic Center