Okay, so this is a sad admission to make, but I am becoming a Martha Stewart type. Even sadder, I suck at it. Really suck. As in, big time.
It all started with my fascination with Mercado Central, a sprawling 3-story complex where they sell pretty much everything. Antiques, arts and crafts, textiles, machetes, all sorts of produce, herb teas and remedies, pottery, groceries, silver jewelry, etc.
Problem with produce in Guatemala, though, is that although it is much bigger and fresher than anything one usually gets back in the USA, it also lasts much less. My main problem is buying as much produce for the week as I would in the States, just to end up with mushy spoiled matter in the fridge by the 3rd or 4th day. It works better to go several times a week and buy for a couple of days or so.
But who has time for that?
In order to avoid spoilage, then, I decided I must do what I dread to do: cook. Because I don't like to cook, I prefer easy stuff one can place in the oven and then pretty much leave it there till done. So, guided by Gourmet and Living magazines, I set out to make stuff.
I bought, at the large supermarket HyperPaiz (which belongs to Wal-mart), a ready-made dough (see above) because all that kneading and pumping of dough from scratch is beyond my limited patience and dedication.
This pre-made dough is good for quiche, empanadas, pies, strudel, whatever.
I know 'cause it says so on the package.
So okay, some kneading is required in order to extend the dough enough to cover a 9" pie pan. Or maybe it is 12", not sure. Also bought it at HyperPaiz. Think I'll need a bigger rolling pin? This part is not fun, but if one is watching a film meanwhile on a portable DVD player, not too bad.
SO glad I can get Pam in different "flavors" at the supermarket here. Wouldn't know what to do without it. I would actually have to season the food myself!
I sprayed "Pam for baking" on the baking pan and then extend the dough. Following, sliced a bunch of ripe tomatoes and covered with basil. These I did get at the market.
I remember--sweet memories!--my grandmother doing this thing with real butter and flour on the pan so the dough wouldn't stick when baking, but since at HyperPaiz they sell Bakery Pam, that's that. I'm not the type who feels like I'm bonding with my ancestors by making my life more difficult.
I am sure my grandmother would have loved Pam for baking, anyway. Because she liked to bake and the spray can says it is the best stuff for baking ever.
Finally sprinkled queso fresco or fresh cheese (bought at Mercado Central) (make sure you put the cheese in a colander for a while so the excess liquid drains off)
... and add some spices like ... I don't know, I used black pepper ... 'cause by then I had lost the recipe ... and somehow black pepper was there and seemed like the right thing to add ...
After baking for like 45 mins. at 350 (I bake almost everything at 350, it's my default setting) I came out with a lopsided thing that vaguely resembled the "tarte" on the magazine picture.
Of course they Photoshop magazine pictures so one's stuff never quite looks like it, but mine just simply looked all wrong. In so many ways.
Admittedly, I may have veered off the instructions somewhat. It smelled delicious and it tasted all right-ish, so I guess all's well that ends well, but it just goes to show that some of us, no matter who much we follow instructions (or not), just don't have what it takes to be the ideal woman.
This ideal woman model is something that always comes up in Prensa Libre's "community events" section, whence the Catholic and Evangelical churches announce a myriad events, such as fairs or conferences.
Hence, there are some workshop-type events meant for women to learn about "being the ideal woman" and "what an ideal woman is" and so on. I have read some of the stuff involved and I can tell right off the bat, I am definitely sooooo not a worthy candidate for becoming the ideal woman.
Other that that, I have been looking at postdoctoral opportunities around the world and have started downloading and filling out some applications. Meanwhile, I continue to pursue art classes nearby. Pathetic, I know, but I just aim to be a half-decent sketcher, is all.
El Paraninfo, formerly the Medical School of Universidad San Carlos (built in 1890), now its School of Art is within walking distance, so I signed up for anatomical drawing. Again.
Whenever I think I am getting better, I see the stuff some of the other students come up with (see below). It never fails to come to me that just as I will never be la mujer idónea (the ideal woman) I will never be anything but a dilettante at art.
I'm half-assed at everything involving manual dexterity, it seems!
Still, it doesn't matter much, because when I am drawing I get so into it, I leave behind the world around me and I wouldn't change that for anything. It's like reading a great book or watching a really good film. One just gets lost into it.
Plus, like going to Mercado Central, art school is great for people-watching and the building is gloriously lovely. Reminds me a bit of New Orleans, perhaps because of the French architectonic influence of El Paraninfo.
By the way, the place is supposed to be crawling with ghosts.
And nope, haven't seen any ghosts there and don't believe I ever will. In my experience, a pre-requisite to seeing ghosts is actually believing in them.
It's even more pleasant to be drawing in class to the background sound of classical music, rock and marimba, all from the School of Music students, nested in the same wing as we are.
We had several interesting guests at the inn this past week. One was the graffiti artist Demos, from Vancouver. Demos from the Greek The People. Imagine! How scholarly.
His thing is tagging trains, but I introduced him to other graff writers of renown here in Guatemala and they took him to help out at a hands-on graff workshop at "The B-Boys School"---a non-profit center for at-risk kids, where they practice and learn break-dancing, mural painting, and other things.
Main thing is, to me, is that these at-risk minors are kept creatively busy and off the streets.
Demos is really cool. He greatly enjoyed the Railroad Museum and the Picasso exhibit currently at the Museum of Modern Art, where rather than falling in love with the Picassos, he fell in love with the art of consecrated Guatemalan artists Efrain Recinos and Cárlos Mérida. He kept exclaiming "How have I never heard of these artists before? I was bowled over, they are awesome!"
So a graff writer whose artist name is a Greek word for democracy, pretty much, and who visits modern art exhibits at museums. That says a lot for Canada!
Another interesting guest is a scholar from Alabama--or perhaps it was Arizona, now that I think of it--working on his dissertation, the topic of which has to do with colonial Nicaragua. Lots of US and British expats there at some point, trying to take the place over. And no, I am not talking about the recent past, but the 19th Century.
Since all documents for Colonial Central America are archived at the Archivos Generales de Centro América half a block away from us, most scholars investigating colonial Central America and using primary documents must come to the Archivos Generales. Thus, I get to meet a great many interesting scholars. Not my field, but I hear that Nicaragua has a fascinating history. Will be interesting to hear about his research findings.
I shall leave you with a recommendation for today. If and when you visit Guatemala, you must try a fruit named caimito. From the outside, they look like plums. No idea of its name anywhere else and it is certainly not findable in the US, but it is to die for! Sweet and mushy, you open it in two and scoop out the flan-interior. Just ate half a dozen the other day.
Maybe it would taste great as a sherbet.
See how disgustingly Martha Stewart I'm becoming?
Bed and Breakfast - Lofts - Parking
In the Historic Center of Guatemala City