As a chef, I always aspire to find new ways of cooking. Having met the infamous Mexican ex-pat and food anthropologist Diana Kennedy, I knew I had to make Mexico a destination to explore their food culture. Not only that but my favourite teacher from Ballymaloe, Rory O'Connel, and of course Darina Allen both spoke at length about how amazing the state of Oaxaca is for their food.
It turns out Oaxaca (pronounced Wa-ha-ca) varies dramatically in topography which breeds unique varieties of indigenous plants that continue to be prominent in their cooking. These traditions have been preserved up until today so I decided to dive in!
Fortunately for me I had an amazing world-traveling friend who was generous enough to invite me down to the peaceful surf-town of Puerto Escondido. Thanks so much Carrie! She suggested an inexpensive direct flight from Toronto to Huatulco, Mexico. From there I was instructed to exit the airport and walk towards the highway and wait for the coastal SUR bus. This bus was to take me 2.5 hours up to Puerto Escondido. "Get off at the smoothie bar that looks like a pirate ship." OK.
'Puerto' is a town full of dirt roads and an endless variety of beaches ranging from championship-sized surf waves (Yes, I tried surfing and I got up! Thank you for asking.) to small family-friendly bays. Fishing culture is big here since it's on the Pacific. It also attracts a lot of back packers and ex-patriots and is truly off the beaten path, for me anyway. My first reaction to getting there was "WTF am I doing here? I don't speak Spanish, help." but I quickly relaxed and went with the flow. It was hard not to do at my hostel, One Love, since they had $4 yoga every morning on their roof top studio overlooking the ocean.
I had the first half of my trip to myself. I surprised myself by getting up at 7am most mornings. This was followed by a walk towards Osa Mariposa, or another local breakfast joint, for my first meal of the day. The sun gets hot FAST in Puerto so by the time yoga was finished, around 11 am, was time for a quick walk on the beach then a shower followed with a siesta. That's the life, isn't it?
I did spend as much time as possible exploring what the locals serve. Beyond the hipster pizza places and cafes are local JUGO juice bars, where fresh coconuts are stuck with a straw for a refreshing and re-hydrating beverage and where you can get 1L of a smoothie for $2-$3 CAD. Zicatela Beach, just down from my hostel and the uber-hippy La Punta beach, is where most tourists gather. Here, Puerto is dotted with small craft shops and delicious restaurants ranging from high to low cost - but I never paid more than $20 for a meal. And I mean, a really amazing fancy meal. Fresh starfruit ceviche, anyone!?
I took on Day and Night markets to go shopping for local ingredients and amazing crafts. However, I had to wait for accompaniment for those. A) I was a frightened baby. B) NOT confident in my Spanish skills. C) Being so OBVIOUSLY a tourist and not just an ex-pat I was frequently ripped off by cab drivers - a word of warning.
I absolutely loved touring around lazily on my own but was equally thrilled by the guided tour I had by fellow tourists and my friend Carrie.
It was lots to cram into 1 week but I'll be back to the state of Oaxaca in the future, for sure. The mindful laid back lifestyle, the gorgeous weather and food is enough to coax me back soon.