Monthly Archives: December 2013

Seidy Spills the Beans

Seidy stood in the living room, her eyes wide and darting from face to face, somewhat akin to the desperate flapping of a bird trapped against a glass door, having flown into the house and not able to distinguish why it can see the outside but can’t get there. She looked at Betty, then Pat and then at the mestizo couple that had barged into Pat’s centro home, all of whom were looking at her with expressions ranging from the mildly concerned and questioning (Pat, her patrona or boss and Betty, Pat’s Merida friend and ex-pat mentor) to angry and accusatory (the formidably alpha mestiza and her compliant husband, the latter unable to make eye contact with anyone and who studiously examined his feet).

Finally, unable to stand the pressure, Seidy spoke, directing her comments to the mestiza woman who was adjusting her hipil in preparation for a position on the sofa.

Quienes son?” she asked the mestiza in a soft voice.

Sabemos que tuviste que ver con nuestro hijo Marco” the mestiza replied in an indignant tone, while her husband looked at his tattered sandals “y él nos dice que se van a casar. Es cierto eso?

Pat looked at Betty questioningly. Her Spanish had not yet developed beyond the Tarzan and Jane phase and she was clearly not understanding what was being said. Betty glanced at her. “It appears that this lady’s son has asked Seidy to marry her” said Betty.

“But she is only 15 years old!” exclaimed Pat. Betty shrugged, looking back at Seidy. She wanted to hear more.

As the exchange continued between Seidy and the mestiza, it became apparent what had happened. The son, Marco, and Seidy had struck up a relationship at some point in the trajectory between Pat’s house and the bus stop where Seidy went on Saturdays to go home for her one-day weekend and apparently there had been some kind of hanky panky which had led to the declaration on the part of Marco that he was in love with Seidy and wanted to marry her. Furthermore, it soon became obvious that the hanky panky had surpassed the usual flirtations and had gone into the more serious territory of sexual relaciones. Marcos’ mother, the mestiza, had been shocked and wanted to know more about this harlot who had claimed the heart of her youngest son. She was the mother of 8 and Marco was her baby, her favorite among all her children and she was not going to let go of him lightly.

Soon, under the pressure of the questioning and accusations, Seidy, who was now staring at the floor, confessed to having had relaciones with young Marco and that a few weeks after the deed had been consummated, she had gone to the seguro alone, where, after waiting in line for several hours the indifferent nurses had performed a blood test and informed her on a subsequent visit that she was probably pregnant. When she shared this revelation with her young lover, he had optimistically insisted on marrying her and told her they would then live together at his parents home in nearby Tecoh.

Seidy did not know Tecoh; only that it was about an hour from Merida in the general direction of Mani – she had looked it up on the fold-out map of the state in the Yucatan Today magazine that Pat kept on her coffee table – and she really did not know how she was going to live with Marco’s mother who, from what he had told her, was a firebrand of a woman with very definite ideas on what needed to be done around the house and who had no qualms about making sure that those who lived in her house did what she needed to have them do.

She looked up.

The mestiza stared at her from her perch on the edge of the sofa, arms crossed in the classic body language of rejection and with an unlikely mixture of satisfaction and dismay on her face. Her husband continued to look at his sandals, obviously wishing he was far away, perhaps in a field planting corn or cantina in Tecoh with his friends, discussing local politics or something else less embarassing. The talk of relaciones and pregnancy had made him uncomfortable; this was women’s talk and he resented having been dragged to witness it all. The girl seemed pretty enough; if Marco wanted to marry her, so be it. In any case, the wedding would have to be paid for by the girls parents, so it didn’t affect him that much, he though to himself.

Pat and Betty remained seated, unsure of what would happen next or what to do if something happened or if they were expected to do something. Finally Betty spoke up.

“Creo que esta bien por ahora. Vamos a regresar a nuestras casas por el momento, mientras pensamos que vamos a hacer” she said, and got up to open the front door.

The mestiza said nothing. She got up and, flipping her scarf-like reboso over her shoulder with a violent gesture, gave a last glare at Seidy who looked away guiltily and, mumbling something that sounded like gracias to the two gringas, left the house. Her husband followed, making eye contact for the first and only time in the whole visit – with Betty – to whom he nodded and walked through the open door and onto the sidewalk, into the sweltering Merida afternoon to follow his wife, who had already made it half way down the block and seemed not at all concerned that her husband had not caught up with her. She had more important things on her mind.

Seidy, as soon as everyone had left the room, turned abruptly and headed for her room. From where she stood in the living room, Pat thought she heard sobbing.

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Apoala

The Apoala Oaxacan fusion restaurant in Santa Lucia’s newly revamped square has only been around for about 2-3 months but the Casual Restaurant Critic has heard the name come up again and again and so yesterday, after a meeting downtown, decided to check it out. Better Half being away, this was a lunch for one but you, dear reader, can be sure that the Critic will be back with Better Half sooner rather than later, as this restaurant is true gem.

(interior)

As mentioned, the Santa Lucia plaza has been spruced up and the most obvious addition there as it is most visible from calle 60 as you drive by, is the Tratto restaurant, run by the Trotter family who are very good at what they do here in Merida and offer some great upscale dining options that have raised the bar for restaurants in the formerly white city. But once again, the Critic digresses. You can park behind the Santa Lucia square, turning left off 60 into a modern and very pretty parking lot. Yes, you just saw “pretty” and “parking lot” in the same sentence; go check it out, you’ll see what the Critic means.

Approaching the restaurant, located under the arches next to the Ki Xocolatl store and chocolateria, the Critic was greeted not by an indifferent and bored individual but a smiling young man who offered a greeting and seated the Critic inside. There are tables outside but on this occasion the Critic wanted to both see the interior and check out the air conditioning.

So far, so good. A very pleasant waiter then approached the table and asked if the Critic would like a cocktail or beverage. “What do you recommend?” asked the Critic. Now normally this question is answered either with a question or a blanket “everything is great” statement that is both not true and just plain lazy. No, this waiter responded immediately and said that the house speciality was the Mayahuel cocktail. “Fine,” the Critic responded “I’ll have one of those”.

Mayahuel signature cocktail

Mayahuel signature cocktail

In a few moments, the drink, which features mezcal, sour orange juice and agave syrup among other exotic things was brought to the table and the Critic suddenly smelled something burning and quickly checked his pockets to see if he had put a still-lit cigarette butt away. But no, it was the drink! A small twig of what looked like fir from a Christmas tree was the garnish and it smoked aromatically as the drink was placed on the table.

OK, now the Critic is impressed.

The menu is a mixture of traditional Oaxacan food and modern preparations and ingredients with a nod to the Yucatan in passing as well, as exemplified by the cochinita on the menu which, the waiter claims, is organic.

When you order, you are presented with a tray of Oaxacan tostadas (hot) and two salsas, mildy spicy and home made. Deliciosas.

Tostadas

The Critic decided on the arracheras which sounded very interesting what with the ajillo chiles and Oaxacan cheese au gratin and a salad of arugula. It was not disappointing in the least. The salad was perfect and the meat exquisite, cooked to perfection and tender without achieving that horrible hammy, dissolve in your mouth texture that some local restaurants have the nerve to call arrachera steak and that would be better suited for a meal at a mental institution for toothless lunatics.

The arrachera plate

Afterwards, dessert was offered and the Critic, completely intrigued by now and with an urge to try as much as is possible for one person to try, ordered the mostachon which is a cake with pecans, features a banana cream frosting as well as raspberries, strawberries and nestled beside the cake, a dollop of homemade nieve de canela ie cinnamon sherbet.

Mostachon Mostachon

The cake seemed a little on the hard side but the sherbet was delectable.

After asking for the bill, the Critic wandered around a little in the restaurant, exploring the fabulous bathroom (you MUST go wash your hands here!!) and at the bar, looking at the bottles and beautiful backdrop made of antique doors, a manager offered the Critic a sample of mezcal, cortesia de la casa.

IMG_1749

Someone will undoubtedly ask about the price so it is the Critic’s obligation to let you know that Apoala is not the cheapest place to have lunch in the world. The lunch as described was $400 pesos, mas o menos, with tip. And while you can certainly fill up elsewhere for 40 pesos and enjoy a unique, “charming” location while lounging in plastic red Coca Cola chairs, what this restaurant offers is of a quality that is truly world-class.

All in all the amazing and beautifully presented food, the sublime decor, and most importantly the impeccable and gracious SERVICE, makes Apoala a serious contender for the top restaurant in Merida spot, in the Critic’s never humble opinion.