Mérida parties while I pickle my onions

pickledYesterday was the first idle day I had in a long time. Three weeks ago, Saturday was spent traveling to Mérida. The following Saturday was spent traveling back home. Last Saturday, we took the three-hour drive back and forth to see the folks, celebrating the holidays before ice and snow prevented us from traveling. Good thing, because yesterday brought our first winter storm of the season. Connecticut is a winter wonderland, and although we didn’t get anything close to a record snowfall, the roads got icy and hazardous really quick, so we were stuck inside. Christmas parties and holiday concerts were canceled up and down the I-95 corridor.

The newspaper delivery person dropped off the giant New York Times weekender, and lord knows I’ve got shelves of unread books and Spanish lessons to take, but I was too bored and restless to sit still. So into the kitchen I went to rattle some pots and pans, as Paul puts it.

oasisIf we were already living in Mérida, yesterday would have been a very different day. Our friends celebrated the Oasis Red Ribbon Ball, which was right in Casa Nana’s neighborhood. We’d  be up late, socializing and schmoozing, meeting new friends. Instead, I was at home, burning off shows from our DVR and half-heartedly fiddling around in the kitchen. Referring to the Yucatecan section of a Mexican cookbook Mom gave me for Christmas, I set to pickling onions to make my new favorite garnish.

Yes, the highlight of my day was watching onions pickle. Had I been living in Mérida, I’d be pickling onions as well, hopefully using sour orange from my own tree instead of cider vinegar from a jar. But my highlight would have been that fabulous gala just up the street.

Well, pickling onions isn’t as labor intensive as I had imagined, so then I started new projects. Since I couldn’t go out for groceries, I had to use what was on hand in the fridge or pantry. I chopped a pile of squash, eggplant, bell peppers and cauliflower for a curry dish I simmered in store-bought Tikki Masala and served with shrimp over couscous. Assembling a variety of Goya products from cans, spice packets and frozen flavor bases, I prepared a pot of slow-cook beans for a Puerto Rican arroz con pollo I’ll be serving today. For a snack, I put some of that picked onion into a mixture of refried black beans and a supermarket “Mexican” cheese blend, which made an easy dip.

I used to be much more ambitious than this in the kitchen. It was a day of lazy short-cut cooking and an unshakable feeling of ennui. Or maybe I was just fatigued, and needed a day to be idle at last.

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  1. I grew up with pickled cucumbers, adding red onion to the mix on occasion, done early in the day to serve later. Lemon, salt, water, and marinate. So simple and amazing how good it tastes.

    Where the standing snow has yet to melt, but the temperature has risen into the high 50’s.

    • Oh, I see fancy sign offs are going to be a “thing” now! Our driveway is the coldest spot in Connecticut, I think. There’s a shaded corner that just won’t melt, even with three consecutive days over 40. Ah, well. Pickled cucumbers — aren’t they called “pickles?” I should try that! So easy, and I don’t think you can really go wrong, can you?

  2. I LOVE Yucatecan pickled onion. And I know what you mean about that ennui. Not only do I work at home, but I’ve been somewhat couch-bound in the past week due to a cold. So I was already feeling some cabin fever before that storm even got here. Now the entire driveway is a skating rink, and the sidewalks aren’t any better.

    Thank God I’m off to San Francisco tomorrow for the Holidays.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we’d love to be in a steamy, hot Mérida right about now.

    • I read your latest post this morning. I’m jealous that you’re going to SF, but not envious of all that drama. I can’t imagine going through all that ever again. Safe travels and feel better.

      • Thanks, Lee. Hopefully you’ll never have to go through that drama ever again. I’m beginning to feel better though. I’m staying with my oldest and best friend, and he’s been very helpful.

        • No drama here! When I’m disappointed in someone, I just lower my eyes and purse my lips, and respond with passive aggressive gestures five years later. A WASP technique that I learned on grandma’s knee.

  3. We finally made it to Pacsadelli’s yesterday and they did have basmati and jasmine rice, albeit only in 1Kg bags (approx. 50 pesos per bag). I did see a couple of boxes of arborio, although we usually just use regular rice for an occasional risotto. They have several items not likely to be found elsewhere, at several times the price you would pay in the states, but hey, when you want a bottle of Heinz Worcestershire sauce (no Lea & Perrins which is better) or a jar of Grey Poupon, it’s there.

    Alas, we spent the evening at home. No Red Ribbon Gala for us this year, socializing to the nines. We left our tuxedos in Atlanta, which in this heat is exactly where they should be. Maybe when we get to the point where we can wear a fleece hoodie when it is 70 degrees outside, we will be ready to don such formal wear.

    • I didn’t see any formal wear at the gala, which is a relief because only twice in my life have I ever had to wear a tux — on a cruise ship and at a wedding. Each time it was a major pain. I guess “gala” is a relative term. The only time I’ve seen even a tie worn in Merida was on graduation night at the college. Let me know which color fleece you’d like before we return!

      As for comparing food prices, it’s not enough that we have to mentally convert pesos to US dollars, but we also have to figure kilos to pounds. So how does a pork loin at $2.99MX/kilo compare to $3.20US/lb? My brain explodes.

      • Well, people were talking about picking up their tuxes, and I saw a picture of someone in a black suit with Christmas tie, and another with a black shirt with a jacket thrown over his arm, so I guess it’s whatever you choose to wear. I’m in favor of a nice white guayabera and black slacks (which I don’t have here either). Maybe by next year we’ll be more prepared.

        • Hey, I’m with you. Black slacks, which I bought on sale at Lord & Taylor with Merida in mind, with a guayabera is plenty dressy. If it’s a really really formal affair, I’ll also wear shoes.

      • That’s too funny. I have the same feeling when I try to figure out the USD cost per gallon of gasoline in Mexico. I’m almost embarrassed to admit I’ve never actually figured it out, LOL…

  4. We got about 5 inches of snow here.

    I made a beef bone soup that simmered for hours as I read, eveything… It’s deceiving out this morning. Looking out from my warm house it’s sunny, but I know it’s also freezing. I have to work on my wreath, but I think I will decorate it inside. And then I will try and pickle onions. :)

    • It’s melting right now, and a sloshy mess. As for the pickled onions: There are endless varieties of recipes out there — different techniques and different ingredients. I think they all result in sweet/tart onion slices perfect for beans, pork or chicken.

  5. I made my first Merida sofrito the other day. I couldn’t find a good food processor so I bought a 700W blender and it worked great! Now I have a bag of sofrito cubes in the freezer and have made two batches of Puerto Rican beans! I did however have the mule down the “pink” beans as last year we couldn’t find them or anything that was an acceptable substitute to CQ. Today I’m thinking that arroz con pollo sounds great!

  6. You will learn so much Spanish in Merida….you just need a jump start!! I do best in the markets and on the streets! Pickled onions sound great!!!!

  7. You can come be ‘idle’ in my kitchen any time! Been following your posts. The house looks fabulous. All that greenery will be the cherry on top. Meant to cut down a tree today but the ‘winter wonderland’ is telling me to stay put.

    • It’s actually starting to melt already! Hopefully it won’t cause icing tonight. I’m still staying put. This time I promise to read my Times and take a Spanish lesson. I’m so glad you like the “other” house!

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