Sourcing Your Favorites in Chapala

Recently I changed my diet to vegan. Not because I got religion; not because I have a mission to “save the animals;” definitely not because it’s trendy. No, simply because I’ve found the scientific evidence compelling and given that I am in geezerdom, I’d like to hang around this moral coil a bit longer. I’m loving Mexico that much!

And not to worry. I’m not evangelical about it either. What you do is your business; I have enough to handle managing my own life, LOL!

Last year I knuckled down at long last and lost the excess weight I’d been carrying around for decades, thanks to Susan Peirce Thompson and Bright Line Eating. I “found” BLE right after I had totally given up on ever losing weight. In eight months I shed eighty pounds, never being hungry (beyond normal) and almost without cravings.

The current shift to vegan has been more challenging. After all, how many bowls of beans could I eat for protein without going crazy? I had to find other sources and fast in order to stick with it.

So I hunted down a source of tempeh and other frozen meatless protein. However, the only place I could find to buy these items is in Guadalajara, and even less pleasant, far on the northern side of the city. (Chapala is pretty much to the deepest south of Guadalajara.)

Nonetheless, last weekend I mounted an expedition with our neighbors to make the drive (Bonita is back in the States for a visit with family.) Off we trekked, stopping first at a lovely upscale supermarket called City Market. [This site is in Spanish, so turn on Google Translate if you go.] The closest thing we’ve found to a Whole Foods here in Guadalajara.

City Market is the anchor of an upscale mall. (Malls are alive and well here in Mexico.) Wondering around the mall, I came across a wing with a local mercardo, local vendors presenting their wares–mostly artisan foods. And low and behold, I found both vegan and vegetarian tamales. Oh joy!!! Moreover, another vendor had vegan nopale (cactus) chips. And still another had unsweetened chocolate (mixed with nuts rather than milk) and raw nuts. What a paradise for me!

Meeting my neighbors, we went back to the car and were planning to head to Mr. Tofu for the tempeh and the like. Alas, teeing it up in Google directions, the store had already closed. Disappointed in that, yet happy to have made the artisan food discovery, we headed back to Chapala.

Part of me groaned though. Would I have to make the trek back to Guadalajara every time I wanted the tamales and chips and tempeh? Wondering, wondering.

Fast forward to yesterday. I planned the trip back to Guad. This time alone. Not excited about driving in Guad, alone, even during the day. I went back and forth about it and then suddenly it occurred to me to just ask Google about vegan tamales here in Chapala. I did, and found nothing. However, I did discover a vegan restaurant here. Hmmmmm, maybe, just maybe, they have tamales.

So I drove over for almuerzo (lunch). There, I found an oasis. Ol-Lin is in the driveway and backyard of a private residence. Beautifully maintained and appointed. Impeccable. Tables dot the backyard, which is graced by birds and palm trees.

I was cheerfully greeted by Culu, a vivacious young lady (and the owner I believe) and given a seat by the swimming pool. I ordered a hearty lunch and totally enjoyed it. Then I asked Culu (who speaks English) whether they ever make tamales? Oh yes, she said, tomorrow (Sunday). Could I order some and pick them up? Certainly so.

Then I asked about tempeh. Oh yes. They make tempeh on occasion.

Sourcing problem solved, just like that, and practically right around the corner.

This morning, Sunday, I had a scrumptious desayuno (breakfast) and picked up the tamales.

And I put in a standing order for every Sunday.

Life as a vegan just got a whole lot better!

And a great lesson for me in sourcing. Since we moved here we’ve lived by a shopping rule: if you want it, buy it when you see it. It might not present itself again. When some items are standard stock, many are not. This appears to be true from the mercado to WalMart.

And as Dorothy says at the end of my all-time favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz, if I ever think again that I’ve lost my heart’s desire, I’ll look no further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.

The Park in Chapala: Parque de la Christiania

When we moved to Chapala, we didn’t know it, but right across the street from our new home is a glorious city park. The Parque de la Christiania borders the malecon and extends around the lakefront, making almost all the lake shore in the city limits accessible to the public. I simply find that wonderful.

The park is well-used. On any given day, we’ll see soccer (or futbol as it is known here) practices taking place there either on the soccer fields in the park or ersatz pick-up games on the extensive meadows in the park.

Mostly though we’ll see families holding celebrations. Birthday parties, sweet sixteen parties, graduations, family reunions, or simply entire extended families enjoying the temperate climate here in Chapala.

Pay your five pesos (yes, there’s a small entry fee at one of several gates into the park) and begin your stroll along one of the many paths, some paved, some simply well-worn trails.

There are a limited number of vendors in the park, so refreshments are available without exiting. There is no re-entry. If you leave and want to come back, you pony up another five pesos.

The park is beautifully manicured and well-cared-for.

People come to the park to play, to socialize, the walk, to read, to be lovers or to simply lie in the sun or the shade.

Oh yes, there’s a full frisbee golf course in the park too.

There’s a lovely lane to walk along the lakefront, shady, with massive old trees lining the path. Lots of benches there too, to sit and watch the birds or to simply gaze of the expanse of the lake.

It’s usually quiet in the park. On the malecon part of the lakefront, music abounds. Marachi bands, individual, duo or trio bands, boom boxes and people simply singing for the joy of it.

The park is more for quiet contemplation, at least in our admittedly brief experience thus far.

It’s definitely worth a visit.

An Appeal to Starbucks de Mexico

Starbucks, I love your Cold Brew. I typically bought out all the supply at Walmart of the Cold Brew bottles while I lived in the U.S. and on the few trips I’ve made back.

The bottles are not available here in Mexico. And that’s okay, although I hope you bring them here in the near future.

No. My appeal regards what is sold in Mexico, listed on the menus of all the Starbucks I have graced here so far, the Cold Brewed Coffee.

A couple of times when I have ordered the Cold Brew, I’ve been absolutely delighted. The barista opened a little frig, pulled out a vessel of dark chilled coffee, added it to a Venti with ice and mixed with water. Perfection! That smooth, delicious cold-brewed taste I so love.

However, most of the time, the barista fills a Venti with ice, runs some pipping hot brewed coffee into a vessel, dilutes it with water and pours this devil’s concoction into the Venti.

What is it? That’s iced coffee! That is NOT cold-brew.

Please, please Starbucks de Mexico, train the baristas on how to properly provide the cold brew that is on the menu. Or, if that’s simply the way it’s done here, fine. Just please please label it on the menu as cafe con hielo, not as Cold Brew.

Ahhhh, Cold Brew, I do miss thee.

Rules of the Road–Driving in Mexico Part 2

This weekend Bonita and I ventured on a run to the border. No, not for Taco Bell but for something much more mundane. We had to renew the permit for our U.S.-plated car. Mexico does not allow permanent importation of a foreign-plated vehicle; you get a permit at the border which must be surrendered every 180 days. So off we drove from Chapala to Nuevo Laredo to take care of business.

In another post I’ll talk more about the actual journey; today, my focus is once again on driving in Mexico, building on my first post on the topic.

The drive from Chapala to Nuevo Laredo (on the Texas border) is a clear shot North. Much of it, probably about half of it, is on toll road. Pretty straightforward. Toll roads in Mexico, at least those we’ve encountered, come in two versions: divided four lane and undivided two lane.

The divided four lane is easy-peasy to navigate and drive. Indeed for much of the time on these I used the car’s cruise control and sat back and drove.

What you encounter on the toll roads are mostly trucks. Here in Mexico, you see a lot of double semi’s, and on the rolling hills and mountain passes they can move at a snail’s pace (upside) and road runner (downside). On the four lanes, you zip right along.

You’ll pass a lot of trucks. But, always, always check the mirrors. Despite doing 70 to 75 mph myself, a number of the cars that use the toll roads treat them like the autobahn and will flash by you in the blink of an eye. And they seemingly appear out of nowhere.

The fun part is on the two lanes.  On the toll roads with two lanes, there’s typically a paved shoulder, specifically marked. The shoulder is most often treated as another lane here in Mexico.

You are expected to drive mostly on the shoulder. The trucks almost all do so. Thus another “lane” is created in the middle of the road. The double yellow lines down the middle are ignored. And you pass in this “third” lane and you will be passed too. Even where it appears impossible to safely pass.

It seems that everyone understands this here in Mexico. The police do it; the trucks do it; buses do it; cars do it. It appears to be considered very bad form to doggedly drive, especially slowly, in the marked single lane in the road on these two lane toll roads.

Every now and then, you’ll see signage that clearly says “no passing”. However, there seems to be no signage that says “passing allowed”. You just do it.

The same is true in the cities. Be prepared to be passed on the right on the shoulder.

And motorcycles and scooters zip everywhere.

I see the Mexicanos driving and talking away on their cellphones. I shake my head in amazement. It takes all the focus and attention I can muster just to drive here.

It’s not better; it’s not worse; it’s just quite different than driving in the U.S. or Canada.

I do wonder though. Do the Mexicans find driving in the U.S. and Canada as challenging as I find driving in Mexico?

How Clean Is Lake Chapala?

I’m back on a lake at long last. Lake Chapala.

Let me explain.

I grew up on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont, one of the largest lakes in the U.S. other than the Great Lakes. Lake Champlain was and is beautiful and relatively pristine. I remember days of pleasure on and in the lake, swimming, fishing, wading, picnicking, and camping.

Lake Chapala reminds me in some ways of those early days of my life. Relatively little beachfront with actual sandy beaches. More marsh and shrubland.

When we first thought about moving to the Chapala, we read that the lake was seriously polluted, and getting worse. And visiting the malecons and the few beaches, we rarely saw people swimming. Lots of families on the shores, but rarely anyone in the water. Boats, yes. People, no.

So we weren’t sure.

Now, I’m happy to say, the issue is settled. In a report titled Lake Chapala: State of the Lake 2018, the authors rely on the analysis of Dr. Todd Stong, a prominent and widely-respected civil engineer. Turns out that Lake Chapala is in quite good environmental condition. Safe for swimming. Safe for fishing. And the Lake is a major source of water for Guadalajara.

Lake Chapala is slowly, very slowly, disappearing. Indeed, it is already quite shallow. As the report notes, the average depth is fourteen feet. Each year adds an increment of sediment to the bottom of the Lake. Over the course of thousands of years, the Lake will turn to marsh and finally land.

The report is quite enlightening. I recommend reading it. It’s brief and factual. So, have no fear. The Lake is just fine.