Another not-so-great event was the theft of my iPad. Sitting at a cafe in the magnificent city of Guadalajara, I took my eyes off it for a moment and it vanished. Of course it was a shame to lose it, but what I most regret is the loss of the recipes and notes I had stored in its case from Carolina Nunez Eastelum, who taught me how to cook some of the most beautiful Mexican food I had during the whole trip. I guess I’ll just have to pay her a visit again someday…
Guadalajara, which takes its name from a Spanish city, is known as the cultural centre of Mexico. It’s also commonly recognised as the home of mariachis. I went in search of these musicians and found them friendly, talented and proud of their heritage. Mexicans have been playing this upbeat, rhythmic style of music since long before the Spanish arrived. They dressed in loose white clothing and used rattles, drums and horns. When the Spanish came, they brought with them guitars, trumpets and clarinets for use in religious ceremonies, and these were quickly snapped up by the clever Mexicans, replacing their original instruments for richer, louder sounds. Every year this beautiful city hosts the 10-day International Mariachi Festival, with more than 500 musicians performing in concerts around the city. The mariachis play their music with such gusto it’s hard not to join in a group wandering the cobblestones, filling the alleyways with lively music (and tequila).
Then it’s on to Zacatecas, where exploring is a larger-than-life history lesson. The intertwined streets were built during the city’s silver rush in the 16th century, and the precious metal that was sent back to Spain created a quarter of the empire’s wealth. In my opinion, the food I found in this old city is more precious than silver, in particular the herb epazote (which can be substituted with tarragon). Everyone uses it but not on its own. Try a large sprig in your next stew or braise – just make sure you throw it out after cooking.
Mexic-OH! fact: Guavas originated in Mexico!
Mexican Fiesta with Peter Kuruvita airs Thursdays 7.30pm on SBS ONE.