A Yucatan Tradition: Making Pib for Day of the Dead

For Day of the Dead, Mexicans set up altars in their homes so their deceased loved ones can come by to eat and drink. In the state of Yucatan, they make a special dish known as “mucbipollo”, “pibipollo” or simply “pib”, some of which is set on the Day of the Dead altars and some of which is set aside for the living family to eat.

I got to see the process up close this time when Jorge and I traveled to Yucatan to celebrate the holiday with his family. Jorge’s grandmother (known by the entire family as “Mami”) showed me the process of making pib at her home, and I even got to make some myself!

The whole process began in Mami’s backyard, where she has her stove set up to cook the tomato sauce for the pib.

Mami had hired a local woman to help her with some of the harder tasks. I chatted with her while she was kneading the dough for the pib, asking her how she spends her time. She told me that she works doing odd jobs for whoever needs help around town. That morning she had helped a neighbor kill some chickens, and in the afternoon helping Jorge’s grandmother make pib.

She even added a popular Yucatan ingredient called “axiote”, telling me it was used to add a little flavor and a lot of color to the pib dough. There was quite a bit of axiote, and it had to  be folded into the dough starting in the middle to keep it from getting all over the table.

Jorge’s grandmother thought we could use even more axiote…

Once the dough, chicken and tomato sauce were ready, we went from the backyard into the kitchen where my mother-in-law showed me how to put the pibs together. Jorge’s aunt and uncle were on chicken-shredding duty while the rest of us made the shell for the pibs and layered in all the ingredients.

Mami and her assistant had separated the the dough into balls. The bigger one on the bottom is to make the bowl of the pib, and the smaller one on top is to create the lid. As you can see, we had quite a few pibs to make!

The first step is to lay out the strips of banana leaves. My mother-in-law was showing me her method, when HER mother-in-law stepped in to make it just right. I guess you never stop learning from your mother-in-law!

My mother-in-law showed me her technique for shaping the bowl of the pib, using the knuckles to get just the right shape.

Once the bowl was made, I put in all the ingredients. Jorge kept telling me to add more chicken, while I was trying to get as much tomato sauce in there as possible. There was also a family debate over what to do with the chicken bones. My mother-in-law told me to just put in strips of meat and no bones, while Uncle Tony insisted every pib needs a bone or two inside to chew on later. When the sauce and chicken are almost to the top, it’s time to put in a few leaves of cilanto, tomato slices, onion slices and a sliced egg.

Next, you flatten the smaller ball of dough and use a banana leaf to cover the top of the bowl as a lid. Then (my favorite part because I like to get messy), you slather some more tomato sauce all over the outside of the pib.

Finally, wrap the pib in strips of banana leaves then tie the whole thing up to get it ready to bake.

Tah-dah! My masterpiece!

Here are all of our pibs wrapped up and ready to go to the town baker. Traditionally, pibs are cooked by digging a hole in the ground to make an underground oven, but since Jorge’s grandmother gets tired doing all that extra work, she decided to have them taken to the town baker.

And who better to take the pibs to the baker than Uncle Tony in his tricycle taxi! A popular form of public transportation in Yucatan towns.

The bakery was not what I was expecting! Here’s the outside (complete with birds cages, a Virgin Mary and some kids at play):

But the actual oven was in a small shack behind the bakery. The town baker had his hands full with trays and trays of pibs from many local families. He never wrote anything down, so I have no idea how he kept track of which pibs belonged to which family, but he did. The oven itself had kind of an igloo-shape and enough room for many trays of pib! Like a giant pizza oven.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the finished product when we got the pibs back in the evening, so here’s a photo taken from online:

source: http://infomediatelevision.blogspot.mx/2011/05/mucbipollo.html

While we were eating our pibs in the kitchen that night, the blender suddenly turned on for 5 seconds, then back off. Jorge’s grandmother said, “Oh look, los muertos came to eat pib with us!”

 

Cancun Art Right Under My Nose

Anyone who lives in Cancun knows that locals love nothing better than to complain about how little culture the city has to offer. We’re only 40 years old, and the entire state of Quintana Roo used to only be populated by a few scattered Mayan villages. Over 90% of Cancun residents are originally from other parts of Mexico (and the world), so we’re still trying to figure out who we are. Personally, I kind of love being part of something new and exciting where I can be an important element in forming the city’s culture and legacy. (I flatter myself by considering this little blog to be part of the Cancun cultural evolution process.)

At any rate, this past Sunday after church I talked Jorge into going on a field trip. We walked over to the intersection of Calle Labna and Avenida Tulum in downtown Cancun because I had seen from a distance some cool murals and graffiti on the walls surrounding a water tower. Jorge, my camera and I found a whole lot more than we expected!

First were the painted trees. I have no idea who painted them, or when, or why, but they’re pretty cool. Here are just a few…

 

Two of the walls surrounding the water tower were covered in graffiti. Have blank canvas, will tag.

Normally I’m not a fan of vandalism, but I have to admit I kinda love all the color.

 

But the other 2 walls have the best part of all: the Mayan murals. It was pretty spectacular. Dare I say the best day of my camera’s short life thus far.

 

And the most awesome element: the skull helmets. We need to make this the latest fashion trend. Who’s with me?

For more of my pics of the Mayan mural and to find out where it came from, click through to my latest blog post on Cancun360.mx.

What’s the Difference Between a Timba and a Machacado?

During our trips to the village of Chabihau, we love to stop by and visit Tía Ofelia and Tío Cance for some timbas and machacados. (They’re not really tíos. They’re second cousins.) They own a little shop right by the entrance into town, with sand floors and 3 tables.

This trip, I decided to document the process because I haven’t seen these anywhere else, although I’m sure they exist somewhere.

 

Jorge and I spotted the mamey fruit sitting on the right side of the fruit shelf, so he opted for a timba de mamey while I chose the healthier machacado de mamey.

First, Ofelia scoops the fruit into a glass.

 

Then mashes it up with a mazo (wooden stick used in the kitchen for mashing things… that’s my official definition)

 

Next (my favorite part), Cance gets out the ice shaver…

 

…and puts a block of shaved ice into each glass.

 

Ofelia then pours a little vanilla into the mix.

 

The next part is what sets the timbas apart from the machacados: Jorge’s timba gets a sizeable dose of La Lechera cream, while my machacado gets zip.

 

To top it all off, another scoop of shaved ice!

 

Aaaand voila! The best beach snack ever.

 

So Now I’m the Proud Owner of 4 Coconut Trees…

A few more pics from our weekend in Chabihau. We stopped by our land to do some scouting, and ended up getting some coconuts from our palm trees. (Ok, Jorge and his cousin got them while I took pictures.)

 

Back at Jorge’s aunt’s house, my suegro was kind enough to grab his machete and chop open a hole in one of the coconuts so we could try some coconut water.

 

I was pretty proud because everyone was saying how our coconut water was some of the sweetest they’d ever had! I drank it straight this time, but Jorge’s uncles tell me it tastes great with ice and vodka. Duly noted.

 

My suegro was in the mood for some carne de coco (the inside part that you eat… not sure what it’s called in English), so he carved some out and ate it during the car ride back to Cancun.

 

Have you guys tried fresh coconut water before? 

How to Speak Like a Mexican: La Última y Nos Vamos

Here in Mexico, you can often hear the expression “la última y nos vamos” (last one, then we leave) in reference to one last beer before heading home.

LIES.

Last night Jorge and I went out with some friends and decided to stop by one last bar, where our buddy Carlos said, “la última y nos vamos”.

Then, this showed up at our table:

There were only 3 people drinking beer.

By

How to Speak Like a Mexican: 8 Days a Week

There are 7 days in a week. I can prove it:

  1. Sunday
  2. Monday
  3. Tuesday
  4. Wednesday
  5. Thursday
  6. Friday
  7. Saturday

I can even prove it in Spanish:

  1. Domingo
  2. Lunes
  3. Martes
  4. Miércoles
  5. Jueves
  6. Viernes
  7. Sábado

And yet, in Mexico they typically refer to a week as “8 days”. Guess how long 2 weeks is in Mexico? 15 days.

Wrong, isn’t it? Well, maybe not.

Let’s say you’re talking to your friend Pepe on a Sunday, and you decide to get together again on the following Sunday. In English, we would say, “next Sunday” or “a week from today”. In Mexico, however, they might say “domingo en 8 días” (Sunday 8 days from now).

Turns out that in Mexico, they count the current day as well.

So if you’re planning coffee with Pepe 1 week from today (a Sunday), you would count the following days:

  1. Sunday (today)
  2. Monday
  3. Tuesday
  4. Wednesday
  5. Thursday
  6. Friday
  7. Saturday
  8. Sunday (the day you want to hang out with Pepe)

So next time a Mexican tells you they’ll see you in 8 days, they mean they’ll see you this day next week!

My Mexican Friends Were Right All Along

I tried sushi for the first time about 5 years ago, and it was love at first bite.

In Mexico, sushi is served with two kinds of soy sauce:

  1. Soy sauce with lime
  2. Soy sauce with jalapeño

I have always been enamoured with the lime soy sauce. (Seriously, don’t even try to give me sushi with regular soy sauce. It’s kinda gross.) The jalapeño soy sauce, however… not so much. I always thought, “Jalapeño soy sauce? What’s wrong with Mexicans?”

Then I started ordering a sushi roll that came with a side of chipotle mayo. HEAVEN. DIVINE. That little kick of spice was just perfect. Just the lime soy sauce was no longer enough to satisfy my weekly sushi binges. I NEEDED spicy with my sushi.

Then yesterday, I realized I had evolved to this:

My new-found need for spicy sushi has now led me to actually using the jalapeño soy sauce I used to make fun of Mexicans for. (bonus points if there’s chipotle mayo AND jalapeño soy sauce)

I’m becoming one of them. This should automatically qualify me for Mexican citizenship.

Somebody slap me when I start putting ketchup and worcestershire sauce on my pizza.

Need more proof I’m turning Mexican? Check these out:

 

Mexican Safety

Mexico is not known for its safety procedures. I’ve seen numerous construction workers with no helmets, carseats are almost unheard of, and 99% of taxis have no seatbelts in the back seat. I can’t say this is a bad thing because there don’t seem to be more accident-related deaths in Mexico than in the States.

Still, one Mexican safety practice that always makes me laugh a little is the Coke bottle cover-up. Anytime you see rebar sticking out of a not-completed house (or sometimes a completed house!), it will probably have Coke bottles stuck on it to prevent injury.

I saw this beauty on the street the other day:

Coca-Cola… saving lives, one piece of broken metal at a time.