Cidre, Ponche, & Rompope


Since it’s New Years Eve, it seems appropriate to talk about the three drinks that are used to celebrate Christmas in Mexico: Cidre, Ponche and Rompope.

Cidre is exactly what it sounds like: hard sparkling cider. Some people like it sweet, while others prefer dryer varieties, but either way apple is the traditional flavor.

And speaking of apple, there’s another apple-based drink that’s had at Christmas: ponche. Ponche – or punch – is sort of a cross between hot cider and wassail. It’s made with dried fruit (usually apple or pear), hot water, brown sugar, spices, when it’s done, you can drink it just like that, or add rum. The most traditional ponche is stirred with a stalk of sugar cane, but we just used a spoon.

And finally, there’s Rompope. This is a drink similar to eggnog, but it’s not as sweet, and it’s sold bottled with rum already mixed in. It’s also served at room temperature. Some brands have pictures of saints on the label, some don’t, but it’s a lovely holiday treat, and very festive.

If you’re wondering which is my favorite, I like them all, but I think Rompope is the one I like most. It’s one of those drinks that can soothe a sore throat and warm your entire body, with just a tiny sip, and while it’s usually available only for Christmas, we bought the last bottle in town for our New Year’s celebration.

Whatever you’re drinking tonight, I hope you’re safe and warm, and that 2020 brings you joy and peace.

Felices fiestas.



One of my favorite times of year is Tamale Season. Other people know this as Christmastime, Advent, or just the holiday season, but whatever you call it, from around Thanksgiving through the first of the new year, tamales are on the menu.

In Mexico, of course, they’re a traditional Christmas food, and Mexican tamales always come with an olive – with the pit still in it – in the center.

Some people say that the olive represents Mary holding the Christ Child within her, and some people say it represents all mothers and their future children.

But the reality is that whether they’re wrapped in cornhusks or banana leaves, tamales predate Christianity, so it’s more likely that the olive represents the seeds we plant for future harvests.

Whatever the meaning really is, I think we can all agree that tamales are a tasty treat, made more special by being limited to specific times of the year.

Felices Fiestas.



Like buñuelos, mazapánes only come out for the holidays. Individually wrapped  in either waxed paper or colored saran wrap, these are light, with an almost shortbread-like texture, made with peanuts, and just sweet enough that one is completely satisfying, though we could all easily eat five or six.

There is some debate about whether they’re a cookie or a candy (they feel like a cookie to me) and whether there is any flour in the recipe. (Most recipes only list peanuts, peanut butter, and powdered sugar, but they may not be accurate.)

The mazapánes we have were gifted to my mother by her friend An, who apparently makes masses of them every year. (An is a gourmet cook and loves to share her food.)

When Mom brought these around at her posada, all the Mexican guests immediately lit up, recognizing the special holiday treat. The American and Canadian guests had to be introduced to this new delicacy.

Everyone agreed they were delicious.

And An has promised to send me the recipe… once she figures out how to write it out in English.

Lupita’s Frutería

Lupita's pico de gallo

This week, instead of fiction, I’m sharing some of the holiday traditions and experiences I’m having while visiting my mother in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

There is a store in El Centenario that you get to by turning off the highway at the sign with the flags and the simple descriptor “frutería.”

In English, this is a greengrocer. A produce stand. But Lupita’s frutería is so much more.

First, of course, there is Lupita herself. She’s a small woman with jet black hair and deep berry lipstick, and she talks faster, even, than I do, with a cheery expression that you cannot help but mimic.

Then, there’s her produce. She doesn’t always have everything you want, but what she does have is excellent. Sweet potatos. Bananas. Tomatos. Avocados. Onions. All the staples you need.

But the real reason people visit her store – the not-so-secret, super secret reason – is her pico de gallo.

Now, pico de gallo itself is not a difficult thing to make. It’s just tomatos, onions, chili peppers and cilantro, maybe with a little bit of salt.

Something about Lupita’s pico de gallo, though, is just… effervescent. Not literaly. It doesn’t bubble. But it tastes amazingly fresh, and it seems to carry with it the essence of Lupita herself. We bought a container of it on Thursday afternoon, and by bedtime, we’d finished the container. (I did not measure the container.)

My mother says there was at least one time when she got the last container Lupita had for sale that day, and saw other customers walk away disappointed.

Chips and salsa aren’t something you put out at parties here. It’s considered “cheating” to offer something that simple. But everyone loves them, and everyone eats it.

Especially if it’s the pico de gallo from Lupita’s frutería.

Huevos y Tocino (Eggs and Bacon)

This week, instead of fiction, I’m sharing some of the holiday traditions and experiences I’m having while visiting my mother in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

The Bacon Guy's Truck

In this episode, I want to tell you about huevos y tocino – eggs and bacon.

While La Paz, and my mother’s suburb, El Centenario, do have grocery stores, mini-marts, and corner stores, just as you find in the states, the locals, and most of the ex-pats who are mindful about where their food comes buy as much as they can from local vendors.

BaconIn El Centenario, that means if you want chicken or eggs, you call Alex. Alex also services the pools for a lot of the people in my mother’s neighborhood, but that’s just because he works hard. At his house, across the highway from my mom’s neighborhood, he raises chickens. You call him and ask if he’ll be around and tell him how many chickens or eggs you want, and then when you show up at his house (it has white gates) and he has harvested the chickens – killed, plucked and cleaned, and cut into parts if you don’t want them whole – or eggs (also cleaned) and you pay him. (It was  100 pesos for a dozen eggs.) When you’ve finished your eggs, you return the egg crates to Alex, for reuse.

Getting bacon (or smoked pork chops, ham, or chorizo) is a similar process. You drive to the bacon guy’s house. (I forgot to ask his first name, and everyone just calls him ‘the bacon guy’) His commercial truck was parked in his driveway. When we went, his wife was in the window of their laundry room, and she gestured us toward the back of the house, where the bacon guy came out in his butcher apron, and asks what you want, how much, and how you’d like it cut.

We asked for a kilo of bacon, sliced thin, and he brought us chunks of freshly smoked ham to taste while we waited. He put on fresh gloves and went to slice and package our order.

More baconThe ham was amazing, juicy and hot, a little salty, a little sweet, just as it should be. I considered asking for some, but we already had an overflowing fridge, and none of us really eat that much ham.

It only took him a few minutes, and when he gave us our precious package of meat candy, he also brought us paper napkins to clean our hands. The cost for a kilo of bacon was $120 mxp, or a bit over six dollars, US.

Truthfully, it’s a little hard to see slabs of raw meat hanging there, some cured, some waiting to be, but I believe that if you’re going to eat meat, you should be familiar with how it’s processed, just as you should be mindful of where it comes from.

Our huevos and tocino purchases allowed us to get the freshest ingredients, while also supporting local small businesses, and that makes me really happy.