December 27, 2008
The resort was pretty much what I expected, but I did my best to be friendly and join the other spouses each day for beach going, shopping and relaxing. I took the bus to the tourist malls and bargained for jewelry (a bracelet that I still wear every day), and soaked up the rays and breezes on the beach. I do love to walk for a couple of hours on a beautiful beach, but the previously storm-battered and sadly eroded beach was not what I had envisioned. It was very narrow and filled with cabanas, and the sand at the water's edge, where I like to walk, slanted at about a 45˚ angle and was mushy instead of firm. After a short stroll, one leg hitting the sand at a much higher point than the other, my hip began to ache, and instead of enjoying the sight of miles of ocean lapping at sand, I envisioned a chiropractic adjustment table in a sterile room, and knew it was time to return to my cabana.
The resort was unwilling or unable to make vegan food accommodations beyond plain pasta with no sauce, so we opted to bus into town for our meals. We found a small chain of natural foods restaurants that served amazing local foods. The meals were so delicious that we tried repeatedly to lure other conference attendees to come with us, but they were all frightened of the word "natural" and chose to eat at the hotel instead. Interestingly, a large number of the group started disappearing. We later found out they had succumbed to dysentery and were recovering in their rooms. Although we ate enthusiastically, neither one of us ever had any problems. I just wish I had taken notes and photos so I could remember and recreate the wonderful traditional Mexican food we ate.
And this brings me to Rick Bayless. At first glance, Mr. Bayless seems to cook only animal-based Mexican dishes—with lots of chorizo and lard. Not exactly vegan food for thought. But, if you look beyond that first impression, you can find lots of inspiration for amazing meals. He was recently in Madison for a fund-raising event at which I was supposed to help, and I was really excited to meet him and watch him cook in person. At the last minute, I was unable to attend. I was very disappointed, but had a post-event opportunity to purchase one of his (signed) cookbooks for half-price. There were two choices, and I poured over each one, trying to determine which I was more likely to use. I chose "Mexican Everyday" instead of "Authentic Mexican 20th Anniversary Edition," because it contained meals you could make in 30 minutes. But the latter contained a treasure trove of information and would be a wonderful reference book. He provides so much insight into the flavors, ingredients and techniques involved in authentic Mexican cuisine, it's relatively easy to adapt the dishes into vegan versions without losing the fabulous taste. Plus, for many of the dishes in the book I selected, he offers vegetarian alternatives. And the side dishes and vegetables sound amazing. For example, you can skip the pork but make the Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Guajillo Salsa. I'm looking forward to substituting tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans, avocados and eggplant or other veggies for the animals, and using the preparation methods and sauces from the book, to create exciting flavors.