Friday, February 3, 2012

Sweet Bits (Dulces)

A sugar-addicted friend once pointed out that Halloween marks the beginning of the Sugar Holidays: Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter......A time-frame inundated with sugar, candy, special treats, but always punctuated in January with a plethora of new diets (that really work!) put out by women's magazines.

I think Mexico is on a perpetual sugar holiday. There is little distinction between holidays, Saint's days, national holiday celebrations, personal birthdays, birthdays of Mayan gods or politicians.....it's all about eating sweet treats.

Party supplies by the ton.
San Cristobal features an artesanal market south of the Zocolo, down la Calle de Dulces (not it's real name). I've begun calling it that because there is a Mayoreo (wholesale store) with every kind of candy, so many brands (all Mexican) that it would blow your mind, plus pinatas in hundreds of shapes and sizes, party supplies, and sweet alcoholic beverages like Sherry and brandy. Across the street from that store is a candy/sweets cafe that sells coffee to go along with whatever sugary confection you've chosen from their glass case. On the corner is the Michoacan ice cream store. That's my favorite, in spite of having gotten very sick on a Rompope paleta in Erongaricuaro (in the state of Michoacan)  That ice cream is the best in Mexico, at least I've not had better. Every week or so I buy a half-liter of the chocolate-coffee blend and we often have a small cup of it in the evening with Kahlua drizzled over. Heaven!!!

There are at least three bakeries on this street, one of which is French and makes the most delectable pan au chocolat, some also stuffed with banana. I'm drooling on the keyboard.


Inside the Mayoreo wholesale candy store.
Ratones.....



At the indoor artesanal market, they sell hand-made clothing, beautifully embroidered shirts and soft drawstring pants from Guatemala. They'll tell you everything is made here and by hand, even though much of the thick embroidery is clearly done by machine. And in many of the stalls: traditional sweets. Bees abound in there, drawn by the sugar. Nobody bothers to shoo them away because they don't carry germs like flies. Serenaded by the buzzing, you may linger over crispy fried cookie shells stuffed with white cream or fist sized wads of baked merenge sprinkled with cinnamon. Chunks of squash that appear to be similar in thick rind to pumpkin have been stewed in brown sugar syrup. Dried coconut is blended with sweet goo and stuck together in piles that resemble haystacks. Cookies of every shape, size, and flavor have been coated with decorator icing or slathered in chocolate. Marzipan gets shaped into Mayan gods or animals. White sugar skulls and plaques of sugar painted with Catrinas (day of the dead skeleton people) and lovely crisp cookie layers drenched in honey and cut into rectangles sit next to ratones, those chocolate morsels in the shape of large brown rats.....

Did I forget anything? OMG. Just writing about it gives me a sugar high.