San Miguel Holiday

MANY YEARS AGO in Puerto Rico, the early 1970s, I was visiting a friend in her Old San Juan apartment. Another woman was there, a visitor from the United States. I did not know her.

For some reason, she asked if I’d ever been in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and I told her no. She then asked if I was gay, and I gave her the same response. Why would she ask that?

Flash forward 40 years or so till last weekend. We paid San Miguel a visit, scarcely for the first time. The official purpose was to attend the Food Fest — or, as San Miguel calls it, the Gastronomic Festival — but we really just wanted to get off the mountaintop for a spell.

For years our favorite hotel was the Siesta on the outskirts of downtown. It was an old, sprawling, single-story place consisting mostly of connected rock cabins. The rooms were big, and you parked right outside your door. I loved it. But they tore it down. There’s just a weedy lot there now.

So we met Gerardo Ruíz online and stayed in a room at his house. His place is part of the Fabrica La Aurora, an old cloth factory of days gone by that has been turned into a huge complex of art galleries and related stuff.

And Gerardo Ruiz is an artist of considerable renown, it seems. His work, not surprisingly, was all over the walls of his house and studio.

2Our room had a high ceiling. It was painted white. There were two twin beds that were very comfortable. The connecting bathroom had a large counter by the sink. The shower worked well. The toilet flushed fantastically. We found a scorpion in there the first night, and I stomped him dead.

OneThere was a huge, screened window in the bedroom that opened to a long-neglected garden with tall trees, cacti and bushes where crickets crooned us to sleep every night. We slept the sleep of angels and little children.

We ate at the Food Festival Saturday afternoon, but we also dined at two of the three restaurants in La Aurora. One was a fancy burger joint and the other was a coffee shop slash restaurant where we enjoyed vanilla ice cream atop brownies one afternoon and breakfast Sunday morning.

You don’t get that sort of stuff here on the mountaintop where we live.

Sometimes you gotta get out of town and see how other people live.

Little quiches


WHEN MY CHILD BRIDE is not pumping iron at the gym or jawing interminably with her sister (how women can talk), she usually is baking.

Four or so years ago, she began to sell her wares out of a basket on the main plaza of our Colonial town. She rapidly became very popular.

Words like increíble and sensacional  were heard. Selling pastries and bread on the sidewalk is common in Mexico. Some of it is good. Much is just passable.

Little is increíble.

The primary reason for this is that most vendors do it entirely for money. To maximize profits, they scrimp on ingredients. This is counterproductive, of course, but long-term thinking figures into few Mexican business plans.

Better to pocket what you can get today. Forget mañana.

My bride, however, is inspired by two things. One, of course, is to earn money, which she keeps in a separate bank account, and she does better than one might think since she only sells one afternoon a week, Saturday, and her prices are low.

The second is that she simply loves to bake. It’s a hobby. She embraces the positive feedback, which is considerable and puts a smile on her face.

She does not scrimp on the ingredients.

A few weeks ago, she added a new product. That’s it in the photo, little quiches. They are 4.5 inches across, and very tasty. They started out a bit slow because no one here knows what a quiche is, plus the natives are not adventuresome eaters, to put it mildly.

But the quiches have caught on, mostly with Gringos, becoming a popular addition to the other products such as pecan pie, banana bread, cheesecake, strawberry muffins, fig mufffins, brownies and little pies of chicken and beef.

When you marry a Mexican, you never know what you’re gonna get.

But it’s usually tasty.