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An Oaxaca food odyssey

If you read last week’s account of several days spent in Oaxaca City exposed to what a San Francisco-trained chef – Julio Aguilera of Oaxaca-cathedral-adjacent El Destilado – likes to sink his teeth into on the city’s wide spectrum of gustatory options, plus an account of his restaurant’s 12-something-course tasting menu, then you may recall where we left off.

pg9bIt was day two and Julio, his friend Rebecca and I ate a late breakfast at Ita Noni, an affordable local eatery of around ten years specializing in all things masa: comestibles (tamales, tetelas, memelitas, et al) and at least one drinkable (tascalate, made from anatto seed, cacao and, of course, corn).

The ponderously heavy fare – stuffed and/or topped with rich, dark chicharron maybe, or beans, definitely cheese, perhaps rajas for the perfunctory healthful option – sat in my already-abused viscera as Julio and Rebecca waved a hasty goodbye from a cab which swiftly accelerated away to the west, leaving me alone and pregnant with a rolly-polly baby of dense masa under a hot southern Mexican sun, unsure of what to do next.

Eating, naturally, was out of the question, nay suicidal, so I opted to walk in the direction of the city’s heart, located about 20 minutes to the southwest from Ita Noni’s position in the northeast Reforma neighborhood.

It’s a heart that works overtime to circulate through its metropolitan bloodstream an ever-increasing infusion of tourists from abroad and from within Mexico itself.  Everywhere are signs that expatriates and vacationing and/or seasonally transient Occidentals have long made their presence ubiquitous in this folksy city, one whose indigenous character is rapidly proving to be its fall from what may or may not have been the grace of a simpler, more “authentic” time.

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