Archive for the ‘Cultural Experience’ Category

Chícalas (roasted ants) from Oaxaca

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

A couple of friends just got back from a visit to Oaxaca, México and were kind enough to bring back some chícalas for me to taste. Chícalas are large black ants that have been toasted on a grill or in a frying pan. I thought you might want to see a close-up view.


Besides these ants, there are some other insects that are commonly eaten in various parts of Mexico.


escamoles.jpgEscamoles are ant lavae or eggs that are used to prepare different dishes. Seasonal and hard-to-find escamoles can go for as high as $30 to $50 a pound, and can be thought of as similar to caviar. This is on my list of things to do, and the next time I get a chance, I’m going to have to try escamoles.


chinicuiles.jpgMaguey worms Gusanos de maguey (chinicuiles) are edible caterpillars that live in the maguey and agave plants. They are considered a delicacy and are often eaten raw, toasted or crushed in a spicy red salsa. That spicy red salsa is pretty good by the way.


chapulines-for-sale.jpgA chapulín is a big grasshopper. You can eat a handful as a snack or enjoy then combined with other foods. The word chapulín comes from the indigenous náuatl language. Of course, grasshoppers are known as saltamontes or saltones in other areas. Chapulines are toasted similar to chícalas. You can get a little bag of them for about $1.50, so next time you’re in Mexico, you have no excuses.

After all this talk, aren’t you getting hungry?

And if you think you have an aversion to eating insects, think about honey. It’s really just nectar from flowers that bees ingest and regurgitate a couple of times and then store it in a half-digested state. ¿No te encanta la entomofagia?

Sometimes Cultural Information is Just as Important as Language

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

When trying to find a destination in Costa Rica, knowing how their address system works can be just as important as knowing Spanish. When I was visiting in Costa Rica, I remember seeing addresses like these:

200 metros al norte y 100 metros al oeste de la Torre Mercedes, Paseo Colón, frente a la Funeraria del Magisterio Nacional.

De la Farmacia Esteli 1/2 cuadra al Norte.

De la Iglesia San Juan, 2 cuadras al norte.

Del Banco Crédito Agrícola 50 metros oeste

Unión Fenosa 1/2 Oeste 1 1/2 Norte

Puente Las Marimbas 1c Norte 1/2c Este

Santiago de la Cruz Roja 75 oeste y 75 norte

Costado norte de Mc Donald’s La Tropicana

50 metros norte del Parque de Zarcero

100 metros sur de la esquina suroeste de la Iglesia

Costa Rica is not the only place where they don’t use street names and building numbers for addresses. Managua, Nicaragua has (or at least had) a similar system.

Here’s an excerpt from a piece called “A City of 2 Million Without a Map“.

Nowadays, for example, if you wished to visit the small Canadian Consulate in Managua, you would present yourself at the following address: De Los Pipitos, dos cuadras abajo. In English, this means: From Los Pipitos, two blocks down.

Any self-respecting inhabitant of Managua knows that “Los Pipitos” refers to a child-welfare agency whose headquarters are located a little south of the Tiscapa Lagoon. Managuans also know that abajo, in this context, does not mean “down” in a topographical sense. It means “west,” because the sun goes down in the west. (By the same token, in Managua street talk, “arriba,” or “up,” means “east.” Al lago, which literally means “to the lake,” is how Managuans say “to the north.” For some inexplicable reason, when they want to say “to the south,” Managuans say “al sur,” which means “to the south.”)

Something to keep in mind next time you travel to Central America.