Monday, July 17, 2006

Field Trip Recap: July 10...Day 1...First stop mezcal!

Bright and early Monday morning all 16 of us jump into the big red van, luggage strapped to the roof, and head for Jalapa de Marquez our first stop on the week long adventure. Although there was a degree of excitement about getting started most of use were also doped up on Dramamine and very drowsy. Since Oaxaca is located between two mountain ranges, roads leading out of the city are very windy and vomit inducing.

About an hour into our trip we arrive in Matatlan, a town whose main industry is the production of Mezcal! I guess I should mention that the state of Oaxaca is the birth place of mezcal. Our driver, Gregorio, asks if we would like to stop at a distillery and see how it is made. Even though it is 10 in the morning we all agree this is an important cultural learning opportunity and therefore a stop is necessary.

We receive a tour of the palenque including the fire pit where the maguey is roasted for (I think) 24 hours or so, then it is transferred to a cement thingy (technical term) where a horse walks around and around in a circle dragging a large cement wheel over the roasted maguey crushing it into a fine paste. We tasted some of the roasted maguey and it basically reminded me of a mezcal flavored fruit roll-up, same consistency etc. I don't think you are going to see this is in grocery stores anytime soon but if you do, remember who thought of it first!

So after it is crushed into a paste it sits in a big wooden vat and ferments for awhile and then is distilled and the mezcal is transferred to wooden barrels to sit for a bit. Apparently the difference between mezcal and tequila is the refining process or something, tequila is more refined than mezcal and you can taste the difference. I have conducted my own independent study of this...I'm looking for a sponsor to continue this comparative research if anyone wants to contribute.

After seeing the distillery we went to the bottling area where a women pulled out a big jar of guisanos (worms) that they put in the mezcal. These worms are found on the plant itself and she fished a few out for people to eat. I did not partake in a worm (it was 10 in the morning, you have to draw the line somewhere) but judging by the faces of people that did, they were less than delicious. Naturally after the tour we head to the tasting area and have a few shots of different types of mezcal. You would think I learned a lesson from my last experience with mezcal and windy roads but I did not and downed a few shots (notice that taking shots early in the morning doesn't cross the line). I bought a wonderful bottle of Moka Mezcal which is the consistency and color of Kahlua but obviously tastes a bit different. The thought of Moka and mezcal together seems a bit strange but it is really good! I will attempt to bring a bottle home but I seem to drink it too quickly.

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