By Nora Vasconcelos
Calpan is a very small town, located in the west part of Puebla, one of the most diverse and industrious states in Mexico. It’s also guarded by two of the main volcanos in the country, the Iztaccihuatl (which residents affectionately called Doña Rosita) and the Popocatepetl (also known there as Don Goyo). So that, life in Calpan goes by in a quiet pace most of the year.
The oldest buildings have been well preserved, as they were some of the first built in Mexico by the Spaniards, around the 16th century. All around, stone dominates the sights. Churches, houses, streets, all of them witness how people go through their everyday routine with not many disturbances from the urban fast-paced rhythm. Something really amazing, considering that this place is only two hours away from Mexico city, the country’s capital.
But once a year, everything changes here. Local residents welcome hundreds of tourists from other parts of the country who, year after year, can’t wait to enjoy the most delicious “Chiles en nogada” ever!
This Mexican dish, composed with green peppers stuffed with meat and fruits, and covered with walnut sauce, is not only one of the most typical of the national cuisine, but also one with historical roots, as it has its origins during the aftermath of the war of the independence that Mexico fought with Spain in the 19th century.
The elaborated recipe for this dish was created in the state of Puebla, and it has been preserved through the years with just a few modifications. Eating “Chiles en Nogada” is a broad tradition that extends around many places in Mexico, and its anxiously awaited every year, as the ingredients for its preparation can be bought only during July and August and, to remain the closest to the original recipe, the ingredients most be from Calpan, Puebla.
It’s so that this charming town changes completely for two weekends, at the beginning of August. Families open their garages and get some tables to served visitors their special recipes; restaurants send their waiters and waitresses -dressed in typical Mexican customs- to greet visitors with plates containing the coveted dish as soon as they arrive to the town, and in the center of Calpan, a big marquee is displayed with tables and chairs, allowing people to taste dozens of different combinations which are prepared at the moment in stands specially designed to allow local restaurants to prepare these chillies while guests observe the preparations.
Of course, the smell is amazing. And having the opportunity of sitting down at the table with people you’ve just met, is surprising. Life goes easy there. No rush, no worries. It’s simply time to sit back and relax. Calpan residents are there to take good care of you.
When the delicious meal is over, it’s time to go for a nice walk, and the farmers’ market is right there to surprise all people -particularly those, like me, coming from the big cities- with their incredibly fresh produce, hand-made tortillas and all sort of Mexican snacks.
Then you see smiles all around. People in Calpan feel happy and proud to show visitors their hard work, from a complete year in which they have taken care of their fields.
And then, when the afternoon turns into sunset, the culinary adventure ends. However, the pleasant experience has come here to stay for a long time!
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Want to read more about culinary trips? Check this post written by Jane Isaac, about The Markets Of The Dordogne, in France. And once you’re there, why not read her other posts about books!