good reads | 23

sad animal facts on instagram

I love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

In the early years of food blogging (back when I ran a food blog) recipe testing was a big deal. I was loathe to put a recipe online unless I was sure it worked, it was replicable and (most importantly) it tasted good. I think most others used the same rigour. Even when we wrote our wedding cookbook — a little self-published ditty meant for a only few family members’ consumption — we rigorously tested the recipes, at least twice, and if possible in multiple kitchens. Today, as more people conceive, adapt and share recipes online, it’s hard to believe the same standards are being applied.

Mexico is a country I love, and love returning to. Ashley’s recent post about Mexico City’s Mercado La Merced has me dreaming up a return visit.

Poutine is not taking over the world. Sorry, Canada.

Synesthesia is a fascinating condition and one I’ve spent tons of time reading about. This doctor has mirror-touch synesthesia: forget empathy… he can physically feel what his patients are experiencing as he treats them. Incredible.

Sad Animal Facts has quickly become one of my favourite Instagram accounts.

Other Roundups to Love

Molly Yeh’s Friday Links (updated Fridays)

Fathom’s Links We Love (updated Saturdays)

A Practical Wedding’s Happy Hour (updated Fridays)

Elise Blaha Cripe’s Weekend Links (updated Saturdays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (updated infrequently, but excellent)

[lead image: from Sad Animal Facts on Instagram]

Good Reads on Some Infinite Thing is updated every Friday morning.

good reads | 22

Alex John Beck both sides ofI love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

The perfectly symmetrical face, in reality. This photography project juxtaposes side-by-side portraits of models whose faces have been photoshopped to be mirror images of the left and right sides of their faces. Incredible.

When a man spends a week eating food “made for women.”

Freezing: the new canning. 

A movie based on one of my favourite biographies. 

Speaking of: the rewriting of David Foster Wallace. 

BMI is a useful heuristic, but it’s just one measure of health, as this powerful infographic demonstrates.

Moments like this make me chuckle and remind me why I love my city. Rest peacefully, little friend.

Other Roundups to Love

Molly Yeh’s Friday Links (updated Fridays)

Fathom’s Links We Love (updated Saturdays)

A Practical Wedding’s Happy Hour (updated Fridays)

Elise Blaha Cripe’s Weekend Links (updated Saturdays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (updated infrequently, but excellent)

[lead image: from Alex John Beck’s Both Sides Of, 2013]

Good Reads on Some Infinite Thing is updated every Friday morning.

garlic scapes and chèvre

garlic scapesIt’s garlic scape season, otherwise known as the most wonderful time of the year. (Though: I say this about any fruit/vegetable with fleeting seasonality — rhubarb, zucchini blossoms, strawberries, tomatoes, corn, pomegranates, asparagus, peaches — so don’t mind my hyperbole.)

Last summer, when the scapes arrived in Toronto, I had an idea to blitz the barely-blanched curls with chèvre and some reserved water into a simple sauce. It was a revelation: creamy, sweet, salty and piquant with the mellow vibe of green garlic. I froze a second batch to prolong past the season and swore to Austin we would make the dish again the minute garlic scapes returned to market.

garlic scape risottoThat day came yesterday. I scooped up our market’s stock and quickly headed home to recreate the magical sauce.

Lest you miss out while scapes are still (fleetingly, in the northeast) with us, here’s my super-simple recipe. Smear it on toasts, toss it with pasta, stir it into risotto or eat it by the spoonful. It’s that good.

Garlic Scape and Chèvre Cream Sauce

garlic scape and chevre cream sauceIngredients

  • 1 lb/500 grams fresh garlic scapes, trimmed
  • 150 grams fresh chèvre (goat cheese)
  • salt and pepper, to season generously
  • reserved blanching water, to thin sauce


Blanch the scapes: In a large metal pot, submerge the trimmed scapes in well-salted boiling water. Cook for about 3 minutes, until vibrant green. Remove from heat and submerge in ice cold water. Reserve the cooking water. 

Make the sauce: In a powerful blender or food processor, combine the scapes, cheese and about 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water. Blend on high speed for about 5 minutes, gradually adding more water if needed to thin as you scrape the sides with a spatula. The sauce is finished when creamy, smooth and flecked with small bits of scape.

Test for seasoning: Taste the sauce and add salt gradually until the flavours really pop. I needed about a heaping teaspoon. Add pepper as desired.

Serve: Toss with pasta, spread over toasts or blend into risotto or other soft grains.

Makes two one-cup sauce portions — one portion will sauce enough pasta for two hungry people. Use one portion now and freeze the other to enjoy later.

Related Resources

garlic scapesA guide to uncomplicated meal planning for two.

The Lovey Kitchen on Flickr.

good reads | 21

Coolors - The super fast color schemes generator!.jpgI love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

Both my boss and husband sent me this article within 10 minutes of one-another. (Probably says something about my well vocalized wine preferences.) Redefining California wine — a fabulous piece on the new guard of pioneering anti-Parker winemakers. 

The fascinating science of aesthetics. 

I’m (really, really) fortunate that the open-concept office trend has never affected me — I’ve had an office with a door since I began my career almost seven (!) years ago. While my door is rarely closed, a private office space and the possibility of a closed door immensely increases my ability to concentrate and do good work.

For my fellow PANTONE-obsessed: get ready to waste hours of your life. 

I’ve now eaten at Eleven Madison Park three times — and each experience was much like this one (minus the dancing on chairs! Austin, we missed out…)

Your flight attendant is probably a democrat. 

May we never grieve as Sheryl Sandberg has this past month. But if we do, let us handle it with the same grace.

As I review the brilliant architectural round-ups around the web, I’m SO excited to be heading to Milan for the 2015 World’s Fair!

Other Roundups to Love

Molly Yeh’s Friday Links (updated Fridays)

Fathom’s Links We Love (updated Saturdays)

A Practical Wedding’s Happy Hour (updated Fridays)

Elise Blaha Cripe’s Weekend Links (updated Saturdays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (updated infrequently, but excellent)

[lead image: screencap from]

Good Reads on Some Infinite Thing is updated every Friday morning.

two great salads

kale salad apple raisin parmesan almond recipeOddly enough, from the time I shuttered my food blog over three years ago, the amount of cooking I do has increased. I’ve always been a steadfast cook, but when I was a single girl living solo, avocado on toast or a bag of popcorn constituted dinner more often than I care to remember.

Now married — to another zealous eater and cook — those popcorn and toast dinners are an infrequent affair. Unless we’re out to eat, we’re in our kitchen cooking. It’s sacred time to talk about our days, unwind with a glass of wine, and of course, dream up dinner together.

In some ways, I’m happy my food blogging days are over. In other ways, I sometimes miss having an outlet to share the really-extra-special dishes that come from our kitchen. Also: I really enjoy writing recipes.

As a nod to my former self, I offer two great salads we’ve been loving of late. Does the world need more salads? Maybe not. But these are so substantial, delicious and everything-salad-should-be that I felt compelled to share.

Shredded Kale Salad with Golden Raisins, Almonds, Parmesan, Apple

IMG_0869This is the salad to a) impress your kale loving friends; and b) convince your kale hating friends. It uses an unusual preparation of really finely chopping the kale in a food processor. You want it to look almost too fine — think, bordering on parsley for tabbouleh. The salad is stunning right away, but gets even better after a day in the fridge to mingle.


  • 1 large head red curly kale (or lacinato/Tuscan, if you like a more pungent salad), cleaned, dried and trimmed of thick spines (thin spines near the top are okay)
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (salad quality)
  • 1 ripe/juicy lemon, juiced (should yield about 1/2c)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 c golden raisins
  • 1/3 c Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1 small apple, thinly sliced lengthwise (see photo)
  • 1/3 c slivered almonds, toasted and cooled


Chop the kale: Working in batches, pulse the kale in a large-cup food processor until you have tiny pieces. They will look too small, but the little bits break down more easily and really soak up the dressing.

Make the dressing: In a bowl, whisk the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the oil and whisk to emulsify.

Massage the kale: Pour the dressing over the kale and get in there with your hands. Knead the leaves as you would bread dough for about 3 minutes. You’ll know you’ve done this long enough when the volume of kale in your bowl is about halved.

Finish: Add the raisins, almonds, Parmesan and apple slices and gently toss to combine.

Serves two hungry eaters with a small leftover lunch portion. 

(recipe adapted from Elise Blaha Cripe)

Shaved Fennel Salad with Citrus and Shrimp

fennel salad citrus shrimp arugulaWe’ve made this salad so many times this spring. It’s everything I want from a salad: peppery greens, crunchy fennel, rich shrimp and bright citrus. It comes together in a snap and is one of those dinner party recipes that looks much more involved than it is.


  • 1 medium-size bulb fennel, cored and halved (reserve the fronds if the bulb is fresh)
  • 2 large oranges, segmented (reserve the zest of one orange and the juice that drips from the segmenting process)
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 1/2 red onion, finely minced
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined, patted dry
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 4 + 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (salad quality)
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp cayenne (or more/less, depending on your spice tolerance)


Cook the shrimp: Toss the shrimp with 1 Tbsp reserved olive oil, minced onion, salt, pepper and cayenne. In a hot pan, cook for about 2 minutes per side until shrimp are pink and opaque and the onion is translucent. Remove from heat.

Make the dressing: In a large bowl (you’ll toss the fennel in this bowl), combine the reserved orange juice, vinegar, zest, a large pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the oil and whisk to emulsify.

Prepare the fennel: Using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice the bulb width-wise into paper-thin slices (or as close as possible). Toss well with dressing.

Assemble the salad: Spread arugula in a single layer on a large serving plate. Heap piles of fennel over top, and arrange orange segments and shrimp. If you have fennel fronds, toss these in any dressing leftover from the fennel bowl, and tuck into salad.

Serves two hungry eaters with a small leftover lunch portion. 


Related Resources

My formula for building warm salads. 

A guide to uncomplicated meal planning for two.

The Lovey Kitchen on Flickr.

travelogue | marrakech, morocco (february 2015)

Marrakech Travel GuideNew to the travelogue series on Some Infinite Thing? See past adventures!

From the early days of our relationship, Austin and I contemplated a trip to Marrakech. It’s long been near the top of my travel wish list for its sheer aesthetic and architectural brilliance, and my history buff husband relished the idea of visiting a place steeped in the past.

As we considered our February vacation, Marrakech re-entered our conversations. Having recently returned from Costa Rica, we weren’t feeling a beach or physical adventure, and Europe was too cold for our “escape the winter” criteria. Lucky for us, Austin found flights to Marrakech at a price we couldn’t beat. Morocco it was!

We caught an evening flight and arrived the next afternoon in Marrakech, the bright sun warming our bones. A driver met us at the airport and we drove about 20 minutes from the airport into the Medina — the walled old city that’s the beating heart of Marrakech.Marrakech Airport RAKNote: the Marrakech Menara Airport (RAK) is quite small, but currently undergoing rapid expansion with a new Terminal 2 being built to accommodate the increasing influx of tourists. We can expect in the coming years for flights to become more frequent and less expensive as more carriers stop in RAK.

We opted to stay in a traditional riad — think of it as a Moroccan bed and breakfast bursting with traditional carving, pools, glinting lanterns and orange trees, with an innkeeper and cook who care for a dozen or fewer rooms — over a hotel, right within the Medina gates.riadThe Medina is a place of narrow alleyways and oases behind imposing wooden doors. In seemingly barren alleyways, you step through doorways into alternate worlds alive with olive and orange trees, beautiful sweeping courtyards and tranquil rooms.citrus fruitsWe stepped through the doors of La Riad La Terrasse des Oliviers to be greeted by our gregarious Swiss innkeeper, Renaud. The open-air space was impeccable, with intricately carved furniture, a small tiled pool, strewn lanterns and flowering trees abounding. Heaped trays of oranges and mandarins were placed around the property to grab and enjoy.It felt like something out of an old movie.

We were brought traditional sweet mint tea and pastries, and Renaud took us to the terrace overlooking the Medina to settle us in — rattling off key routes, sites to see and places to grab a drink.DSC01281Note: Renaud warned us before we ventured out of the riad not to take directions or advice from young people who may approach us and then demand payment. Instead, if we were to become lost, we should find a shopkeeper and ask for help. This was immensely helpful advice to have as we set out to explore.

Sunset approaching, we washed up and headed into the winding souks to Cafe Arabe for a pre-dinner drink. Marrakech is a predominantly Muslim and thus dry city, but licences are granted to a handful of restaurants to serve alcohol. We grabbed glasses of surprisingly delicious Moroccan-grown rose, and watched the sunset from Cafe Arabe’s rooftop.

We returned to the riad, met with the heady smells of our dinner. We pre-arranged with the riad to have dinner at home our first night, and Fatima, the house cook, prepared a traditional spread of salads, dips and tagines with flatbreads for us to enjoy. We stuffed ourselves silly with courgettes, soft aubergine, tomato salad, chicken tagine with preserved lemons and bright green olives, and other delicacies.faim d'epicesThe next morning, we woke early for a cooking class outside of the city. A driver picked us up and we drove about 30 minutes to a secluded orange grove where Faim D’Epices, Marrakech’s noted cooking school, is located.

Michel and Fatima led us through a full day of cooking and instruction in traditional Moroccan fare, including tea service and a blind spice tasting. Through the day, we made flatbread, prune and lamb tagine, a trio of salads and msemen, a breakfast sweet bread.lunch in the orange groveLunch cooked, we retreated to the orange grove where tables had been set for our meal. Sitting in a fragrant grove, eating food I had just made, warm sunshine beating down on my back, sitting across from my husband, remains one of the loveliest experiences in recent memory.Mythic Oriental SpaBack in the Medina and bellies full, we headed to Mythic Oriental Spa for a full Hammam and massage. Austin and I giggled at the hilarity as we sat together and were rubbed raw with black sea salt, then washed clean and doused in oils to be massaged (no photos of this part of the day!). We left the spa a few hours later, softer and more limber than I can ever remember being and fell into bed.

The next day, we awoke well before sunrise and with the morning’s prayers over the Medina loudspeakers. Five times each day, the faithful are called to pray from the central mosque. Even as a non-religious person, this daily act was deeply moving and something sombre to witness.DSC01032We were driven deep into the countryside toward the Atlas Mountains to prepare for a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the mountains. I love hot air ballooning and couldn’t wait to share this experience with Austin, as we’ve talked about ballooning since we first met. (We actually were scheduled to go up when visiting Santa Fe a couple years ago, but our flight was cancelled due to high winds…)DSC01072Our montgolfier, Ahmed, took us on a great flight, high over the mountains and covering serious ground in about 45 minutes — over villages, lush green farms, olive groves in a perfect blue sky. He was a great captain, flying a bit lower but covering more ground than the other balloons in the distance, which were hanging in place.ballooning in MoroccoAs I am most familiar with North American ballooning customs, where you brace your knees for landing and plop into a field, I was shocked when we got a few feet from the ground and our crew expertly maneuvered the balloon right onto the back of a flatbed truck. Amazing!me in a balloonWe retreated to a local family’s home, where a traditional Berber breakfast was set out for our enjoyment — sweet breads, honey, oranges, boiled eggs, cured olives, baghrir (cornmeal pancakes) and hot mint tea. We stuffed ourselves with the delicious provisions to prepare for the rest of the day’s events.berber breakfastWe left the Berber home and ventured a bit deeper into the countryside where we met our camel caravan! I joked with Austin as we planned our trip that I wanted to ride a camel — thinking back to my donkey-riding days as a girl in the Greek islands — and we made it happen!zou zou the camelMy camel, Zou Zou, was such a babe — if a bit smelly. She batted her eyelashes and plopped down to the ground so I could hop on her back. We led our caravan on a ride through the desert, eight camels in a with zou zou Exhausted from a long morning in the fresh air, we returned to the riad for afternoon tea and a short nap.

Rested, we set out by foot late in the afternoon to see the Jardin Majorelle, Yves Saint Laurent’s celebrated botanical gardens (featuring primarily succulents and cacti) just outside of the Medina. The gardens were designed in the 1920s by French artist Jacques Majorelle.jardins majorelleThe gardens were Saint Laurent’s artist paradise, coloured in cobalt (a special eponymous shade of bold cobalt as seen in the photo above, called Bleu Majorelle), creamsicle orange, lemon yellow and pale teal — the palette just made me smile. We explored every nook and cranny, admiring the pops of colour, tile-and-stucco work and immense cactus gardens carved into the winding property.jardins majorelleThe gardens house the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakesh, a delightfully small and well curated collection of North African art, textiles and jewelry. We were happy to have paid the extra admission to see the collection. I was especially fond of the jewelry room, which was organized by period and showed how the Berber women used their baubles as square snailsAs the sun set, we made our way through the winding souks to Jemaa el-Fnaa square. By day, the expansive square is vast and empty and by night it transforms into a bustling food market with hundreds of numbered food stalls — from mint tea to braised snails to tangia to fresh fish to delightful sweets — you can find a booth for every craving.

Even armed with the research we did in the lead up to our trip, we couldn’t conceive of how awesome the night market was until visiting in the flesh. Renaud had offered us a few of his favourite stall numbers (the tangia at #47 stands out, as does the fish with garlicky eggplant at #48, mint tea at #1) and we hopped from stall to stall, tasting as we went. $12 and as many plates of food later, we were sated and winding back through the dark souks to the with snailsI can’t describe how much we loved Jemaa el-FnaaWe immediately decided we would return again before our travels were over.

Tip: You will be harassed and followed in the square. Men will call out to you, get in your face, and chase you with menus. There’s no getting around it. The best way to handle this, we found, was dealing a firm “non, merci” and to just keep walking. There are hundreds of stalls in the square and each hawker just wants you to eat at his own.marrakech street signWe began our fourth day in Marrakech at dawn, meeting two guides who would lead us through the city’s many mosques, tombs and madresas. We met up with Aziz and Jamal back in the main square to set out for the day.Koutoubia MosqueOur first stop was the Koutoubia Mosque, or the main mosque of Marrakech, located in the southwest corner of the Medina. While non-Muslims are not allowed inside the city’s mosques, we explored the grounds and the Almohad architecture.Bab AgnouFrom there, it was a short distance to the Bab Agnaou, one of 19 — and the most famous — gates into the Medina, dating to the 12th century. It leads to the royal kasbah, which includes the El Mansouria Mosque, El Badi Palace and the Saadian Tombs. I loved the contrast of the richly carved and hued orange-turquoise gate against the speeding yellow taxis, the interplay of ancient and modern.saadian tombsA short walk into the gate, we found ourselves at the Saadian Tombs, which date to the 16th century but were only uncovered in 1917. The tombs inter about 60 members of the Saadi Dynasty and feature intricate cedar wood carvings, tile and stucco work. As a lover of pattern and colour, I was overcome by this space.

Aside: for years, I had the pattern at top of this post as the background on my iPhone, with no clue to its origins. I was so surprised to walk into the Tombs and see such a familiar sight in real life!

We wound through the streets to the Maison Tiskiwin museum, which admittedly I wouldn’t recommend — it was sloppily curated and we spent all of 15 minutes in the space before heading out. Marrakech has so many rich cultural and historical sites that your time is just better spent elsewhere.el bahia palaceAfter breaking for a traditional lunch at a local riad, we walked to El Bahia Palacea labyrinthine compound of about 150 rooms and courtyards, built in the late 19th century. Each room is a spectacle of design and intricacy. Today, the entire palace often shuts down as residence to the royal family when they pass through town.marrakech souksWe also took some time to wander and get lost in the city’s famous souks — narrow, winding markets overflowing with vendors tucked into every nook and cranny — leather goods, lamps, shoes, pashminas, olives, oils, perfumes, produce, carpets, pottery — there’s a vendor for everything. The sensory overload can be a bit much, but it’s colour, texture and vibrancy like no other place. Austin and I aren’t big shoppers when we travel (on account of how we pack) but I’ve known friends and colleagues to return from Marrakech with whole new suitcases for their wares!ben youssefA favourite stop of the day was the Ben Youssef Medrasa, a former Islamic college and largest medrasa in Morocco. Your neck pulls in every direction standing within this courtyard to take in the intricately carved cedar, complex geometric patterns out of bright marble tiles and stucco finishes. We loved being able to climb to the upper-level classrooms and take in the space from its tiny windows.ben youssefAfter returning to the Riad for pick-me-up tea and pastries, we were off to Dar Moha for a very late dinner. This was our “fancy” meal of the trip — dars are elaborate restaurants housed in riads that serve multi-course set meals and cost a pretty penny, by Moroccan standards. Dar Moha is the former residence of couturier Pierre Balmain, so my fashion loving side was also stoked. We happened to be dining the same night an elaborate function was underway, and so spent many hours entertained with drummers, belly dancers and a raucous crowd of locals.gare de marrakechFor our final day in the city, we began by exploring New Marrakech, outside of the Medina gates. Meandering along the wide boulevards, we stopped off at the Marrakech Railway Station, built in 2008. While an obviously modern building, it was a nifty space incorporating traditional stylistic gestures (carving, tile work) through new materials, like painted steel and glass.menara gardensOn a roll and enjoying the beautiful weather (it was about 70 degrees and pure sunshine) we walked and walked toward the Menara Gardens in the west of the city. The public gardens date back to the 12th Century (!) and are a popular spot for locals to gather and picnic, with a massive cooling basin of water surrounded by olive groves. Full disclosure: you won’t see much here — it’s literally just the basin, groves and small Menara, but we enjoyed the midday mamouniaWe flagged a cab back toward the Medina (a few dirham, and well worth it given all the walking we’d done so far) and stopped off at La Mamounia. This fabled and palatial five-star hotel is famously known as one of the world’s most expensive and elaborate. While staying there was out of our price range, guests are welcomed, so we sat in the gardens for tea and pastries, then took some time to wander around the vast grounds and about the lobby.el badi palaceThe Mamounia is just outside the Medina gates closest to El Badi Palace (so many palaces in this city, it’s hard to keep track!). We didn’t know it at the time, but we had saved the best for last. El Badi — literally, “the incomparable” — Palace, is a palace in ruins dating to the 16th Century. The vastness of the site is overwhelming.el badi palacePhotos capture it to an extent, but you truly have to stand within the ruins to understand its haunting beauty and magnitude — I can only imagine what the palace would have looked like in its glory days. Storks have taken over the palace, and you can spot their immense nests atop its many minarets. Austin and I spent an hour in the solitude and silence of this space, taking in the past all around us.Jamaa el Fna For our last evening in Marrakesh, we couldn’t help but return to Jemaa el-Fnaa for another round at the delicious stalls — more snails, more eggplant doused in garlic oil, more braised tongue, more tangia, more mint tea. We were delirious and full and happy and already plotting our return.Jamaa el Fna We woke the next morning for our flight to Geneva, a packed and perfect time in Marrakech complete. This city is my platonic vacation mix — a great pace of life, beautiful sites to see, bustling streets to roam and delicious food at every turn. If you’re at all on the fence — go! It won’t sisters

Planning Your Trip


La Riad La Terrasse des Oliviers


Cafe Arabe (one of the few restaurants in the Medina that serves alcohol)

Faim D’Epices

Dar Moha

Jemaa el-Fnaa Square (every evening at sundown)

La Mamounia


Hammam at Mythic Oriental Spa

Hot air ballooning with Marrakech by Air

Jardin Majorelle and Islamic Art Museum of Marrakesh

Koutoubia Mosque

Bab Agnaou

Saadian Tombs

El Bahia Palace

Ben Youssef Medrasa

Marrakech Railway Station

Menara Gardens

El Badi Palace

Other Resources

Step-by-step guide to building a travel itinerary. 

How to pack a capsule suitcase.

My Marrakech board on Pinterest.

Travel + Leisure’s best restaurants in Marrakech.

Designer Ula Johnson’s Marrakech.

Living like Royalty in Marrakech (CNT). 

[Our Marrakech, Morocco photos on Flickr.

just mexico

For a long time, I was a snob toward Mexico.

Mexico was the place other people went on Spring Break to get drunk at Señor Frogs, to stay at an all inclusive in Cabo to eat safe food and take cheap drugs, to crisp their skin lying by a pool reading People slathered in Hawaiian Tropic, to get hit on by slimy frat boys. Mexico wasn’t mine. I was too cultured, too educated, too adult for such a banal vacation spot.

A few years ago, Austin and I found ourselves with a last-minute week’s vacation to escape the Canadian winter. He suggested Mexico and I regarded him with a long side eye. He reassured me that it would be fun: no all-inclusive, accommodations right on the town, with day trips and beaches and good food. So I said yes to a week in Puerto Vallarta.

When anyone would ask about my vacation plans, I’d shrug: “Just Mexico,” I’d say, “nothing big, a week to escape the cold and eat some tasty food.” I’d cringe inwardly; surely they were picturing the unsightly scene of me dancing on a bar in my bikini wielding some fluorescent frozen drink with a twirly straw. (The only stock image, it seemed, I could conjure up for “vacation in Mexico.”) When else had I been so lacklustre — shamed, even — about an adventure to a new place?

And there’s the rub. I was embarrassed of Mexico. I also was close-minded and ignorant to judge its soil without first stepping foot on it.


It’s not just me. We North Americans have a curious and hypocritical relationship with Mexico. Anthony Bourdain last year wrote a stunning piece about the country that we love and shame. He captures our hypocrisy:

We love Mexican drugs. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films. So, why don’t we love Mexico?

I won’t rehash Bourdain’s spot-on thesis, but I will echo his sentiment.

Mexico is an incredible country — with a food culture, architectural history and natural beauty to rival most any other place in the world. The people are hospitable and kind to foreigners, the vistas breathtaking, the cooking impossibly simple but impossibly complex and delicious. Austin and I revelled in our week exploring a sliver of this vast land. We couldn’t wait to return: to eat more, to learn more of its rich history and to see more of its beauty.


Curiously, we hold Mexico to a standard that we don’t other places. We openly acknowledge (celebrate, even) the seedy underbelly, poverty and drunkenness of New Orleans. We accept these as part of the city’s charm even as we rebuke it. But the sordidness never overshadows the lore and lure of New Orleans — its culture and history, food, architecture… that it enjoys a unique standing. Surely it is like no place else on earth. We can adapt this story to Las Vegas or Amsterdam or many other places. Why then do we turn away from Mexico’s otherness?

We need to stop being embarrassed. We need to stop pretending that Mexico doesn’t count. We need to stop essentializing this country (as I did so recently) as a place to booze and behave as our worst selves in a built up paradise. Because Mexico is so much more than this if we get past first impressions.


Mexico is palm trees that line dusty highways and the colourful doors and homes and papel picado that wave against blue sky. It’s pervasive bougainvillea that remind me of my Greek island upbringing. It’s markets with young coconuts waiting to be whacked open and perfumey guavas tumbling over stalls and old men scraping cactus paddles smooth of their spines. It’s walking through the village as the sun rises and the chorus of “buenos días!” that greets me and then tucking into drippy chilaquiles for breakfast. It’s the way the sky meets the ocean to offer the most brilliant azure gradient. It’s stopping at the gas station to buy cervezas with my husband and then to the beach where the sun dips into the ocean. Where we crack open the bottles and clink salud! into the deepest, saltiest air. It’s tacos el pastor with shaved radishes and bits of pineapple over tortilla shaped by the woman next door. It’s a country that wants to welcome me back. A country that wants me to understand.


(Mexico is also crushing poverty and corruption and drug cartels and violence and neglect that we are shielded from, as tourists, and not merely some romanticized purple prose. That’s a more difficult essay, a book, in fact, and required reading.)

Austin and I returned to Mexico for two weeks last winter to celebrate our honeymoon, this time to the country’s opposite coast, as we explored the Riviera Maya. Mexico beat out Marrakesh and Istanbul and other locales for the coveted honeymoon title, and I was no longer bashful about our choice. We had so much still to see, there was so much still to discover… we had so much still to learn.


We have so much still to learn.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this country is, or even is just to me. I do know that inevitably, we will take a week or two each year to return to this beautiful place and dig a bit deeper. To get outside the “safe” Mexico and further into her cities, to feel at ease ordering from menus in our broken Spanish, to hop on the collectivos that connect her towns and see where the highway takes us. We will return to Nayarit and Jalisco and the Yucatan and Quintana Roo, and still discover Oaxaca and Monterrey and the Puebla.


Mexico has taught me more than I care to admit about the shows we put on for others and the collective narratives we construct. I didn’t want this country to be part of my story because it was cheap, it was seedy, it was common — all beliefs I had built of folklore — some real and some imagined. Yes, I can go to Mexico to dance on a tabletop with a frat boy who feeds me a bar rail of tequila. But that’s just one story, of a myriad other, more complete ones, that are based in my experience.

Mexico, like many unfamiliar things, taught me that it repays in spades to get under the surface of the obvious, to experience a reputation before internalizing it, and to hand down something’s worth only after the hard work is done to (try to) understand.

[Photos, my own, on Flickr]