Lynn & Brian's Fabulous Yucatecan Adventure
©1996 by Lynn D. Troldahl Hershberger (
Getting to Know Pedro's Family
We were a bit afraid we would not be able to communicate well with Pedro's family in Tizimin. However, my smidgen of Spanish and Antonio's basic knowledge of English worked out pretty well.

Antonio said that he didn't speak English, but he was quite understandable. On the other hand, I was clumsy in putting together sentences though I could remember assorted words. I did better understanding spoken Spanish than I had expected. However, I was very happy that I had bought a large, real English/Spanish dictionary and not just a pocket guide. We wore out that book, especially in Tizimin!

[Photo: In the front garden at Tizimin - Lynn, Brian, Maria and Miriam Teresa, with Gilberto and Yamile in the front row.]

We stayed two days in Tizimin. We enjoyed getting to know Pedro's parents (Antonio and Maria), and his sister, niece and nephew (Miriam Teresa, Yamile and Gilberto), who live with his parents. We also met his aunt Miriam and one of his grandmothers (Abuela Nelly), who is 87 and lively!

We enjoyed meeting Abuela Nelly very much. We went to dinner at her house on Saturday night, and again the food was traditional and tasty. She even spoke to us in a Mayan dialect which was a treat. It has a pleasant soft sound to it. It is amazing how much fun you can have with someone when you can barely communicate at all! Her smile was so contagious, though, we knew instantly how welcome we were.

The food was wonderful on the entire trip but particularly in Tizimin. Maria is a legendary cook and she made sure we tried as many of the traditional Yucatecan specialties as possible. We tried zapote which is a fruit with a brown skin that looks to me a lot like a potato, but soft textured and sweeter than honey. Maria also served us a dessert called zapotitos, made from ground squash seeds and something sweet (honey?), and rolled in cinnamon. It was rich but wonderful.

We also had a great laugh by my confusion between certain words. I got zapote (fruit), zapotitos (dessert) and zapatos (shoes) confused. It was good for several chuckles and maybe made it easier to be a rookie at Spanish. I recalled years ago becoming confused in Spanish class between the word cocina (kitchen) and cochino (pig); and startling my teacher by stating that my mother was in the pig! Maria then told the story of a friend of hers from the USA who became confused and instead of asking for a spoon (cuchara) she asked for a cucaracha (cockroach)! We sure had fun. Laughing is contagious in any language.

[Photo: After dinner at Abuela Nelly's, Brian, Lynn, Nelly, Maria, Tia (Aunt) Miriam.]

Maria made sure we tried several special desserts while we were there. Desserts are her specialty. She creates her own recipes for cakes and cookies, for example. She made some special nut cookies (something like a tea cake but nuttier) of her own recipe, and I could have eaten the whole box! Also she made flan, a wonderful stiff custard (about the texture of a cheesecake but not as sticky) with a caramel sauce. I had tasted flan before in my Spanish class, but it had been about 20 years ago. It was delightful. I teased Maria that day about spending her entire day in the kitchen making sweets for us. She laughed but she didn't disagree.

Black beans and corn tortillas again accompanied every meal. The tortillas at Maria's were made fresh each day by Doña Rosy -- Maria's neighbor, helper and well-respected tortilla maker extraordinaire! These foods are considered staples in the Yucatán but are favorite foods of mine. Maria was thrilled at my enthusiasm for the tortillas and beans. An interesting note: the only places we went in this trip where the beans were not black beans (frijoles negros) were in the two tourist towns; Cancún and Playa del Carmen. They used pinto beans, which is what most US tourists expect. All other places we went, the standard was the black bean.

By the way, it is very common in Mexico to have helpers in the home, such as Doña Rosy. Housekeeping is very different there, as appliances like washing machines are very rare. Doña Rosy is not a maid, but does some cooking and a few errands for Maria, from what I could tell. They also have a young woman, Daisy, who does cleaning work for them. This is not unusual. In fact, I have read of apartments in cities where the "maid" stays with the apartment and works for whoever moves in after someone else moves out.

The first evening Maria served two versions of a chicken dish called escabeche. Both versions are chicken cooked with a special paste of spices unique to the Yucatán. The chicken is served with onions to eat on top of the chicken.

[Photo: Front garden at Tizimin with shrine, a blessing to thank God.]

One version has the chicken and onions cooked together in the same pot. The other version cooks the same ingredients separately. Either way, you can eat them by putting the meat and onions (and sometimes black beans) in the delicious corn tortillas. It is a little like soft tacos that we can order at home, but much more satisfying.

For one breakfast we were served Cochinita Pibil. This is a pork breakfast meat which is cooked in the ground wrapped in banana leaves for many hours. (I understand a woman at the market prepares it so women like Maria don't have to go through the time-consuming preparation.) It was very tasty, and very unlike the breakfasts we have in Michigan.

Next: Carnival

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