Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pan Dulce de Mi Corazon and SF Travelogue

I had written a long, detailed description of my recent trip to San Francisco, but it started sounding a bit like any other tourist's travelogue with the exception that I focused more on food than most tourists, save perhaps Anthony Bourdain, so I decided I should write about something else. As I started my second concha and Silk, I was finding it increasingly difficult to type between mouthfuls. My hands get a little crumby and truthfully I don't eat to nourish, I eat to savor - so I was getting distracted by the ecstasy dissolving in my mouth. I found it hard to focus on Haight Ashbury, Alcatraz, or even the wonderful Frida Kahlo exhibit at SF MOMA. All I could think about was pan dulce, or Mexican sweet bread.

My love affair with pan dulce goes back to my childhood in East L.A., of course. When I was a teenager, there was a period where I subsisted on a diet of nothing more than pan dulce and milk for breakfast and chicken gumbo for linner (lunch/dinner). That diet, along with daily Kung Fu lessons, helped me lose a lot of weight but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Imagine my delight when a few months ago, my husband and I discovered a little panaderia fairly close to our house in San Diego that has now become the supplier for my addiction. I go there at least twice a week and I have yet to taste a piece of pan that hasn't been delicious. The elotes are my favorites: they're shaped like a piece of corn in its little silk coat and are usually lightly sprinkled with sugar (editor's note: Alice uses the phrase "lightly sprinkled" interchangeably with "coated with" here.) I like the standard elotes but they make two or three variations of them here. Cocodrilos are a close cousin to elotes, as far as flavor and appearance go. They're long and appear to have scales; sometimes I go for those just so my family doesn't accuse me of getting the same thing all the time. My kids and my mom were always partial to conchas, which are light, puffy pastries with a crumbly hard, sweet topping applied to resemble a conch outline. They usually come in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. My husband is an ojos de buey man - I mean that's the kind of pan dulce he likes. He does not have ox eyes, which is what ojos de buey means. In some places, Ojos de Buey are a completely different concoction and the coconutty red jam ball my hubby likes goes by the name of Yoyo in those places, because it resembles a fat yoyo much more than an ox eye.

There are more types of pan dulce than I can name: from Orejas de Elefante to Cochinitos, the selection is enormous. Fortunately, you don't have to know the names to sample their supreme yumminess. In a recent Yelp review, I read someone who described the pan dulce they loved as looking like a vulva. Well, I went over to Panchitas Panaderia that day, found the vulva looking pan and discovered that it was indeed one of the best pieces I'd had. If you haven't had pan dulce from anywhere but the grocery store, you owe it to yourself to seek out your neighborhood panaderia. Get a little taste of the glory.

As for my San Francisco trip, it was lots of fun. My husband was working, so my daughter and I were on our own for most of our adventures. We got Muni passes and went all over town like good little tourists. We walked until our feet throbbed then walked some more just so we could squeeze in as much fun as possible out of our vacation. We walked up the Filbert steps to the top of Telegraph Hill and then went up to the top of Coit Tower and I was glad that god invented cortisone injections for my bum knee. We went to City Lights and Cafe Trieste and saw an excellent Frida Kahlo exhibit at SF MOMA. My daughter got a kick out of the fact that this still life, which Frida painted as a gift, was considered so pornographic that the recipient refused to hang it in her home.

I suppose all of this goes to show that the connection between food and sexuality is fairly strong in Mexican culture - remember "Like Water For Chocolate"? My daughter and I ate our way through San Francisco at inexpensive little holes in walls like the Theater Two Cafe that was literally hidden behind a temporary plywood wall due to construction; we skewered tasty marinated tofu at the funky Asqew Grill in Haight Asbury. We packed so much into our little vacation that I was happy to get home and relax!


Anonymous said...

please tell me more about the Frida Kahlo show in SF....
how many panintings?
long wait? how much for the museum?

Again an awesome blog with details you can smell and eat.


Alice Bag said...

The exhibit was very comprehensive, although one or two major pieces were missing. It was the best Frida exhibit I've ever seen, and I've been to the Casa Azul and various exhibits in major cities before. I highly recommend you take the audio tour, as it is well worth it. We went early in the morning and missed the lines, but we saw the line spiraling down the stairs as we were leaving (it's on the fourth floor.) Here's a link to the exhibition website:

Anonymous said...

your a doll Alice!

thanks much!

Anonymous said...

I love pan dulce but have mostly cut it out b/c of my expanding waistline. Growing up, I'd walk across the street after leaving the Boys and Girls Club and buy an elote for 25 cents. My other favorite are the cuernitos. The ones with no sugar, just lots of dough.

Jenny Lens said...

Alice Bag, you have the metabolism of a young woman, you lucky thang! I could never ever eat the way you do, not even when I was taking photos, carrying around heavy camera equipment, running up and down the stairs, jumping up and down all night, dancing and shooting every night for years. The ONLY way I can take off and/or maintain my weight are raw foods, raw foods, raw foods.

It's wonderful you do so much and look so great while eating to savor food!

As Scarlett O'Hara famously said, "I want people to be pea-green with envy." I sure am at your life!

You really have it all: a great family, are a wonderful teacher, traveled, seen tons of art and music, eaten whatever you want, express yourself with music, lyrics, writing (blog), and crafts.

Is there anything you can't do?

You are a great role model for everyone. I'm loving my raw foods and yoga. I prefer the food in Frida's painting to anything baked. I had a yummy Mexican papaya last night and one today. I could live on those, pears, red grapes (or are those plums?), and other fruit in her painting. I just found out how to pickle squash (not using vinegar nor sugar)!

Years ago director Ken Russell emphasized a scene in "Women in Love," based on DH Lawrence's novel. Alan Bates discussed and demonstrated various ways of cutting and eating a fig. It was quite clear to those in the scene, as well as me, he was not talking about food, but various ways of pleasuring a woman via his tongue and her "fruit." It was one of the most memorable scenes I've ever seen, and I am quite a movie buff.

Judy Chicago's early paintings, obviously her "Dinner Party" (which I left to take punk photos, although my pre-punk name is on the wall of participants) and references "Through the Flower," are yet more euphemisms, visual and verbal, for female anatomy.

Artists, writers, poets and lyricists have traditionally referred to food and flowers in this manner. That is why the exposed squash in Frida's painting was so offensive. It was common knowledge what she was really painting!

Oh to live in the tropics and eat a wide variety of fruit and veggies all year long! That's MY dream.

Stay well!

Jenny Lens said...

Alice, I don't believe you've written about being a baker? But you are a crafter, and art is art, just different media. Even if your readers don't eat baked goods nor bake, these photos and recipes are works of art, well, dark and sick art that'll make you laugh.

I love I just came across a story I think will appeal to you and some of your readers. links change every day, so here's the permanent link to the article:

06.27.08: baked zen

click on the links, but start with the thorax cake or go directly to its site:

Looks like the insides of a burnt corpse, spinal column, ribs, and organs (a Halloween dessert!).

Other web zen links on that page: some link to recipes, some to food-related sites.

Perhaps you've seen the online recipe for a cake that looks like a dirty kitty liter box? I'm surprised he doesn't have a link to that one! It's all over the net, with slight variations:


So for all you crafting bakers or foodies with an offbeat sense of humor, check these out!