Yesterday my wife Gina and I were guests at a classic Mexican country wedding fiesta in a small pueblo named “El Carmen” that is part of the municipality of Irapuato but is separated from the main City of Irapuato by farm fields. The place has only 1285 inhabitants (más o menos…more or less) and it is what is typically referred to as a “rancho”. The streets are laid out in a haphazard fashion and the buildings are a jumble of dwellings ranging from nothing more than simple brick and concrete huts to fairly nice modern homes. There are lots of farm animals sprinkled throughout and lots of children too, and the roosters crow all the time. Because it was a big wedding there were quite a few vehicles parked along the narrow street but since you don’t have to worry much about getting a parking ticket in a “rancho” you just squeeze in wherever you can whether it makes sense or not. Everyone understands that getting to that first cold beer is the main priority.
We were invited to the wedding by a pretty young lady of twenty named Cynthia Arraceli Galván Rodríguez who works with Gina as an accountant. Her cousin, Sergio Galván Banda and his bride Cristina were the newlyweds. As weddings go it was a very large one. As soon as we entered and sat down we could hear people buzzing that is was “una boda de cinco cerdos” or in other words, “a five hog wedding”. They were referring to the fact that early the day before five hogs had been butchered and “canalizado” which means they were spread open and hung up so that the meat could cool and rest a bit. Very early on the day of the wedding, long before the sun came up, they were put into huge copper pots along with orange juice and lime juice and no doubt some other “secret” ingredients and they were cooked about 12 hours until most of the fat was rendered out and the meat was tender and juicy. They call this meat “carnitas” and it is one of the most famous and favorite dishes of Mexico. If you have never eaten carnitas you are truly missing something. It is spectacular!
Cynthia’s mother, Ramona, had a lot to do with the cooking and she told us that they made sixteen “cazuelas” of “sopa de fideos” (noodles) and fourteen cazuelas” of “arroz” (rice) to go with the carnitas. The “cazuelas” that she referred to are giant clay saucepans with handles on each side like a washtub. The clay that they are made from is called “barro”. The word “sopa” by itself means “soup” but “sopa de fideos” is not a soup. The word “sopa” is often used to refer to foods like noodles and rice that accompany the meat dish. To make the sopa they first killed four big “guajalotes” (gwah-hah-LOH-tehs) which means “turkeys”. They cut up the turkeys and boiled them in water to make turkey stock. They removed the turkey meat, which is called “pavo” (PAH-voh), from the stock and to the stock they added tomatoes that had been roasted and then ground. They used this stock to cook the noodles and rice. The noodles are short and thin and both the noodles and the rice pick up the red color of the tomatoes. They also served mole (MOH-leh) sauce along with the carnitas, fideos, and arroz and of course, the traditional corn tortillas and pickled jalapeño peppers. Before we left, Ramona gave us a package of carnitas, fideos, arroz, and “pavo” (turkey meat) to take home with us for whenever we got hungry again. By the way, all of this cooking was done over wood fires for which wood had to be collected, chopped, and stacked.
The crowd was very pleasant and friendly and there were many, many children. The people drank either beer or carbonated soft drinks that were served from two liter plastic bottles into plastic cups. The beer was a choice of Victoria or Corona and it came in long necked bottles which seems to be a tradition at these affairs. The bottles were opened by “popping” the tops off on the edge of the metal chairs. I cheated and used my pocket knife. The refreshments were kept cold in a concrete stock tank that had been filled with ice and there was plenty of refreshments to go around. It must have taken several trucks to haul in all that soda and beer. The fiesta took place in the Galván family compound which is a big circle around which all of the people in the family built their houses. In the center there is a stone oven that is used to make tamales de rancho. I love this type of tamale which is baked rather than steamed and I will write more about this in another blog. The reception began at three in the afternoon and by the time we arrived at four thirty it was well under way. There was a lively four piece “norteño” style band playing and they never let up the whole time we were there. We observed some men assembling a big stage like the kind used at rock concerts which would be used for the evening’s main entertainment after the sun went down. The party would last all night. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay because of another commitment but nevertheless we had a wonderful time. About 7:30 we began our goodbyes which in Mexico take about a half an hour or more. After may “abrazos y besos” (hugs and kisses) we slowly made our way to the car accompanied by our hosts and after another round of goodbyes we took our leave. All in all, it was a very pleasant afternoon.