There's a nice strong breeze blowing today out of the east and I'm sure the "Kiddie Pool" that is the beach in Calderitas is awash with water from the bay. It's a Sunday so there should be a good crowd enjoying the weather and the many waterfront restaurants. I might slip down this afternoon for a brew if I can find a relatively quiet place. Most of the music is quite loud because we know that attracts people even if they can't hold a conversation once seated. Ah, Mexico and her unfettered fiestas!
Some progress was made on the "Honey Do" list (that nonetheless never seems to get any shorter) and I may even get one long-standing project complete later today. The porch project has progressed having measured the space, calculated the wood requirements, and even priced some of it at a local lumberyard. The search for just the right chop saw (AKA mitre saw, cut-off saw) continues. Will use that to make a few saw horses and then go to town on the enclosing the back porch.
Almost accomplished this week was opening a Mexican Bank account. We've been doing just fine on ATM withdrawals from our US-based credit union and could continue to do so without a local account. But I do know from experience that ATMs fail be it communications or power and things "just happen" so it helps to have money somewhere than under one's mattress or in a far away country. Though my credit union reimburses my ATM fees (on their end) each month, I still pay for the local ATM fee (about 23 pesos if you pick the right ATM machine) and the international exchange fee which runs about US$5-6 per withdrawal. If I deposit sufficient funds once per month, even with a wire transfer fee, I can save enough money for big hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano once a month. Now that's incentive!
There are several banks to choose from here in Chetumal: HSBC Mexico, Banamex, Banorte, Bancomer, Santander, Scotia, and Azteca (where I pay my rent). And there are many more across Mexico. Because we travel, I opted for Scotia. They are very well represented in Mexico and Latin America with, if not branch offices, ATMs in most places.
Knowing I was heading into another facet of Mexican bureaucracy, I checked with several people on the required paperwork. Here's the list I compiled:
- Letter signed by Owner that I was renting and paying the rent
- Copy of owner's ID card to match signatures with the letter
- Copy of Rental Agreement
- Receipts for two months rent
- Utility bills (and receipts) for two months
- My passport and, in my case, Residente Permanente ID
- Two references. Name and home (vs cellular) phone numbers was sufficient information
- The RFC or Registro Federal de Contribuyent (Federal Taxpayers Registry) that shows my status with them (I owe nothing). Now this last was easy to procure online using my CURP.
(Side note: The CURP (Clave Única de Registro de Población) is a unique identity code for both citizens and residents of Mexico. It's needed for obtaining most government services including, I'm told, opening a bank account. I received my CURP from Immigration with my Residente Permanente ID).
Confident I was ready for inspection, I presented myself to the Ejecutivo de Cuenta with my documents. Although I got several positive nods from my paperwork, including the RFC...at which he actually looked up at me as if to say "How did you know?"...but, and there's always a but (butt) in a bureaucracy, I seems my rental deposit receipts from Azteca Bank weren't sufficient and, after consultation with his boss, requested written receipts - four months worth at that.
Understand that per my rental contract I pay directly to a bank account and the bank deposit has always been my receipt. A bank won't accept another bank's receipts? Is there a bank war going on we don't know about? It eludes me why a written receipt is more valid than a bank receipt but that is the stuff of bureaucracies. Since the owner of mi casa lives in Merida, a few more days will be tacked on to the process. Eventually I will succeed; this isn't my first rodeo!
The other day I was using up various chicken parts and vegetables to make my own broth. As it simmered away, Wifey said it smelled delicious and could she have some for soup instead of anything else for dinner. Soup and a salad. Sounded good to me. However, I'm not one for broth soups...I like a soup with substance...a chowder of sorts. But since I was making a broth there were no potatoes to thicken it. What to do? First step was to remove the bones and herb bundle and puree everything else. The handheld Moulinex mixer got a workout - great tool! - but all I had were some pureed vegetables...no real substance.
There are many ways to thicken a soup and the technique I used this time, since the broth was so flavorful, was to mix a half a cup of flour into a cup or so of milk, mix it well, and add to the soup. In the industry this is called a "whitewash". I continued cooking for 15 minutes or so to get rid of the "fresh flour" taste and the soup thickened nicely. I wanted to add cream but was 'fresh' out. Decisions, decisions... In went 8 oz of cubed Philadelphia Cream Cheese and voila! An excellent, hearty soup. Try cream cheese in a soup one day, you'll do it again I promise!
Rather than a recipe, I'm just going to list some of the various ways to thicken a dish. Almost all revolve about starches. So if you're in a bind (haha) think "starch" while searching for an answer, you'll find something to thicken a soup or gravy. In a pinch, one of these might work for you.
- Roux. A paste of equal amounts of butter and flour cooked to desired doneness. Light, medium, or dark roux depends on how long you cook the butter and flour mixture. Then add it to the dish.
- Buerre Manié. Like a roux but it's not cooked. Equal parts butter and flour mixed together then added in small balls to the dish and continue cooking.
- Potatoes, rice, noodles, day-old bread...If you don't mind one of these items in your soup you can add grated raw potatoes, instant potato flakes, uncooked rice or noodles even leftover bread and then cook. The starch from these elements will help thicken the soup. I often use water from the noodle pot to thicken a spaghetti sauce.
- Add cream, yogurt, or cream cheese.
- Corn, rice, potato flour mixed well with milk (any kind even coconut!), water, or even wine.
- One egg yolk and 1 TBS of cream for every cup of soup. This is called a "liaison". Add a bit of the soup to the egg mixture first to warm it before putting the lot into your soup and then don't boil it afterwards or the eggs will cook and separate.
- Cornstarch. Mix with a little cold water first. Gives a glossy look to the end result. I use this a lot in Asian dishes. Arrowroot works similarly but doesn't break down as cornstarch can. I've never seen the need to use Arrowroot.
- Ground nuts, especially cashews. I've never tried it but I'm told if they are ground almost to a paste they will thicken a dish. Certainly the true Vegan's option!
- Reduction. Good for a gravy not a soup as you are boiling away the water and the result is a thicker, highly flavorful concentrate.