Mastering the dough in Merida

Apparently the secret to making good pizza is squeezing your vagina. I’m not kidding, but who am I to argue when it comes to the art of bread and pizza making.

Baking bread was something I attempted in my 20s, along with pickling gherkins. Suffice to say I was a failure at both – the bread never rose beyond a pizza crust wanna be, and the pickles…well let’s just say all the jars got tossed in the garbage along with the pickles. So when I received the invitation from a new Merida friend to participate in an all day bread and pizza-making extravaganza, I saw an opportunity for redemption.

I have often dreamt of an outdoor pizza oven, and for the first time in my life I am living in a place where I can actually use one more than 3 months of the year. But before I commit to bossing the Mayan bricklayers around, I figured I better learn how to make pizza.

The lovely Sofia is a Merida godsend, delivering home baked fresh bread to loyal customers once a week. She is mostly vegetarian (this is the Yucatan after all) and teaches others the fine art of all things gluten. Sofia originally heralds from Mexico but studied in France (I gotta get to know this girl), and when she arrived in Merida, I’m sure she took one look at what the locals call ‘bread’ and decided an intervention of the highest order was required. I know you are still wondering what all this has to do with squeezing ones vagina but all in good time.

We started off with the basics – where to get our ingredients in Merida, which is harder than it sounds. This is a culture based on one ingredient for one thing, and here, corn is the thing. Sofia’s search for a tortilla maker to mill her whole wheat flour was comical but she was relentless and has found a shop that mills everything. She also found a tienda (shop) for her nuts and seeds, another for her baking pans, one for her bags and Triunfo for her big cheap mixing bowls. You can see why it takes so long to get anything accomplished here in Mexico. Shopping truly is an art, and ya gotta know where to go.

Once we had our ingredients sorted, we started in on the dough. Making bread is a very intuitive tactile experience. You measure things by the feel in your palm. You gauge the readiness by the texture in your hands. And you knead with your body and soul, clenching your abs, your glutes and – you got it – your vagigi. After kneading for 20 minutes I was glad for the helpful hints, and in the end, we oohed and aahed at our loaves, sweet rolls, and focaccia. And rewarded ourselves with pizza 4 ways and a six pack of Sol…this is Mexico after all.

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