toilet in 100% Natural OaxacaWell, I’ve got it, folks. Montezuma’s Revenge. Or as I prefer to call it: The Zapotecs’ Revenge. This wasn’t really Aztec country until very late in the day and, shortly after the Aztecs conquered the Valley of Oaxaca, the Spanish marched in. You know how that went.

So anyway, I should have known better, but the school has had us running around on so many tours and orientations that I didn’t have time to eat on Saturday. I’d just finished my tour of the Templo de Santo Domingo when I realized I needed to grab something fast. I nipped into a place offering a set lunch, sat down and ordered before I had a chance to look around. I had the sinking feeling that I shouldn’t be eating there. It didn’t look like the kind of place that disinfected all its produce as the better restaurants do for tourists. Sure enough, by 5PM, I was doubled over and quickly learning where all the available restrooms were between the Templo and my hotel.(May I highly recommend Restaurante 100% Natural on Parque Benito Juarez, as pictured above.) Since then, I’ve been managing the problem…well…by not eating anything but Imodium. After touring Monte Albán and climbing pyramids on a stomach that had been empty for 24 hours, I decided to try lunch again. Same problem. Clearly, I couldn’t start my first day of classes sequestered in el Baño, so I stopped eating.

chocolate tasting in Mercado Benito Juarez

This is the richest, most unbelievable chocolate sauce. The one on the top is mixed with ground chile, the one toward the front with ground nuts. Incredible, but not what I should have been eating in my condition.

Class went fine — perhaps even better than expected. In my light-headed state,  I may have been looser and more open to the free flow of Spanish conversation. Which is what our class is all about — not a word of English is allowed and we talk constantly. Luckily, it’s a very good group and we all seem to all make the same mistakes, so the class really flows. All well and good for my first four-hour class. But in two hours, I had my afternoon class which is a Mexican cooking class, again taught all in Spanish.

grinding cacao in Mercado de Benito Juarez, Oaxaca

The machine they use to grind the cacao beans with the sugar looks a lot like our crusher/destemmer. Hmmm. If this wine thing doesn't work out...

I dared a yogurt at a health food restaurant (yes, they have one that wouldn’t be out of place in Noe Valley). When the waiter wondered why I wasn’t eating more, I told him my sad tale (en Español) and it was promptly recommended that I have a spinach and carrot smoothie. Perhaps I should have waited to eat. Our first cooking class involved a walk through Oaxaca’s largest food market, Mercado de Benito Juarez (who else would it be named after?) Also included was a chocolate tasting. Not just any chocolate but rich deep Oaxacan cacao and chocolate at all stages of its process. Nothing like a good natural laxative when you have the Oaxacan Trots!

By 9PM, I realized, no matter my situation, I had to eat something since I’d been 36 hours with nothing but a yogurt and a smoothie. I took myself to the excellent La Olla where the school had held our welcome dinner. I ordered the blandest thing I could that I thought would have the most electrolytes and salt — a salad with the wonderful Oaxacan cheese and tamales with mole sauce.

I was flagging by the second tamale and the owner rushed over concerned that I didn’t like the food. I proceeded to tell my sad case of woe and he promised he had just the thing.

Mezcal with lime and chile, Oaxaca

Mezcal with lime and chile! As my new best friend says, "Es medicina."

And you know, so far, he’s right. For the first time in days, my stomach feels settled. What the heck do vegetarians know? I laugh in the face of your Carrot/Spinach Smoothie. It’s medicinal Mezcal for me.

Pictures of our tour of the Mercado de Benito Juarez here.

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