This page was last updated: March 8, 2018
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Birding at El Estribo on Lake Patzcuaro
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The Origin of Lake Pátzcuaro and the Egret
Based on the Purhépecha Legend
In ancient times on a dark night, before migrant peoples had evolved into the splendor of the Purhépecha nation, an enormous ball of fire appeared in the skies. It grew and grew and then hurtled down into the mountains of the region that is now known as Michoacán. The earth shook mightily, terrifying the inhabitants of the fertile valley where the fireball crashed. At the place of its impact, a spring of crystal clear water gushed up and filled a large area, thus forming Lake Pátzcuaro and its islands.
On the island called Yunuén there came to live a respected noble who had a daughter named Hapunda. The people of Yunuén were devoted to the Princess Hapunda because of her beauty and her sweet nature. Hapunda devoted much time to contemplation of the beautiful lake, conversing intimately with each ripple on its mirror-like surface. The lake was the center and king of its pueblos. The princess and the lake became so close that Hapunda made a promise to the lake never to leave it.
One afternoon the smooth surface of the lake became very agitated at the crossing of a boat from the shore to the island of Yunuén. This vessel carried an old and repugnant warrior who approached Hapunda’s father first with rich gifts and then with threats to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Even though his life was in danger, Hapunda’s father replied that it was up to his daughter to choose her own destiny. He would not force her into such a marriage. But in order to save her father’s life, Princess Hapunda accepted the unwonted proposal.
As preparations for the marriage were made, the princess wept a torrent of tears into the waters of the lake. Hapunda recounted her sorrows at the thought of leaving the lake and her fear that she would soon no longer have even her elderly father to protect her. The voice of the lake rose from the deep, reminding Hapunda of her promise and offering her a way to stay with the lake forever. The voice told Hapunda to dress herself in white and on a moonlit night to throw herself into the lake’s waters.
So on a night illumined by a large silver moon, Princess Hapunda took a boat out to the center of the lake that lay as still as a mirror. There she plunged into the watery depths where she became a guardian of the lake for all time. A ray of light from the moon beamed down to where Hapunda had entered the water and from this place emerged a large bird totally covered with white feathers. This bird was called the egret and it always flew to Hapunda’s favorite place by the water on Yunuén. Today the egrets return to the island of Yunuén every evening as day turns into night.
It is said that the day that the egrets disappear, so too will Lake Pátzcuaro.
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness."
"He upon whose heart the dust of Mexico has lain,
will find no peace in any other land."
- Malcom Lowry, Under the Volcano
Patzcuaro is a colonial town and municipality located in highlands of central Michoacan. The town was founded sometime in the 1320s, at first becoming the capital of the Tarascan state and later its ceremonial center. After the Spanish took over, Vasco de Quiroga worked to make Patzcuaro the capital of the New Spain province of Michoacan, but after his death, the capital would be moved to nearby Valladolid (today Morelia). Patzcuaro has retained its colonial and indigenous character since then, and has been named both a "Pueblo Magico" and one of the 100 Historic World Treasure Cities by the United Nations.
Patzcuaro and the Lake region have an 7,200 feet elevation, with rainy, green summers, blooming flowers in Fall and crisp, dry, mountain air all winter.
Noche de Muertos around Lake Patzcuaro
Fuente del Torito
Plaza Chica, Patzcuaro
Photo about 1890
Calle Interbe y La Paz
Those tamales might be number one for a long time. They took about an hour to steam and we learned to put a penny in the bottom of the pan, and when the steamer goes dry, the penny starts banging around.
The class started with Bob chopping the raisins and a cup of sugar poured into a melting hot skillet. Nothing gets a class motivated more than the smell of molten sugar and butter. Needless to say, I was hungry from the second the class started.
The rum and cinnamon joined in the bubbling, along with slices of fresh pineapple, and the entire concoction caramelized in front of our very eyes.
We then started on the masa for the tamales, mixing in butter and massive amounts of slivered almonds.
Dessert was basically Sweet Tamales, a real treat. Fresh corn hunks were smeared with thick masa, layered with slices of caramelized pineapple with raisin bits and steamed for one hour.
The Chile Rellenos were filled with a medley of veggies from the Patzcuaro Market, at Plaza Chica: onions, zucchini, fresh corn, chiles, seasonings and cheese. The rellenos were covered with a red, bell pepper sauce we made and were delicious.
The Stacked Chicken Enchiladas were three crisp tortillas, stacked and layered with a different sauce, and layers of chicken and cheeses.
We served the 2 dishes to ourselves as we shoveled on the Fiery Salsa, a simple masterpiece of tomatoes, onions and chiles, while diving into the food with our very own Flour Tortillas. The thing about real, homemade, flour tortillas is their ease and speed in preparation. AND, worth the few minutes preparation time.
After only a handful of lessons, Patzcuaro’s Cooking Class is already a tradition. Every month or so, about 8 folks gather around an oversize kitchen prep-table and prepare a full-course meal, all under the eye of Master Chef Tim McGrath. He has worked in restaurants around the world and knows to clean as you cook.
McGrath’s previous cooking classes in Patzcuaro have made a Southwestern meal, Pizza from scratch, a complete Thai menu and a Shrimp Pot Pie, with Bread pudding.
Yesterday, the class prepared a traditional Mexican meal of five different recipes, including #2-Chile Rellenos, #3-Stacked Chicken Enchiladas, with #4- Flour Tortillas and #5- Fiery Salsa. Coming in at Number 1, was dessert, Caramelized Pineapple Tamales.
We got a handout with all the recipes on separate sheets. All ingredients were locally acquired, and changed with the seasons. Everything was extremely organized, with everything laid out and utensils handy.
Tim’s next class on July 12 is called Spontaneous Combustion. The class will meet at the Patzcuaro Market, where they will choose and purchase the ingredients, then return to the kitchen and spontaneously cook.
For reservations and more info, call Tim at 434-139-1774.
Buen Provecho, David
P.S. I think the best part of the class is eating what we prepared and cooked.