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  • 09 Mar 2017 9:32 AM | Menna Mcdonnell

    To Bean or not to Bean? 

    Beans or no beans in Chili is an argument that is as old as the dish it self. 

    Chili noun \ˈchi-lē\ : a spicy dish made of ground beef, hot peppers or chili powder, and usually beans.

    Even the dictionary can’t say for sure whether beans belong in Chili or not, but I bet that if you like Chili you have a strong opinion on the subject. I guess the only thing that truly matters is if you enjoy how the food tastes.

    Where It All Began

    First things first. In order to decide whether beans belong in Chili we have to go back to the origins. The only thing certain about the origins of Chili is that it did not originate in Mexico, most places that serve it in Mexico only do so to cater for tourists.

    No one can say for sure what was included in the first bowl of Chili, but the style of Chili dates back to the 1800s on old South Western cattle trails. These cattle drivers and trail hands first used chili as a way to make freshly killed beef taste better and have a nice chewable texture. These cattle drivers used local resources such as garlic, onions, chiles and oregano (no mention of beans). As they moved along the cattle trails they planted more of these necessary flavorful ingredients so that they would always have a fresh supply. 

    According to Texas legend, the first noted commercialized sale of Chili was done by the "Chili Queens" at the Military Plaza in San Antonio. These women sold highly seasoned meat stews that they called "Chili" out of a cart. They sold this chili to anyone who traveled in from the prairie, even through the night. Although it is claimed that these Chili Queens sold their chili for close to 200 years, only the last third of that is recorded on paper. The Chili queens slowly but surely evolved their Chili dish into the same dish that we currently call Chili. This is most likely because there were so many Chili Queens selling Chili at the Military Plaza that competition was stiff, and recipes were ever evolving in order to gain an upper hand. 

    The Chili Queens were prominent in San Antonio until the 1930s when the health department shut down their outdoor stands. The San Antonio Health Department implemented new laws and that required the Chili cart owners to adhere to the same standards as indoor restaurants. These regulations required the "Queens" to have lavatory facilities. This was an impossible feat and the cart pushers instantly became a thing of the past.

    Luckily, by the time the Chili Queens were shut down, Chili was incredibly popular and had made its way around the country where small Chili parlors were scattered in small and large towns and cities. 

    Where Did the Beans Come From?

    Once these Chili parlors exploded in number the Great Depression hit. Chili was rather inexpensive to make, and when eating at a restaurant crackers were free. This was an all inclusive meal that could only be improved by adding beans to the concoction. Beans were inexpensive and unlike pasta or rice, beans were full of protein and fiber and kept you fuller longer. They gave your bowl of chili more texture and therefore it took longer to eat the entire pot. 

    When San Antonio redeveloped their marketplace in 1970 a Memorial Day a re-enactment of the Chili Queen's cart is staged in a production called "The Return of the Chili Queens Festival". The history behind this culinary delight prompted a bill to be put forth by legislature in 1977. This bill made Chili the official state dish of Texas. Following the original recipe of the trail blazing cowboys, Texas chili recipes leave out beans as an ingredient. 

    Which Is Better?

    Now the hard part, choosing which type of chili is better - beans or no beans. 

    I will leave that for you to decide...

    IWC Chili Cook-Off Friday 10th March 2017

    To celebrate the IWC Chili Cook-Off here is a link to a Recipe Round up of 16 of the best  Chili Recipes,

  • 08 Mar 2017 11:02 AM | Menna Mcdonnell

    Happy International Women's Day!

    Did you know that 4 months ago the BBC's 100 Women held its first ever live festival - in Mexico City?

    BBC 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year. The BBC went backstage to talk to some of the inspirational musicians and artists entertaining the crowds, and to watch people experiencing an innovative virtual reality experience. 

    Click here to see all the action from this amazing event:

    But who are the Mexican women that make CDMX tick?

    Alejandra Barrios, perhaps the most influential street vendor in Mexico City, estimates that of the approximately 100 organizations in the city’s central areas, 80 percent are led by women. Click here to ready this fascinating article 'The Women Who Rule Mexico City' by City Lab:

  • 30 Apr 2015 5:02 PM | Deleted user

    Are you confused about what cut of meat to buy for your dinner?Culinary globetrotter Alaina Missbach of The Global Fork can help you out.  Check out her posts on beef, pork and lamb by clicking on the links below.  




  • 30 May 2014 2:42 PM | Deleted user

    Karen Campillo, Newcomers Board member 2008-2011

    Not only is it a great testament to Ora but also a wonderful reminder of the highlight of my time with all of you in Mexico.
    Working side by side, cramped in Ora's kitchen, often sorting foul produce was despite the circumstances always a pleasure. The generosity of spirit that existed every third Monday of the month was to me, both comforting and energizing. Ora has not just helped the poor of San Fernando but, she has created a valuable opportunity to know the joy which comes from giving.

    Here is a short documentary about the Ora Foundation
  • 19 May 2014 5:06 PM | Deleted user

    Family Daytripping Near Mexico City: Bioparque Estrella

    By Erin Nolan

    After a long week of work and shuttling our children all over the city for school and extracurricular activities, my husband and I tend to stay close to home on the weekends, usually in vegetative positions on the couch. We’ve been living in Mexico City for five years, and it has occurred to me that we are not taking advantage of the resources around us like we used to when we were carefree newlyweds. But that has started to change as our children are getting older (they are four and three currently) and easier to travel with. In honor of the beginning of the new year, we recently decided to turn over a new leaf and make an effort to get out of the city for a day trip with our daughters. The destination: Bioparque Estrella.

    The ride out was pleasant: blue skies, rolling hills, fresh air. Our girls enjoyed seeing the countryside and seeing who could spot more horses on the way.

    Upon arriving, I was pleasantly surprised to see a clean, well-paved and well-maintained park, complete with snack stands, a nice playground and ample shade. Our first activity was the safari ride. On board a large open-air bus, we drove approximately four kilometers and were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and see a lot of animals, including American bison, giraffes, zebras, camels, llamas, antelopes, a family of hippos, an emu with an attitude, and many more. Having never been to a safari park, I was awed by the majesty of these animals at such close range. After all, it’s not every day I see a full-grown giraffe twelve inches from my face. The views of the clear skies, surrounding mountains and the native vegetation from the safari bus were inspiring and a refreshing change from the concrete jungle that surrounds us every day.

    Next, we happened upon an underground area called The Subterraneum. This area features a short film in Spanish talking about the history of mining. Then, the group descends 500 meters down into the mine shaft in a freight elevator. Below, families clamor into cars which workers drive through the mine. You learn a bit about mining history, and let’s just say that there are a few surprises along the way. However, I don’t recommend this particular attraction for those suffering from claustrophobia.

    Another attraction we visited was called the Jurassic River. After climbing onto a pontoon boat, we floated down a small river where we saw some nicely replicated species of dinosaurs in their “natural” habitat.

    The girls wanted to see the Bengal tigers, so we hiked into a forest of gray oak trees down to the tigers’ den, crossed a suspension bridge, and then hiked our way back out. As we were hiking through the forest, I felt like I was back in Peninsula State Park in Door County, WI, as opposed to 90 minutes from one of the most populated cities in the world.

    There are several other activities within the park, such as paddle boats on Lake Ziwa, zip lines, a small petting zoo, Euro Bungy, some workshops for smaller children and a theater featuring performing parrots. Tickets range from 169 to 185 pesos per person, and some of the workshops require a small extra fee. Overall, Bioparque Estrella is a nice destination for some relaxing, family friendly fun.


    The park is located on the Mexico-Querétaro highway. You pass the toll for Tepozotlán and then drive for about 40 km to the Jilotepec exit. From there, you will drive another 30 km to the park. It took us approximately 90 minutes to arrive, but it was definitely a manageable day trip.

    You can buy tickets on-line, but they are not good until the following day. So buy your tickets in-person at the park, or buy them the day before on-line. Currently, you get a 25% discount for tickets bought on line. Note: Even if you buy them on-line, you still have to wait in line to get the actual “boleto” to enter the park.

    Children under age three do not have to buy a ticket. We did not see this on the website, so we paid for a ticket for our two-year-old, but they did refund it.

    DO bring cash in small bills for the snack areas.

    DO bring a stroller if you have small children. The park is nicely paved.

    Buy the food for the safari animals before you get on the bus.

    Listen to the safari driver. He will tell you which animals to feed with the cup and which you can feed with your hands. If you do not feel confident with your Spanish, look around and see what the other people are doing.

    If you want to see the tigers, be prepared to walk approximately two kilometers, and you cannot bring the stroller for that part.

    There are pretty much just snack foods for sale at the Bioparque Estrella, but there are quite a few restaurants outside the park that offer meals and beverages.

  • 03 Dec 2013 12:47 PM | Deleted user

    Written by: Erin Nolan

    I need to tell you about my new, best friend. He is a strange whitish-blue color and is shaped like a sideways teardrop. Strange, I know, but this guy has directed me home many times when I have been bewildered and lost in thislabyrinth of a city. He even tells me in an instant how I can avoid some serious traffic situations here in D.F., which, if you have ever driven a car with a toddler who has to pee urgently, is invaluable. His name: Waze.

    When I first arrived in D.F. five years ago, I was pregnant, didn’t know anyone, and, though I had a car and was game to drive it, I didn’t even know how to get to Polanco to see my doctor for my monthly check-up. My husband would have to take me on practice runs on Saturdays and Sundays so I could get used to the five mile route. And I will never forget the night I spent two and a half hours on Fuente de Leones in Tecamachalco, trying to get to Prado Norte for my Lamaze class. I only knew one way to get to Prado Norte, and this was it. So I just had to sit in gridlock, listening to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill; her angst really resonated with me as I just sat, and sat, and sat as cars continued to make “extra lanes” and clog the street around me to the point of an impasse. If only I had had Waze there to help me. You see, Waze would have told me to avoid Fuente de Leones at that time and would have selected an optimal route for me to reach my destination.

    The key to Waze, a free application that you can download onto your phone or iPad, is that you are linked into a system where other drivers in your area can share real-time traffic and road information. So if, let’s say, I know where I am going, but there are several routes I can take to get there, I can put my destination into Waze, and the application will show me the fastest route to get there right now.

    According to their website, by connecting drivers to one another, Waze “helps people create local driving communities that work together to improve the quality of everyone's daily driving.” So you can add road reports in real-time, helping others to avoid traffic, and the system will take other drivers’ reports and do the same for you.

    I used to struggle with my GPS that was stuck to my windshield. For some reason, I just never had luck with the darn thing. The maps weren’t updated, so the GPS would try to send me down one-way streets the wrong way, or the GPS would not recognize the address of my destination the way I had entered it. No matter how many GPS devices we bought and how “updated” they supposedly were, they just never worked for me consistently. But Waze, well, he knows how to treat a lady. He NEVER tells me that the address doesn’t exist, and he will do everything he can to get me where I need to go. If there is a map discrepancy, I just press a button, and the Waze system alerts a team that corrects the map within a short period of time.

    But what if I don’t know the correct address? What if I need to find a Superama in an unfamiliar neighborhood, or a certain mall only knowing the “colonia”? Well, Waze gives users the option of using other search engines to find a destination, including Google and Foursquare.

    I even use Waze when I take a taxi to the airport to politely suggest to the driver which way is the best (yes, I am sure they love that, but when you NEED to get on that flight and the teachers’ union is striking at the airport, you need to know how to get in there come Hell or high water!)

    So, practically speaking, how does it work?

    After typing in the destination address, users just drive with the app open on their phone to passively contribute traffic and other road data, but they can also take a more active role by sharing road reports on accidents, police traps, or any other hazards along the way, helping to give other users in the area a “heads-up” about what's to come.

    But I am not very tech savvy....

    Trust me, neither am I, so I truly believe that if I can use this app effectively, anyone can. And the more people use it, the more accurate it gets!

    Isn’t it distracting while you drive...?

    Compared to two toddlers squabbling in the backseat while they watch “Finding Nemo” for the five-hundredth time, not really! I actually turn off the app’s sound (the mispronunciations of the street names were a little distracting) and just glance down at it on my phone when I am at a red light.

    But what if I miss a turn...?

    Just like a regular GPS, Waze will re-direct you to your destination if you happen to miss a turn. With the spaghetti bowl of narrow, overlapping streets here, this happens to me frequently, but I always make it to where I’m going!

    Thanks to Waze, I have learned many back roads (or “atajos”), and my life as a driver in D.F. has vastly improved. Long gone are the days when, after 40 minutes of driving in circles and asking passersby for directions that only confused me more, I have to hail a taxi and pay it to lead me to a destination. So if you are one of the brave souls who, like me, dares to maneuver a car around Mexico City, I recommend you make a date with my new, best friend: WAZE.

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