Popocatépetl – Central Mexico’s reminder of who’s really in charge.

This past sunday, while enjoying the long weekend in the state of Morelos, we spotted what looked like a mushroom cloud way off in the distance. In my ignorance I exclaimed “there must have been an accident over there” (cue chuckles from those who know better); I was quickly informed that it indeed was an eruption from Popocatépetl,  a volcano some 70 km south-east of Mexico City.

I’ve always been fascinated by this volcano with the (until recently for me) unpronounceable name. The name Popocatépetl comes from a word compound in Nahuatl, Popoca = It smokes and Tepetl = Mountain, literally “Smoking Mountain”.

I can’t see Popocatépetl from my home in DF, nor was it visible from where I was in Morelos last Sunday. Distance and air contamination make it difficult to make out. When in the state of Puebla it would be much easier to see as its proximity and size makes Popocatépetl dominate the skyline there.

Once I arrived back to Mexico City; I investigated a little on what the situation is with this volcano and if there was any real danger. What I found was that Popocatépetl regularly ‘exhales’ as they say and that scientists do not expect an eruption in the immediate future. However it was clearly pointed out that there is never any way to tell for sure and as Popocatépetl is an active volcano there is always a chance that there could be an explosion at anytime.

The last eruption of Popocatépetl was in December of 2000. 30,000 residents within the immediate vicinity of the volcano had to be evacuated because of the gases and ash that were thrown up into the air. My partner told me that the ash reached as far as the north of Mexico City covering everything in layers of ash and soot.

Popocatépetl, an awesome and constant reminder that humanity is forever just guests on this earth.

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It sure don’t look pretty…

…but it tastes like heaven.

Ladies and Gentlemen allow me to introduce you all to one of my favorite perks of living in Mexico and specifically Mexico City, Cuitlacoche (also spelled Huitlacoche).

Now before you make a judgement based on the picture, allow me to describe to you what it is and why it is so good.

Cuitlacoche, Corn Smut in english, is an edible fungus that grows on corn during periods of high humidity. The  fungus spores penetrate the kernels and causes them to burst. The result is a blackish blue mushroomy/truffley mass.

Still not convinced? Let me describe to you what it tastes like…

Imagine a traditional truffle with a hint of corn, creamy, delicate and light all at once. Delicate enough in flavour that it is compromising yet also strong enough to stand on its own. This ingredient is heaven in cream soups, quesadillas, or even in the stuffing for the Christmas turkey. It’s versatile and delicious!

I strongly recommend you get some and use it if you already haven’t. You won’t be sorry.

Getting it here in Mexico is not hard at all, but if you live far away, try sourcing it out on the internet.

Have you ever tried Cuitlacoche? What did you think? How did you prepare it?