Monday, May 23, 2011

Remembering a Good Friend

Chuy with Agustin
I don't ever think I would consider myself a "pet person."  When Robb asked me to accept this rolly-polly big ball of a puppy after the return from our honeymoon almost 13 years ago,  I couldn't help but say yes.  Robb made the classic pitch that ever "kid" makes to his parents from age 5 and up -- "I will take care of him and feed him and he will be the best dog ever." 

Chuy was really our first child.  He was a great dog and I grew to love him.  Chuy moved with us from Tampico to Cuernavaca, and finally to Tepoztlan.  I still remember in Tampico when Robb would take him to the golf course as he had trained Chuy to look for balls.  Of course, he also enjoyed finding other people's balls which some people didn't appreciate as well as chasing ducks but he did his job very well.  He would actually jump and bark towards the television screen when golf was on to try and find the ball.

As well, I recall how protective he was of children.  When Matias was young and learning how to swim, Chuy would jump into the pool and swim circles around him until Matias grabbed his tail.  Chuy would then pull him out.  He never was very comfortable with small children in the pool and would not relax until they were safe.

As many of our guests know at La Villa Bonita, Chuy was the first to greet you upon arrival.  He made lots of friends with our guests.  Chuy was with us on the first day that we opened and was a true part of our family. 

Chuy passed away this Saturday at almost 13 years of age.  He had recently been diagnosed with a couple of serious and inoperable conditions and things deteriorated rapidly from there.  This Saturday when the boys went to play baseball in Mexico City, I noted that he was not doing well.  I called Robb and informed him.  Robb said they would come home as fast as they could. 

When Robb arrived Chuy was not doing well.  He was still responsive but lying on the floor in the house.  Robb called the vet to put him to sleep as he didn't want him to suffer.  The boys were very afraid and upset but Robb cleaned up Chuy so that they could stay with him for a while and say goodbye.  Chuy tried to get up but couldn't.  After they said  their goodbye and hugged him, Robb felt that the boys should go over to the neighbors before the vet arrived, but Matias insisted on staying and stroked his head, telling him that he was a good dog and that we loved him very much.  Matias was very brave and comforted him until he passed away 20 minutes later.  By the time the vet arrived, he had left us.

I know that sometimes pet owners project their human emotions to their pets but I truly believe that Chuy stayed around just long enough to say goodbye to Robb and the kids.  It was just his character - faithful until the end.

We all will miss you, Chuy. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The "Commonality" of Food

Many people ask me, how is it that your guests seem to get along so well when they come from all different walks of life, different ages, different places?  I have to tell you that I have been offering my culinary vacation packages for over ten years and it is amazing and very gratifying to watch every week how my guests come together and become friends.

The holidays for us are always busy with guests, and of course . . .the holidays!.  This year was no exception.  We had guests from Virginia, New York, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Chicago, Los Angeles, and even Tabasco, Mexico and Australia.  This year we had women traveling by themselves, friends traveling together, families with adult children and their spouses, a family of three generations - grandmother, mother and 2 year old granddaughter, and couples.  The amazing thing is people who perhaps under different circumstances would not have a reason to say "hello" on the street, become such great friends so quickly making their first mole at La Villa Bonita at what is supposed to be such a hectic and stressful time during the holidays.

I attribute it to the "commonality" of food and the culture that goes along with it.  If you enjoy good food, like to travel, and are open to appreciate another culture, you have so much in common with other people who on the surface seem so different.  In this day and age, we tend to compartmentalize and categorize everyone.  Society gives you a label and you are supposed to act in accord when in reality there are so many other areas of common ground that people of different walks of life share.

When you come to La Villa Bonita, you have made a conscious decision to not "veg on the beach" during your vacations.  You appreciate learning about another culture and are open to try new things.  You are a "learned" person -- not necessarily with titles or degrees -- but  with a thirst for knowledge and new experiences.  And, of course, you must love food.  If you have all of those qualities, you are very likely to enjoy this type of vacation at La Villa Bonita and have lots of things in common with our guests.  But there is no template for who our "normal" guest is with respect to age, race, sex, or nationality.

I have to admit that I was very pleased this year because it was such a great cross-section of all the guests of different walks of life that come together making their first tortilla from scratch.  It makes my job so much fun to see how people of such seemingly diverse paths converge and enjoy themselves.

Peace, love and good food,
Chef Ana