Almond Cake from Pie in the Sky Bakery 1989 Gluten Free Recipe with Lemon Glaze

Great for Wedding Cakes and Strawberry Shortcake Gluten-free Recipe

The Mexican taste often found our American desserts too sweet so this was a very popular cake at the Pie in the Sky Bakery as it is light and airy and not very sweet.

This recipe is similar to the Griestorte of the Cordon Bleu School of Cookery.  It is excellent as a base for Strawberry Shortcake and an elegant gluten-free Wedding Cake.

 PASTEL DE ALMENDRA

Preheat to 350′

BUT BAKE at 325′ F.

I. The Dries – Set aside:

1 3/4 c ground almonds (we like Bob’s Red Mill or grinding it ourselves in a coffee grinder)
1/2 c rice flour

1 tsp baking Powder

Combined in a plastic bag and shake well to mix.  Set “The Dries” aside.

II. “The Mix”

Carefully separate the eggs and put the whites aside covered to protect them from a little splash of grease.*

10 yolks

3/4 c sugar

These two ingredients are “whipped to the ribbon” until white and fluffy about 10 minutes!!

Yup, 10 mins, set the timer and do something else like butter the pan.  [See photo for “whipped to the ribbon”.]

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Add
1/2 c butter, Melted and cooled!

2 TBsp Almond Flavoring, (NOT imitation – we prefer “Simply Organic”.

2 tsp Vanilla

Add the melted butter, little by little and the two flavorings. Mix it well.

III.”The Whites”
10 egg whites

Pinch de cream of tartar.

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c sugar

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*The way we separate eggs:

We super wash our hands (or wear disposal rubber gloves) and then break each egg carefully into a cup. Then we pour the whole egg into one hand and with fingers barely spread apart, we let the whites run through into a second dish. Its fun to do it this way but you can use other methods as well.
Then save the yolks into a third cup. When we have the full 10 yolks,  transfer them to a mixer bowl and start up the mixer, adding the sugar very slowly.

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In another mixer bowl, completely free of grease, whip the egg whites on low with the salt and a pinch of cream of tartar.  (**For Beginners: Please see specific instructions below and follow them closely.) In short, slowly bring up the speed and add the sugar slowly.  Add tiny amount of sugar at first, and more as you go along.

Using a rubber spatula, fold into “The Mix” a little of the whipped whites to lighten the mix.  Then alternate additions of “the Dries” with “the Whites” into the mix, in two rounds.  Take good swift strokes and try to incorporate the Whites and the Dries as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Pour batter into a super-greased Bundt pan.  Super greased means thickly greased with shortening. Then sprinkle sugar in and shake out and then flour sprinkled into the pan and shaken out.

(Preheat to 350′)

Bake at 325′ F.

For Bundt Cake pan 50-55 mins or more.

For flat rounds about 30-35 mins.

Test top for springiness.

Test with knife in center of the cake – should come out “clean”.

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We’ve found that some Bundt pans are thick and heavy, some thin and much lighter so you have to watch the times on this and adjust to your particular pan. Keep testing the top for springiness and coming away from the sides of the pan.  See photo for details.

We finished our Almond Cake with a fresh Lime glaze in Mexico but have adapted this to the easy-to-find lemons for stateside cookery. This gives the lightly sweetened cake a tangy edge that sets it off nicely.

Lemon Glaze

1/2 C lemon juice

2/3 C sugar

2 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot – dissolved in 1 Tbsp of Brandy

1 TBsp Marsala or sweet wine, optional

Directions:

Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan, stir to dissolve.

Next put cornstarch into small dish and add brandy to dissolve.

Add sweet wine to the brandy mix if you are using it.

Warm the lemon juice and sugar over medium heat.

When it starts to boil, turn the flame down and slowly add the cornstarch mixture – while stirring constantly.

When completely mixed, simmer over low flame for 5 mins stirring constantly and then remove from heat.  It will thicken as it cools.

Use a pastry brush to generously ‘paint’ the cake.

Brush onto the Cake while still warm – when possible.

Note:
When sealed with glaze, this Cake keeps nicely in the refrigerator for a week or more.

It only gets more moist as it ages.

Serves 12-16

**For whipping up the egg whites, the best is to have the egg whites at room temperature.  We throw the cream of tartar and the salt into the just separated whites and set aside while we tend to the yolks at the beginning of the recipe.

In another mixer bowl, free of grease, whip the egg whites on low with the salt and a pinch of cream of tartar.  Slowly bring up the speed and add the sugar slowly.  Add tiny amounts of sugar at first, and more as you go along.  Very important!  Do not over whip as the whites become dry and do not incorporate as well.

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Chapter 3 Sell a Pie, Go to Jail

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Chapter 3

“Sell a Pie, Go to Jail”
Puerto Vallarta 1990

Our first year of operating out of the La Cruz bakery was an exciting and joy – filled time. We loved meeting the townspeople, sharing our free samples, joining, and being joined by fellow cruising sailors anchored off the town, some for the whole season.

We’d get to meet most of those sailors and their families and crew either as they found the bakery or at night sitting on the curb  in front of our favorite taco place eating barbeque or pork and chicken tacos for 10 cents each.

During the day we had a steady and fun parade of people coming by, old, and young, mostly locals. We always had something for people to sample. For many of our local clients it was their first experience with American deserts especially these fine examples. Occasionally a Mexican or American tourist would say they had sampled our desserts in P.V. and heard they were being made in the tiny village of La Cruz. They were thrilled to finally find us.  Dr. Livingston, I presume! We never learned just how they did find us, as we didn’t have any signs. We were operating illegally and worried that immigration would be alerted to our presence.

The first family we met in La Cruz was the Chavez family. One son, Jesus was a fisherman. He and a bunch of other local fisherman aboard a 50 foot fishing boat hailed us early one evening while we were having dinner in our cockpit.  They asked if we had diving equipment. They had a net wound around their prop and shaft and needed help. We had a tank and regulator, so I swam over and was able to easily cut and free the lines. To them I was a hero. It was that simple act of neighborliness that opened all doors to us in La Cruz. Jesus had 10 brothers and sisters. 60 year old Mama held it all together with lots of help from the now grown kids.  Almost all of them lived with their spouses nearby the family home. Old man Chavez was a real character, an old-timer bent with age but still, when not too drunk to move, very active.

Mama’s youngest daughter, Betty, had some medical problem, and when she heard that Teri was an acupuncturist, she wanted to know if Teri could treat Betty. When we came for the first treatment, she hauled out two huge plastic bags of western medicines that had been prescribed to Betty over the past two years.  They had tried everything!!  Teri treated her right at the family’s kitchen table which stood on the hard packed dirt floor.

Because the word had gone round the family that Betty was feeling better after her first treatment, when we returned for the second one, there was a crowd surrounding the entrance to the simple Chavez home.

What a show!  Making our way through the crowd, we managed to make it inside to find Mama and Betty waiting for us at the kitchen table.  Also there were the rest of the Chavez family, son-in-laws, daughters, kids, all crowded around trying to see Teri administer a needle to Betty’s ear.

This was being done under one dim and bare bulb which hung from a very dark greasy rafter, beneath the corrugated tin roof, which was held up by a tree trunk sitting on the hard packed dirt floor with no front or back door.  All present, watching Teri, wide eyed, and all seemingly talking at once. No room for the neighbors to fit in, but creating a stir on the street nonetheless. Maria Luisa asked if Teri could cure her husband’s baldness. That unleashed a torrent of much too rapid Spanish and pointing to various body parts.

We were invited to each and every household and for the many family fiestas held for so many reasons.  Betty got well and later Teri ended up treating Betty’s 2 year old niece for timidity with Bach Flower remedies.  She had to tell the disappointed daughter that there was nothing she could do for the spot of baldness on her husband’s head.  Good to nip those Miraculous Healer rumors in the bud…

We learned the family also owned a 10 acre grove of mature mango trees, near a 200 foot hill outside of town. They also owned the side of the hill and had divided it into strips and distributed it among the family. The hillside overlooked Puerto Vallarta, the eastern part of Banderas Bay and south toward Yelapa, and the mountains. A spectacular vista!

Mama and Papa Chavez told us that one half-acre strip was ours if we wanted to buy it. The price was several thousand dollars. We told them we couldn’t come up with that kind of money. They offered it to us for $1000 cash down payment and whatever payments we could manage. Jesus’ brother, Pedro, one with a bad reputation, was in jail and wouldn’t be released until someone could buy him out. Bad luck for Pedro, but good for us and we went for it.

The real estate laws in Mexico at that time at least, were ambiguous, subject to interpretation, bribes, family feuds and politics. One law, supposedly written in stone, stated a foreigner couldn’t own land within 20 miles of the coastline. Another declared that Ejido land could not be sold. The Ejido is a farming group that occupies and works land but cannot sell it. This prohibition, long since ignored in La Cruz, was still the law. Our informal handshake contract with the Chavez family ignored these laws and was one we all drafted sitting around the treatment/kitchen table.  Not your accepted real estate practice for sure, and although we had reservations about the old man’s ethics, we placed our faith in Mama’s honesty.

We didn’t have a plan for the property, how or where to build on it. There were many challenges due to the steepness of the land but we enjoyed scampering up, sitting, gazing, and drinking red wine there. While sitting there on the land, we looked side to side, and behind us, and often would find artifacts. Many shards, some with designs or parts of designs, some pieces still with paint, we’d be able to pick out of the earth with only our fingers. Blues, ochre, reds, were the predominant colors.  Most exciting to find were the many translucent dark gray obsidian blades. These small, rectangular blades were beautifully crafted with a flat, beveled but still sharp top. Some were 3 inches long and in perfect condition. We heard that these artifacts were covered when this hillside was formerly used to grow pot. The frequent summer rains would wash away some of the soil and leave these treasures exposed.

Although we were never to build on it, just owning this land  would save us much later, in another land.

Our second fisherman friend, Martin, always seemed more serious and adult to us than his mates. We’d met while rowing our dink in to the beach each morning to begin our work day at our new bakery up the street. We’d pass his corner and stop to practice our horrible Spanish with him and his family.

Martin was older than most of the fisherman in La Cruz, over 40, tall and thin, a widower, with 2 children. He lived in the old family casita with his aging mother, across the road from our new friend, Jesus. Although growing up together, they couldn’t be outwardly friendly with each other due to an ancient family feud involving murder!   That was a story that took years to emerge.

Martin was among the crew of one panga that left La Cruz with three other fisherman plus 1000 pounds of ice carried amidships in large, worn plywood boxes. These boxes were covered with old, much used pieces of canvas giving some protection to the ice from the tropical sun. This open boat and crew would be accompanied by at least one other boat, sometimes two, for safety.  They would run from the La Cruz fisherman’s co-op to the forbidden Islas Marias  some 50 miles away. They would stay out for as many days and nights as was necessary to fill their boxes with 3 tons of iced snapper.  Then the challenge was to run back to the safety of La Cruz without sinking in their overloaded boat.

It was made especially risky by the fact that they were forbidden to fish in the rich fishing grounds out there due to the fact that the islands were being used as a prison and the surrounding waters were patrolled by the Navy, the same Navy that had boarded us on our entry.

Out there, 30 miles from a shore they could land on if weather threatened, they also ran the risk of having their boats, prized motors and their hard earned catch all confiscated with themselves being thrown in jail. Such was the difficult life of the La Cruz fisherman, trying to supply the local restaurants with the popular red snapper that all the tourists clambered for.  If the visitors had only known what lay behind their “cheap” red snapper dinner!
All this very hard work and tremendous risk was taking its toll on him, Martin told us.

We liked Martin and his family, and Martin liked Sherry, our first American employee. Sherry, mother of three, was a very attractive blond. Having separated from her husband, after their family’s adventuresome sail down from Santa Barbara, Sherry had no idea how to support herself and her three kids.  She was in need of attention, training, money, and as it turned out, Martin.

It all seemed predestined for us to offer Martin a new direction, less taxing and closer to his new girlfriend. We offered him a job at our little, but growing, “Pie in the Sky” hidden bakery. He became our go-to guy, that of deliveryman/salesman/shopper. Once trained, it would release me for other pressing needs. It all came together nicely. Martin proved to be a quick and eager learner. He helped me with my terrible Spanish, grasped our intentions, and the bigger picture. Having such a real Mexican character as my new sidekick helped me to be more included whenever the “gringo” bakery guy came by, lots of jokes, laughter and drinking over lunch in Puerto Vallarta with other fishermen and ex-fishermen, some of whom were now running many of the new restaurants that were popping up in town. Many of these guys knew Martin as a fisherman, and would tease him about his new job.

It was hard, sweaty work, delivering to our clients, taking orders, making at least one sales call, with one of our creations left behind as a calling card. The shopping required stopping at three or four locations and then there was the driving the 40 mile round trip three days a week. The temperatures and humidity would take their toll on the delivery guy walking in the blazing sun while carrying those desserts from wherever we could park, to the restaurant itself.  Although the Mexican men seemed oblivious to the extreme heat, my shirt was always stuck to my skin when I went out with Martin.

The pies, cheesecakes, delicate tarts, and others were packed in white Styrofoam boxes to protect them from the rigors of delivery and the heat of the day, so we used frozen blue ice packs on the bottom to hold the temperature down. The delivery car would be packed according to the route and accessibility was of great importance.  We had many of the most popular and finer restaurants as clients now and were calling of some of the larger hotels.

It was a treat for us to see and better understand the local culture, as we watched our few Mexican employees pull together, laughing and joking, while helping the delivery guy pack up each morning. As we grew and added more local women, those mornings would sound like some of the bird trees we passed under on our early morning walks. Those trees would hold hundreds of birds, and at certain times in the early morning, would all resound loudly with chatter and fluttering among themselves.

Once packed and on the road, Martin and I would talk about the local history and of fishing and of the many characters he knew. We did this with little common language but much understanding. We also planned the day as well as we could, hoping for as few surprises as possible. There were always surprises; the biggest one was on the Friday that I was arrested!

When Teri and I could see that this idea of an American Dessert Bakery was a good one, we decided to get legal as soon as possible. Operating as we were, with only tourist visas was a big hang-out. We’d been deluding ourselves thinking that we were invisible when the opposite was true. We needed the protection of a Mexican corporation and working visas for the two of us if we were to be serious about growing this business.

A Mexican friend recommended a woman lawyer from Mexico City to us and we got together with her to begin the process of legalization.  Now with a bank balance from the sale of grandpa’s lots, we paid $3000 upfront for the whole immigration package. It was to be a two part process.  The first part was easy and that was to create a corporation that is like creating a legal person.  This Susana did for us and it went smoothly.  The second part where the corporation requests our management services to run the corporation, which should have lead to our working papers, was unfortunately never realized.  The lawyer had gotten her tit in a wringer as she was part of a legal group that tried to take on a local honcho. Too bad for us.  We now had legal invoices which the restaurants required.  However, we were still left in the category of working without papers.  Still in jeopardy, we continued to work until we could come up with more money and continued to look for “another honest lawyer”.

The Friday I was arrested by Immigration Services, I was walking into the rear entrance of the oldest and most famous Puerto Vallarta seafront restaurant, Las Palomas.  Martin and I were caught red-handed as we were both carrying Styrofoam boxes filled with cheesecakes. The immigration officer flashed his badge as he approached me and said that he was arresting me for working in Mexico without papers. That made my heart skip a beat!  As I stared dumbly at the guy, trying to catch my breath, Martin attempted to defuse the situation, first with humor and then taunts but to no avail. Some of the kitchen staff from the restaurant, drawn by the excitement, began to pour out of the back door and onto the street. Everyone had an opinion and voiced it at once. At one point the immigration guy asked Martin why he was standing up for this gringo. I told Martin to continue without me and to finish up and go back to the bakery. With the sounds of jeering and some laughter behind us, Officer X and I walked across the street into the Office of Immigration.

It is a sign of just how naïve and complacent we had become, delivering right across the street from the Immigration office! Once inside, I asked if I could make a call before being led off to jail, and that being provided, spoke briefly to Teri. Telling her what had happened, I asked her to gather all the legal papers and come down to Immigration and to tell the truth.

The Immigration Officer was aggressive when driving me to jail, questioning me about dates of my entries and departures into and out of Mexico; about the bakery, our clients and the like. I asked him if I was going to jail and after he said “yes”, I told him I just couldn’t remember a thing.

The jail was an unmarked, drab three-story affair situated in an unfamiliar part of town. Once inside and processed, I was taken upstairs to the top floor.  Not knowing what awaited me, I saw a beautiful blonde woman sitting alone inside one of the cells I was passing.   I looked her full in the face as I passed and I saw the fear in her eyes. All of this added to the uncertainty of the situation and then we arrived at the end of the hall.  There was a worn, steel door with bars on the top half and it was inside for me!

The room was a rectangle 60′ x 30′ with concrete bunks, lowers and uppers, built into the wall. There were around 30 men inside, all of them Mexican and young. At 50, I might have been the oldest there. Summoning all my Spanish and taking a 50 peso note out of my pocket, I took a few steps toward the center of the room, and plopped the note down on the floor for all to see, while stating it was for all to use as only they would know how.

Looking around, I asked no one in particular where I might sit. Someone motioned to the end of the room where four bunks were built into the wall. Two uppers – two lowers, I took an empty lower. Once I sat down on the slab of concrete that was to be my lower bunk for the night, I took a look around the room to see barred openings under the roof to the top of the walls allowing air to circulate. Not much circulation in June. The conversations, halted upon the arrival of the new gringo, resumed, and after a short while, grew in volume and intensity and animation. Young street hoods, petty thieves, selling drugs, mainly pot, accounted for most here in this room. There was much bragging, much machismo, being flaunted around this group. Many knew each other and the sound of confidence grew as well as the volume, broken only when the guard came for someone or just to look in on the cellmates. All were very curious about me. Gringos are seldom arrested and once they heard that I was brought in by Immigration, they all cracked up laughing. Poetic justice, a gringo wet back!

Things relaxed and I started to feel accepted by my outlaw brothers. I settled in and wondered what Teri was up to. I knew she’d be upset, but doing all she could to get me released. I knew that I was about to be deported but since we had formed the corporation I hoped we could work out whatever was necessary to continue the outlaw bakery.

Later in the afternoon, a guard arrived with a bundle for me! It contained a pillow and a blanket; a bag with a toothbrush and toothpaste. The guard tells me it has just been dropped off. In Mexico NOTHING is provided to prisoners. Someone must bring all these things to you at the jail.

Teri had included a couple of pieces of fruit and a candy bar.  I was grateful that I could now lean on something soft but the last thing I was, was hungry.  So I laid out the fruit and candy and told my cellmates to help themselves.  The food was scooped up immediately but a moment later one fellow inmate slid up to my bunk and handed me a candy bar saying that it was for me. I’m not interested. I tell him to share it. “No, No, amigo, it is for you!  – And just when I’m about to decline more forcefully, he stated in a whisper that there is more there –“a note”!  “Thank you, Amigo”.   I sat back down and to my surprise Teri had sent me a note.   “I am not worrying” it began – well, that certainly is a strange beginning, I thought.  Great for her but she’s not in jail!!  It went on to say that she was with José Luis and they were working on getting me out of jail.   At least that was what I thought it said.  I didn’t have my glasses with me so I was not completely sure and there was no one to ask to read it to me.

Teri said that she was working with Sherry and Yasmin to finish the baking for Sunday’s sail. In all the excitement of the day, I’d forgotten about our first big catering job for a party hosted by a bigwig local hotel owner on an antique sailing ketch out on Banderas Bay for the World Cup game. This being late Friday, we had only one full day to finish preparing for that event along with our normal Saturday baking pattern. Shit!  What a time for this to happen, I thought.

The summer is a very slow and difficult time for the Mexican beach resorts and it was hard enough just to survive, without problems like this. I realized it would be dark in a few more hours.   In dawned on me that I’d be spending the night there and I was beginning to feel a little hungry when the guard came around with more gifts for the gringo. Takeout cartons from a place unknown to me, but was attested to by my immediate neighbors as being one of the best. I was honored and glad to have something substantial to eat and grateful to my wonderful wife and friends who made it possible. Shortly after I’d eaten, boredom overcame the youngsters and many suddenly showed up at the foot of my bunk with several having quickly climbed up to the top bunk over my head.  It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to be afraid as the attraction turned out to be not me but the poor woman in the next cell!

To be able to see through the 3 foot high barred opening at the top of the wall, the boys had to climb my bunk to look in at Mariposa.  Solo and naked, there dwelled a mad woman. My young toughs began taunting her with phrases, undecipherable to me, until they got the response they came for – upsetting Mariposa enough to do or say something outrageous.

From my cave below all the action, I didn’t know what the last straw was for Mariposa but she caused much laughing, screaming and a quick retreat from the top bunk, with boys falling back to the floor of our home. Back again, this first group of taunters went and more who had missed out on the first part, anxious to join in the fun. Like the first act, the scene repeats for all except me – and possibly Mariposa!

After a few more attempts the taunters retreated back home to find other amusements before dark.

All had appeared to return to normal when suddenly I saw water dribbling down from the bunk above.   Slowly it increased to a thin sheet of water, veil like, it poured past me on my bunk. I realized that I was INSIDE a small thin sheet of water, falling past my bunk, how is this possible I wondered. Then it struck me, this was PISS, not water!!

Mariposa had struck back at those who would disrupt her serenity, by throwing her pee pot up at those faces through the bars; it then landed on the top bunk, and held me prisoner in my prison bunk until it stopped. Fortunately it only fell onto the floor and not onto the lower bunk or my blanket.

A well-meaning cell mate shows up with a mop from the one commode toilet, open to all, at the other end of our long, bleak cell. The mop is more disgusting than the pool of piss, and when all was swabbed together, it created an odor I was forced to get used to that night.  Shit happens!

On Saturday, I am summoned to the office downstairs. I’d seen some of my cellmates return very bruised from such visits downstairs and I was not my usual calm self approaching the Commandente’s office.  The situation was beginning to make me wary, on this, my second day of incarceration in a Mexican jail.
Rounding the corner, much to my surprise, there was a friendly face!  Oh joy!  It was Kathy Von Rohr and her son, Kiki. She greeted me outside the Commandente’s office, telling me that he was a friend and that we could talk freely right there.  “Now you’re a true Vallartan”, she told me, and “one who has spent time in the old, beat up Puerto Vallartan jail.” Kathy tells me that she has heard from Teri, and that Jose Luis and his brother knew my tormentor, the Immigration guy, and have arranged my freedom with a 1,000 dollar bribe, which I knew we didn’t have then. She said that Kiki was going up to the States, but that he could postpone his flight a day or two and that we could use the dollars to come up with the required 1000 U.S. cash.  That was all she told me and then she had to leave quickly, saying over her shoulder, that everyone had heard and Good Luck!  I still didn’t know my fate, only what she had told me.

I returned upstairs with a grin, not a bloody nose. Later that afternoon, I was released into the open arms of my sweetie, and received big abrazzos from Jose Luis and Alfredo- our friends who made it all happen.

We returned to their Islas Marias Restaurant with its soaring conical palapa roof directly across from the Puerto Vallarta Airport.  We had started with rounds of tequilas when I was told how my freedom came about.

We will always be indebted to those two who, knowing how things are done had made the right calls to get it done.  Nothing feels as good as freedom!  We had little time to celebrate however, because we were way behind in our preparations for the next day’s gig.

We finished in time and before long we found ourselves standing on the teak decks of the very varnished, “Kathy Marie”, a magnificent 80 foot ketch, once a gift from the British Government to the then, Queen of Siam. Gold plated dolphin faucets in the heads, oriental carpets throughout, with much shiny brass all contributed to the elegant feel of being there. A first class outing it was, with the very best from “Pie in the Sky.”

Teri and I stood on the port side deck, as we cleared the breakwater on a boat filled with some of the more powerful hotel owners in PV

On our way across the bay to Yelapa, we were looking up the hillside streets, still wet and shiny from a passing shower, looking for the building that was the jail.  Once located, we raised our champagne glasses in a toast to my fellow cellmates, and to Mariposa, up that hill, in that building, right up there.
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TERI’S POINT OF VIEW – OF DON’S GOING TO JAIL

When the phone rang, my hands were covered in caviar. Rolling little balls of cream cheese into caviar had transported me back to my catering days on the Thames and yet the insistence of the ringing phone brought we starkly back into hot Mexico, two days before the World Cup match would begin in Italy,’90

We had our first request to cater a party for several of the owners of the bigger hotels. The Party was to take place on the deck of an elegant yacht, put on by another big mucky muck. Our friends at Los Pericos were to invite us to put on the dog while these powerful, Latin men watched the World Cup, lived it up on champagne and caviar balls and cruised the bay along its quaint waterfront towards Mismaloya.  The opportunity to expose this group to our American way of doing food in those days held great promise.

I was shocked to hear Don saying at the other end of the line, “I’ve just been busted and I want you to get the papers of the corporation, passports, all that you have and come down here and tell the truth.”  That was all he said before he had to go.

Stepping back into caviar world, I felt unreal.  Right in the middle of this chaos for this party, I had to think about Don’s having been busted by the police, Wow!

Our whole bakery was thrown off schedule with this party planning and we are making recipes that Yasmin had not made before. How could I leave her with my American friend Joan who spoke hardly a word of Spanish and step into the world of not having working papers in a place we’ve been living in and working in, “illegally”, for three years?

Having no filing system in those days, the Mexican way, just in a stack of file folders, it took awhile for my trembling hands to find the ones I needed.  I hardly remember the 20 minute drive into town.  My mind wandered all over the truth of what to say, how to explain that our disappeared lawyer years ago did only the first part of getting us legal.  Yes, we did, thank the Lord, have a corporation of our own with the three required Mexican partners those days.  But we didn’t have the immigration status to be working it.  So now we had to face the music.  We had joked about it many times, what we would say if we ever got busted.  Now, who knew?

I drove straight to Immigration on that sweltering June day with the sun beating on you, the ocean breeze blocked by the ocean front restaurants and apartments.  We had never been into the Immigration office because in those days, a powerful woman sat at the front desk and ruled the roost.  We had heard that there was a Mexican Govt. official who sat in the inner office and they were changed regularly by Mexico City ‘to avoid corruption’. But the real power in the place belonged to Alicia, she never changed. She had the manner of a drill sergeant or MP.  Her frowning look mixed with disdain could wilt you more than the heat and we only had her pointed out to us once across the square.  There were no forms that you could get to fill out and apply for immigration status that would allow you to work legally.  Once you were in there, the Gringo community would inform you through different whispered experiences, rumors and horror stories, you were a marked person.  If you asked to apply to work, she started with a slowly written list of documents you could never reasonably gather.  Then once you had been in, well, if you didn’t get the permission, then what.  We gave them a wide berth.  We were lulled into passivity by the three years that we gotten away with it.

We thought that living way out of town, 20 mins beyond the airport, way up over the state line in Bucerias, that we were invisible to Alicia.  Only later did we learn that she not only lived in our town of Bucerias herself but that her grandkids often bought our bakery treats as did she.  We were living in La-la land.

So here I was, headed to Immigration for the first time ever and the door was definitely closed and shuttered.  There is no sign on the outside of this building to let you know it is a government office, much less with hours or who to phone in emergencies.  Realizing on this desolate Friday noon time that no one would be back here until Monday morning, the street defeated me with all its heat and dust, and its closed Mexican walls and doors. Not a soul to be seen.  I wept.

Someone came along and told me to check in the basement parking lot of city center just down the street, a few blocks. Strange as it sounded, and dark and foreboding as it was, I managed to pass all the drunks and rowdies hanging just outside the entrance to the police station.  All stopped as I entered because everyone wanted to hear what the white Gringa was going to say.  All the police behind the counter turned to hear my mediocre Spanish saying that I was looking for my husband who was taken to jail by immigration.   They froze for a minute and then someone started to check the roster and another went to ask.  A tall, Gringo with a mop of white blonde hair stands out at 6’1″ amongst black haired men who stand a Mayan height a half foot shorter than Don.

No, was the answer.  They did not have him there; they didn’t know what I should do.  I didn’t cry again until I reached the dank car park area outside the jail but it was with tears in my eyes that I headed north to see our compadre, Jose Luis.  He owned the rib restaurant at the extreme north end of Puerto Vallarta, across from the airport.  He was a good friend and a wonderful, family man AND he made the best ribs in town.

Luckily for all of us, Jose Luis and his brother Alfredo spoke very good English.  So I was able to just blurt out the sad tale of having Don call with the bad news and now, feeling so desperate to talk to him, I couldn’t even find him and had no idea what to do.

Jose Luis went right into action.  He called to Chavo the young bartender to bring me a nice big shot of tequila and a lime and chaser.  In the quick transition from caviar to the ominous jail under the civic center and all the driving around I had not eaten all morning.  The tequila was to calm my nerves, he explained and I was “not to worry”.  “Do-ant worry” he would say and follow up with it in Spanish, “no te preocupes”.  “Don’t worry, Teri” and off he went to consult with his brother, Alfredo.

A good strong shot of tequila will settle you down in a hurry, especially on an empty stomach.  So I was starting to relax when Jose Luis returned to tell me that Alfredo did know the officer who arrested Don and took him to jail.  He knew where he was being held and we would go there right away, just, wait, and he snapped his fingers and the little Mayan came over and served me another big shot of tequila.  Don’t worry he said and the Mayan smiled and the words seemed to reverberate in my head, floating on top of two good shots of a great local drink, known for its potency.

Just as we were about to leave in his car, Alfredo came roaring into the back lot and they huddled and went into the office.  I could see Jose Luis snap his fingers to the smiling Mayan who looked like he came to serve me directly off the glyphs of Palenque.  Don’t worry he said to me and tequila appeared in its cobalt blue rimmed shot glass.  The tall conical woven palm leaves roof, seemed to be especially tall as I waited for the brothers to return. Return they did and off we all went.  Jose Luis and I were driving into town and Alfredo went off to meet with the officer and make the deal.

I was, of course, worried about the jailers beating up Don. Oh, no, Jose Luis assured me that they wouldn’t do that.  “Don’t worry, Teri, don’t worry”.  We can work this out.

All of this information seemed to float toward me as we bumped our way down the uneven cobblestone streets, into the hotel zone and then up a street off the main thoroughfare.

When we pulled up in front of another unmarked three story building, I had no idea that we were where Don was.  Jose Luis suggested I go into the little corner store and buy some fruit and a candy bar so I can write a note to Don.  I was mystified.

I stumbled down into this store, drunk as a skunk, slurring my words, I asked for a barra de chocolate and picked up a couple of oranges as I was instructed to do.  I didn’t know what to say to Don except the phrases that were repeating in my brain, and I started the note, in my haze with “Don, I’m not worrying”.
With three tequilas in me on an empty stomach, all I could do was repeat the phrase I had so often heard all morning long. What a thing for him to read!!

Then, when Jose Luis came back, he explained that we needed to go to the good seafood place on the corner and get Don some food as he would be given no food inside the jail.  We got the big take out cartons and delivered them only to learn that now I had to go home to Bucerias.  I needed to gather up some blankets that I would not want back and a disposable pillow or Don would be sleeping on hard concrete with only his hand for a pillow if I didn’t take something back for him.

Streaking out to the Bakery in Bucerias and back, just time to gather bedding and head back,  I commented on what my friend Joan and Yasmin were making for the party. They were on their own and I surrendered to whatever got done and didn’t.  Don was my first priority.  I hardly slept that night with his being in jail and in the morning, I hastily arranged the two in the kitchen and off I went again to learn more.  We still had this one day to complete all the cooking for the party.  Don got out in the late afternoon and we went straight back to Jose Luis’s restaurant and laughed and told the story from every angle and all the pieces made us laugh over more tequilas and ribs.

The next day we were hanging with the other extreme of the hierarchy of Puerto Vallarta.  No more scary jail, we were being deported in a few days but for today we were on an elegant yacht, sailing on the bay, drinking champagne and eating caviar and we didn’t care what happened next.  Robert Frost when asked,” what were the most important things in life”, was quoted as saying that the first most important thing was
“to be out of jail”.  We agreed.

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This book should be available in the next month or so and will
first be available as an E-book.   We plan to follow up with
Print-on-Demand paperback books soon after.  We welcome
all comments that we can learn from.
Spread the Word !

Love to hear from you,
Don and Teri

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