Mercado San Juan is Mexico City’s bustling central market. Small in real estate terms compared to more sprawling markets like Tsukiji in Tokyo and NYC’s Union Square Greenmarket, it’s nevertheless comprehensive, from the requisite fruits and vegetables and chilis and cheeses to displays of curious sea creatures and barrels of twitching maguey and chirping chapulines – that’s the larvae often found at the bottom of a mezcal bottle and grasshoppers, which when fried make for a tasty snack. A healthy section devoted to meat features all manner of slightly exotic animals, but what I found a little too close for comfort was the sight of goats freshly slaughtered, getting gutted, skinned and butchered before my eyes.
Our perception of Mexican food has been blighted by years of overstuffed burritos, nacho pyramids, and a scourge of chimichangas and fajitas. Yet authentic Mexican cuisine is a fusion of indigenous MesoAmerican staples like corn, squash, and chiles, influenced by the domesticated meats and cooking techniques of the (primarily) Spanish occupation. It’s one of the world’s great cuisines,Â holding it’s own against both France and China in my humble opinion. (Don’t believe me? Try your hand at making one of the complex regional moles.)Â Â To a large degree that’s what part of this week in Mexico is about: tasting traditions old and new. Like escamoles, or ant larvae – a dish native to Central Mexico and considered a delicacy by the Aztecs. Insect caviar, if you will. As far as traditional foods go, it’s a lot better than it sounds. The light-colored eggs, harvested from the agave plant, resemble pine nuts and have a slightly nutty taste. Often pan-fried with butter and spices, escamoles can be found in tacos, eaten with chips and guacamole, or hereÂ at El Cardenal, turned into a no-pun-intended Spanish omelette.
The former TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport is a significant example of 20th-Century modern architecture and engineering. A masterpiece of sinuous lines actualized out of poured concrete, it was designed by the mid-century modernist Eero Saarinen. Opened in 1962 it was the final terminal built at what was then called New York International Airport, as well as one of Saarinen’s last projects. Revolutionary and influential, it was Saarinen’s intention that the terminal express the excitement of travel and “reveal the terminal as a place of movement and transition.” Fifty years after the fact it remains as exciting and forward-looking as ever. And dare I say it, soignee. When was the last time an airport – or any public building for that matter – made you feel sexy? Saarinen’s building does just that, while sweeping you up in the promise and possibility of a future that, unfortunately, never quite came to pass. After laying dormant for over a decade, it was recently announced that the terminal would be developed into a luxury hotel. Thanks to Open House New York, yesterday was one of those last-chance opportunities to experience the building in full – before getting caught up in the inevitable tide of transition.
I’ve hiked and driven these quiet lanes so many times over the years that I sometimes take it for granted how much this part of Northern Ireland is soaked in history and mythology.Â Slieve Gullion – literally, mountain of the steep slope in Irish – is the eroded remains of a Paleocene volcano. It lies at the heart of theÂ Ring of Gullion, which is itself a topographical curiosity only recently understood: an ancient ring dyke. (With the collapse of an active volcano’s caldera, a concentric ring of fault lines radiate outwards. Magma is extruded through these fractures to create mountains which are a geologically helter-skelter composite atÂ their surface. Here the mix is molten granite with igneous rock from the Silurian period some 400 million years ago.) It’sÂ the highest point in County Armagh, and on that rare clear day offers views as far away as Dublin BayÂ andÂ Wicklow.Â At the top of the mountain are twoÂ cairnsÂ on either side of a small lake. The southern one is the highest surviving passage grave in Ireland – radiocarbon dating suggests it was built circa 3000 BC – and itsÂ entrance is aligned to the setting sun of the winter solstice.Â According to legend, however,Â Slieve GullionÂ is named afterÂ Culann, theÂ metalsmith. And it is here that the legendaryÂ warrior SÃ©tanta spent his childhoodÂ and received the name CÃºchulainn. Culann invitedÂ Conchobhar mac Neasa, King of Ulster, to a feast at his house on the slopes of Slieve Gullion. On his way, Conchobhar stopped at the hurlingÂ field and was so impressed by SÃ©tanta’s playing that he asked him to later join him at the feast. Conchobhar went ahead, but he forgot about SÃ©tanta, and Culann let loose his ferocious hound to guard the house. When SÃ©tanta arrived the hound attacked him, but he killed it by driving aÂ hurling ball down its throat with hisÂ hurley. Culann was devastated by the loss, so SÃ©tanta promised to rear him a replacement, and until it was old enough to do the job, he would guard Culann’s house. Henceforth he was known as CÃºchulainn, or Culann’s Hound. But that’s just the beginning for young CÃºchulainn, who will later single-handedly defend Ulster against the invading ConnachtÂ armies of Queen Medh atÂ the nearby Gap of the North and take his place as Irish literature’s greatest mythic hero. All in a day’s hike, as they say.
Unassuming at first glance, Creggan Parish Churchyard is one of the more important and historic properties in Northern Ireland.Â The church was likely founded as far back as 1450 by the Oâ€™Neills, who built a castle at Glassdrummond, nearÂ the Irish Sea. While all traces of the pre-Reformation church have disappeared, it’s thought that the Oâ€™Neill family vault was situated underneath the original church. (Remains of a subterranean doorway were recently found during repairs to the existing modern structure.) The adjoining graveyard is also the burial-place of three eighteenth century Gaelic poets, who give this picturesque area of trails andÂ sculpted gardens its evocative name:Â Art Mac Cooey, PÃ¡draig Mac Aliondain and SÃ©amus MÃ³r Mac Murphy – poet, outlaw, and self-described handsomest man in Ireland.