The Frida Effect

I don’t know why I always forget about Frida Kahlo. She was really spectacular. Not only because of her incredible talent, but because she was fearless, resilient, and lived her life however she felt like living it. (Including sharing adjoining houses with her husband. #relationshipgoals)

Recently in Mexico City, I had the opportunity to see Casa Azul – her childhood home where she also spent stints of adulthood. It’s mega touristy now, but as I walked the airy floor plan, I imagined breakfasts with fruit picked from nearby trees, and dinners with dignified guests philosophizing about the future of Mexico. And then there was the courtyard – heavy, lush and green. It was sunny and warm, but with a breeze that never made the the heat feel imposing. If this was my space, there’s no question I would be inspired to create every day. In fact, there’s no reason this COULDN’T be my space.

For the past decade I’ve assigned myself one simple task when I travel – find something I love and let it stick with me when I get home. Traveling doesn’t simply change you by forcing you into big adventures and little predicaments. You also have to make the conscious decision to let it change you. This means paying close attention to the thing that whispers in your ear and lights you up. It could be the vibe of a sleepy town or a very specific soup. My task is to make space in my life and prioritize this when I return. I am fortunate to visit really cool places, and have a responsibility to let them shape me.

Fast forward to today. Mexico City has stuck with me, not just because of the E. coli, but because I am writing this from my breezy, humid outdoor living space, complete with bushy greens, bright flowers and wild monkeys. Ok, no monkeys. But I can drink coffee and eat fruit and do my creative things like Frida would. Also I can eat giant conchas.

What are conchas? They’re perhaps the most recognizable Mexican “pan dulce,” or sweet bread. Concha is a Spanish word for “shell,” and these guys resemble a seashell with their patterned, streusel-like topping. In Mexico City, we spent our Saturday morning in the Bosque de Chapultepec (kinda like Mexico City’s Central Park). I sat with a bag of pastries and was covered in a layer of flakey strudel crumbs watching half-marathon participants breeze by. Two things occurred to me – I really like conchas and running is the worst.

I’m always hesitant about visiting panaderias (Mexican bakeries), because my experience has often been pretty “meh.” You need to make sure you’re getting the freshest breads and cakes, or you’ll be disappointed by crumbly, dry sugar pucks. I took a little trip to Panaderia de las Americas on Southwest Boulevard in KC – a stretch of the city’s best and most authentic Mexican restaurants. The bakery is understated and tiny, packed full of breads, cakes and croissants. I went in for conchas and came out with those AND a giant chunk of perfect, freshly baked pineapple cake that was the texture you wish you could make into a mattress and take a nap on. I’ll be back to try more.

This summer weather makes me miss the hot dreamboat I fell in love with last summer (Missouri, you nerds). I’m making a vow to prioritize travels around the great state and subsequent writings. Maybe it’s a result of my cozy new porch, but my inspiration has crept out of hibernation. Perhaps not with the same fervor as Frida – but I’m certain no one can live up to that.

 

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