Steve Sando is the founder of Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food and the author of the Heirloom Beans cookbook.
What was the food highlight of your year?
I was in a small village called Alvarado in the state of Veracruz and one of the neighbors came by with some fish they had caught in the morning. The women made a paste of nothing but garlic and salt and smeared it all over the fish and left them to sit until the big meal later in the day. The plopped them into boiling oil and that was that. My tendency is always to want to tart things up but it was so stupid simple and delicious, it reminded me that when you have good ingredients, you don't have to be very clever.
What was the music highlight of your year?
Veracruz is the home of Jarocho music (Son Jarocho) and everyone plays one of the simple instruments. I am always too shy to sing or play but this music was so simple and emotional, I couldn't help myself. The song La Bamba is in this style, although it seems to have been adopted by the rest of Mexico and the world, as well. We stopped at a shop that sold locally made instruments and I bought a jarana jarocha. It's about the size of a uke and a beginner only has to learn two or three chords to get along. I don't know what got into me but I got over myself and started playing with patron of the shop. For me, it was like learning to fly. I wasn't just consuming, I was part of the process.
Was there a moment when food and music came together in a memorable way?
This same shop was also a restaurant. The shrimp in Veracruz are especially good and they have a paella-like dish called Arroz a la Tumada that is especially tasty after you've played the jarana jarocha!