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Born in the United Kingdom, Tony Burton, a Cambridge University-educated geographer with a teaching certificate from University of London, first traveled to Mexico after spending three years as a VSO [Voluntary Service Overseas] volunteer teaching geography, and writing a local geography text, on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. From there his travels took him to Mérida in summer 1977, where he spent several weeks backpacking around southern and central Mexico, returning two years later to teach at Greengates School in Mexico City.
Over the next seven years, Tony traveled extensively throughout Mexico, visiting every state at least once, and organizing numerous four-day earth science fieldwork courses for his students. He co-led the school’s extensive aid efforts following the massive 1985 earthquake.
From Mexico City, he moved to Guadalajara, where he continued to organize short, residential fieldwork courses for a number of different schools and colleges and began organizing and leading specialist eco-tours for adult groups to destinations such as Paricutín Volcano, the monarch butterfly sanctuaries, and Copper Canyon.
An award winning author, he’s written numerous books about Mexico including his latest Lake Chapala: A Postcard History (Sombrero Publishing). It’s part of a series he’s written on this region which is located about an hour south of Guadalajara. The 417-square-mile lake, Mexico’s largest, located in the states of Jalisco and Michoacán is situated at an elevation of 5,000ft in the middle of the Volcanic Axis of Mexico and is known for its wonderful climate, laid-back ambience, and is a popular destination for both travelers and ex-pats looking for a charming, low-key place to relocate. The three main towns along the lake are Chapala, Ajijic and Jocotepec. In an intriguing aside, Tony met his wife Gwen Chan Burton when she was working as at the director of the pioneering Lakeside School for the Deaf in Jocotepec. Gwen writes about the school and all that it has accomplished in her book, New Worlds for the Deaf, also published by Sombrero Books.
Tony’s other books about this region include Western Mexico A Traveler’s Treasury, illustrated by Mark Eager, now in its fourth edition; Mexican Kaleidoscope: Myths, Mysteries and Mystique, illustrated by Enrique Veláquez, and Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village. I’ll be covering them in upcoming posts.
Because I’m always interested in foodways, Tony was kind enough to share a copy of an undated Spanish language project put together by students from the Instituto Politécnico Nacional School of Tourism titled “Gastronomy of Jalisco.” It includes numerous recipes from the region including one for the famous Caldo Michi of Chapala (the recipe is below).
I had the chance to ask Tony, who currently is the editor of MexConnect, Mexico’s leading independent on-line magazine, about Lake Chapala: A Postcard History as well as the time he spent in this beautiful region of Mexico.
How did you first become familiar with Lake Chapala?
I first visited Lake Chapala in early 1980, on my way back to Mexico City from the Copper Canyon and Baja California Sur. Little did I imagine then that it would be where I would later fall in love, get married, and have two children!
What inspired you to write Lake Chapala: A Postcard History?
There is no single overwhelming inspiration. I realized, while living at Lake Chapala and writing my first books about Mexico, that a lot of what had been previously written was superficial and left many unanswered questions. In the hopes of finding answers, I decided to trawl through all the published works (any language) I could find, which resulted in Lake Chapala Through the Ages (2008), my attempt to document and provide context to the accounts of the area written between 1530 and 1910.
My next two books about Lake Chapala—If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s Historic Buildings and Their Former Occupants, and Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of a Change in a Mexican Village—focused on the twentieth century history of the two main centers for the very numerous foreign community now living on ‘Lakeside.’ Part of my motivation was to dispel some of the myths that endlessly recirculate about the local history, as well as to bring back to life some of the many extraordinary pioneering individuals indirectly responsible for the area becoming such an important destination for visitors.
Lake Chapala: APostcard History is my attempt to widen the discussion and summarize the twentieth century history of the entire lake area. Its reliance on vintage postcards makes this a very visual story, one which I hope will appeal to a wide readership, including armchair travelers.
What were some of the challenges you encountered in writing this book? Was it difficulty finding the numerous postcards you included? And doing the extensive research that went into the book? Are there any intriguing stories about hunting down certain postcards and any “aha” moments of discovery when writing your book?
The main challenge was in deciding how best to structure the material. Because of the originality of what I’m doing, it is impractical to follow the advice that writers should start with a detailed plan and then write to that plan! In my case, after collecting the information and ideas that exist, the challenge is to select what can be teased and massaged into a coherent and interesting narrative.
Because the postcard book is the product of decades of research, I had ample time to build my personal collection of vintage postcards, through gifts, auctions and online purchases.
There were many significant “aha” moments in the process: some concerned the photographers and publishers responsible for the postcards and some the precise buildings or events depicted. While I’m saving some of these “aha” moments–because they are central to a future book–one was when it suddenly dawned on me that wealthy businessman Dwight Furness was the photographer of an entire series of cards (Figs 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, etc.) that relate to my next response.
If you could go back in time to visit one of the resorts that is no longer there that you featured in your book, is there one that stands out and why is that?
Ooohhh; I’d love to go back to about 1908 and stay at the Ribera Castellanos resort (Chapter 6) during its heyday. While staying there, perhaps I could interview owner Dwight Furness, his wife and a few guests? Apart from a few ruined walls, Furness’ postcards of the resort are pretty much the only remaining evidence of the hotel. And perhaps one night I could invite local resident and prolific professional photographer Winfield Scott and his wife to dinner to hear their stories?
How long did it take to write Lake Chapala?
The writing took less than a year; but only because of the many prior years of research.
Since I often talk about food and travel, are there any culinary specialties in the Lake Chapala region?
Long standing culinary specialties of the area include (a) Lake Chapala whitefish (b) charales (c) caldo michi. And, when it comes to drinks, there is a very specific link to postcards. The wife of photographer José Edmundo Sánchez, who sold postcards ( Figs 7.5, 7.6 and 7.7) in the 1920s from his lakefront bar in Chapala, is credited with inventing sangrita, still marketed today as a very popular chaser or co-sip for tequila. (Chapter 7, page 74).
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about your book?
I hope readers find the book as fun and interesting to read as it was to write!
- 2 tablespoons corn oil
- ¾ kg of tomato seeded and in pieces
- ¼ onion in pieces
- ½ kg carrot, peeled and cut into diagonal slices
- ½ kg of sliced zucchini
- 4 or 6 chiles güeros
- 100 gr. chopped coriander
- 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
- Salt to taste
- 2 ½ liters of water
- 1kg well washed catfish, yellow carp or red snapper
PREPARATION: Heat the oil and stew the vegetables in it, add water and salt to taste, let it simmer over low heat until the vegetables are well cooked, then add the fish and leave it for a few minutes more until it is soft.
I had the opportunity to stay at Tres Rios Nature Park, a 326-acre eco-resort north of Playa del Carmen and was first introduced to sangrita during my stay. I took several cooking lessons and learned to make a dish with crickets, but that is a different story. Chef Oscar also talked to us about the history of sangrita. The Spanish name is the less-than-appetizing “little blood” but hey, when you’re learning to grill crickets, you can deal with a name like that. The drink, as Tony writes in his postcards book, originated in Chapala in the 1920s.
Here is the excerpt:
”In the same year the Railroad Station opened, Guillermo de Alba had become a partner in Pavilion Monterrey, a lakefront bar in a prime location, only meters from the beach, between the Hotel Arzapalo and Casa Braniff,” he writes. “The co-owner of the bar was José Edmundo Sánchez. Regulars at the bar included American poet Witter Bynner, who first visited Chapala in 1923 in the company of D H Lawrence and his wife, Frieda. Bynner subsequently bought a house near the church. When de Alba left Chapala for Mexico City in 1926, Sánchez and his wife—María Guadalupe Nuño, credited with inventing sangrita as a chaser for tequila—ran the bar on their own. After her husband died in 1933, María continued to manage the bar, which then became known as the Cantina de la Viuda Sánchez (Widow Sánchez’s bar).”
Sangrita is typically used as accompaniment to tequila, highlighting its crisp acidity and helping to cleanse the palate between each peppery sip. According to Chef Oscar, the red-colored drink serves to compliment the flavor of 100% agave tequila. The two drinks, each poured into separate shot glasses, are alternately sipped, never chased and never mixed together.
Here is Chef Oscar’s recipe and below is one from Cholula hot sauce which originated in Chapala. Tony has a great story about that as well. More in my next post on his books.
For one liter of Sangrita:
- 400 ml. orange juice
- 400 ml. tomato juice
- 50 ml. lemon juice
- 30 ml. Grenadine syrup
- 20 ml. Worcestershire sauce
- Maggi and Tabasco hot sauce (mixed up) to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together all the ingredients and serve cold. Suggested duration of chilling : 3 to 4 days.
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh grapefruit juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 20 pomegranate seeds
- 3 fresh sprigs of cilantro or to taste
- 1/2 stalk celery
- 3 teaspoons smoked coarse sea salt or sal de gusano, divided
- 1 tablespoon Cholula® Original Hot Sauce
Place all ingredients except salt in blender container, with about 1 cup ice cubes. Puree until smooth.Strain twice though a fine mesh sieve, discarding any solids.
Rim shot glasses with sea salt. Serve sangrita cold in rimmed shot glasses alongside your favorite tequila.
Macon, Georgia, which is just 90 minutes from Atlanta and 3.5 hours from both Birmingham and Chattanooga and four hours from Charleston and Jacksonville, is often an overlooked destination. Located in the center to Georgia–or should we say the very heart and soul of the state–Macon is a fun-filled destination with both a fascinating history, an exciting present, and a bright future. Still need convincing? Here are four reasons among many to put Macon on your bucket list.
- Makin’ Fun: Macon is the home of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, so sports-aholics can get their fix of every sport at every level of play. But for some what’s best about Macon’s athletic scene is that it’s home to the best-named baseball team in the whole game: the Macon Baco. Yes, really. That alone should prove that Macon is a fun place. As for the Macon Bacons, it’s part of a wood-bat collegiate summer league whose roster teams (pardon the pun) with top players from schools around the country. Not only does the team have a delicious name, but it also has a mascot that really sizzles: Kevin, a seven-foot-tall slice of bacon. Get it … Kevin Bacon? Our pal Kevin Bacon loves to dance particularly it’s one of the songs from the movie “Footloose.” A dancing strip of bacon imakes sense. After all Macon is a city that’s all about music. As an aside, the Bacons’ archrivals are the Savannah Bananas. We love that name but really, if it’s a contest between bacon and bananas, we’d choose bacon every time.
- Makin’ Movies: The baseball team plays at historic Luther Williams Field, built in 1929 and recently refurbished. Even if you haven’t been to a game (yet), the field might look familiar to you because it’s starred on the screen in “The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings,” a 1976 movie starring Billy Dee Williams; “The Trouble with the Curve,” a 2012 film featuring Clint Eastwood; “42,” the 2013 biopic about baseball legend Jackie Robinson; and the Hank Azaria TV comedy “Brockmire.” Macon is the site of plenty of movie-making, most recently welcoming an all-star cast that was in town filming the remake of “The Color Purple,” which is set for release in 2023. The film is being produced by Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones. (As an aside, if our mention of Kevin Bacon above has you playing “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” you might be interested in knowing that each of those producers has a Bacon Number of 2. The actor, we mean. Not the baseball mascot. The version wearing a frying pan as a cap is probably separated by a few additional degrees.)
- Makin’ Music: This new version of “The Color Purple” is an adaptation of the Broadway musical, so Macon was the perfect location. This is a city with deep musical roots (fun fact: this is where the kazoo was invented, by a formerly enslaved man named Alabama Vest all the way back in 1840), and it lives up to its tagline, “Where Soul Lives.” It’s the hometown of Otis Redding, Little Richard and The Allman Brothers, all of whom left indelible marks on the place and its people. Today, visitors can learn more about Macon’s musical history by checking out live performances at an array of venues, visiting the Otis Redding Foundation Museum or the Allman Brothers Museum at the Big House, or taking a public or private Rock Candy Tour, which could focus on music alone or the delightful combo of music and food.
- Makin’ Dinner: Macon has an incredible food scene, and some its top restaurants have ties to music. The Downtown Grill a fancy English steakhouse, is where Greg Allman proposed to Cher, but it’s H&H Soul Food where the band spent even more time … and then took its former owner, Mama Louise, on the road with them so they could have their favorite meals on the tour bus. Today you’ll find everything from upscale to down-home offerings, plus plenty of liquid refreshment to accompany all the amazing tastes.
Pro tip: For a great lunch option, hit The Rookery and order pretty much any sandwich or burger … and a milkshake chaser. We don’t think it’s a coincidence that many menu items feature bacon in a starring role. Because, as we know, it always comes back to bacon.
And there you have it … in just three degrees of separation from baseball to burger, Makin’ it in Macon is all about fun, food, sports, history, and so much more.
For more information or to begin planning a trip, start here.
The historic West Baden Springs Resort is the setting of Michael Koryta’s mystery-thriller “So Cold the River,” one of my favorite novels written by one of my favorite authors.
From Michael Koryta’s website:
It started with a beautiful woman and a challenge. As a gift for her husband, Alyssa Bradford approaches Eric Shaw to make a documentary about her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, a 95-year-old billionaire whose past is wrapped in mystery. Eric grabs the job even though there are few clues to the man’s past–just the name of his hometown and an antique water bottle he’s kept his entire life.
In Bradford’s hometown, Eric discovers an extraordinary history–a glorious domed hotel where movie stars, presidents, athletes, and mobsters once mingled, and hot springs whose miraculous mineral water cured everything from insomnia to malaria. Neglected for years, the resort has been restored to its former grandeur just in time for Eric’s stay.
Just hours after his arrival, Eric experiences a frighteningly vivid vision. As the days pass, the frequency and intensity of his hallucinations increase and draw Eric deeper into the town’s dark history. He discovers that something besides the hotel has been restored–a long-forgotten evil that will stop at nothing to regain its lost glory. Brilliantly imagined and terrifyingly real, So Cold the River is a tale of irresistible suspense with a racing, unstoppable current.
Listen to author Michael Koryta talk about West Baden Springs Resort.
To watch the movie visit
About West Baden Springs Resort and French Lick Springs Resort
There was a time when West Baden Springs Resort was called the Eighth Wonder of the World and it is easy to see why.
At the beginning of the 1900s, the elite hotel was a Mecca for gamblers coming to Orange County for fun and glamour.
According to the Indiana Historical Society, a stay at West Baden Springs Hotel in the 1920s cost twice as much as an overnight at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
At one time 14 trains a day serviced West Baden and French Lick Resort just down the road, bringing in both celebrities and everyday people. Al Capone, John Dillinger, the Marx Brothers, Lana Turner, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope all visited.
But once gambling was banned, West Baden fell into disrepair and the hotel emptied and languished.
Now it has been fully restored to its full majesty,.
West Baden, with its formal gardens, statuary, fountain and gazebo, reflects the turn of the last century elegance it was once known for.
Built in less than a year, the hotel was famed for its free standing dome. It was the world’s largest and that record would hold for another 60 years until the Houston Astrodome was built. But there’s no Astroturf here.
The rotunda, with its 200 feet of mosaic floor tiles (original to the hotel which was built in 1902) is breathtakingly magnificent.
The large expanse is filled with an immense Rookwood tile fireplace said to be worth over a million dollars, potted palms and Victorian era furniture. In the center of the 100-foot-high dome is a pendant chandelier which reflects prisms of light creating, at night when the dome is darkened, a light show extraordinaire.
Dining options include the upscale Sinclair’s, ice cream, snacks and specialty coffees at Xanadu and wonderful rotunda seating at Ballards, the perfect place for a glass of wine and a lighter meal.
There’s a stable for guided trail rides through the rolling hills, golf courses, an indoor and outdoor pool, a luxurious spa, restaurants, ice cream parlor and shops. A free shuttle runs every 15 minutes between the casino at French Lick Springs Resort and West Baden. French Lick Winery is just down the road for tastings as is Big Splash Adventure. Board the French Lick Scenic Railway and travel through the beautiful countryside.
Further down the road, visit Patoka Lake, the second largest manmade lake in the state.
The following recipes are courtesy of French Lick Springs Resort
Lobster Mac and Cheese
- 1 quart heavy cream
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp White Pepper
- 1 tsp Tabasco Sauce
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ lb. Cooked Lobster Meat
Bread Crumb Ingredients
- 6 slices finely diced white
- 3 Tbsp Chives (minced)
- 3 Tbsp Parsley (chopped)
In a sauce pot, bring heavy cream to boil. Slowly incorporate cheese until melted. Add remaining ingredients, simmer for 10 minutes. Mix hot sauce with the cooked macaroni and pour into a baking dish. Top with bread crumb mixture, bake at 350° for 15 minutes, Broil for 2 to 3 minutes to brown crumb topping.
White Chocolate Crème Brulee
Makes 6 oz servings (7 total)
- 1 qt Heavy Cream
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 6 oz White Chocolate
- ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
- 7 Egg Yolks
Simmer heavy cream, turn off heat. Add rest of ingredients except yolks, stir until smooth.
Slowly add yolks to combine. Bake at 250 degrees for one hour. Remove from oven and chill.
Once cool, coat top of creme brulee with 1 tblspn of sugar in the raw. Brulee sugar with torch until caramelized. Garnish with fresh berries and serve.
KOCO Oklahoma City: Oscar of the food world: Florence’s Restaurant in NE OKC wins prestigious James Beard Foundation Award. https://www.koco.com/article/oklahoma-florence-restaurant-james-beard-award/39126571