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Meet Margret
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-11-20 19:38:05 | San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
Keywords: Interview
To continue with my series of interviews with locals in order to better understand the locations I'm visiting, I met with Margret. She is a Canadian from Toronto now living in San Miguel de Allende for the better part of the last four years. As you'll see, she has a work that provides a useful insight into the society of San Miguel.

She first came to San Miguel in October 2009 to take a break in her life after her only daughter began her university. She has a friend who had an apartment in here so she came over for a break. At first, she didn't speak Spanish but she has learned a lot since. After a few months she found a job through contacts. At the beginning, she was doing the shuttle, 3 months in Canada, 3 months in San Miguel, usually staying a different apartment each time. Now, she is in San Miguel most of the time but does return to Toronto on occasions to visit family and friends.

Margret is a private chef. Her clients are mostly retired Americans (usually single women), who don't like to cook or don't want to, having health issues (like heart problems, blood pressure issues, diabetes, etc) or food allergies. She usually gets her new clients by referrals from her existing ones but she also announces now and then on an Internet forum for expats in San Miguel. She begins by meeting with them to understand their needs. They discuss about the health problems they have, the changes they need to do in their diets, limitations and things they should improve, portions size, type of meals they like and don't like, the ingredients she should avoid, etc.

After that, Margret builds a menu to suit the needs of each client. She doesn't build a written menu or offer them a list to choose from, she cooks what will match their needs and what she thinks will please them. Although her clients are usually gringos, she does try to make them dishes with a local flavour now and then, to let them taste something Mexican other than the tacos stands. Some clients only require her to prepare a few meals a week because they're eating out a lot due to social activities. Some clients need her services only every other week. Some will simply freeze the dishes for later use, while others will not. She can cook at her home and then deliver the dishes to the client (or sometimes they come to pick them up) or she can go cook in the client's house.

She always has to have multiple options because she can leave to go to a client's home to cook meal X, but on the way there she couldn't find one of the key ingredients at the market... so she has to opt for a plan B and go for another recipe. That kind of uncertainty contributes to not having a routine, and she loves that: everyday is different, just as every client is.

She tries to nurture every client she has, cooking as if they were her children, taking care of the details so they don't bother and just enjoy their meal. She still has her very first client from almost four years ago. She also became friends with many of her clients outside the kitchen.

What kept Margret coming back over and over in Mexico is the food, she always loves to learn more about ingredients and typical dishes. She loves San Miguel because of the size of the city (about 140 000 people), its walkability (despite the hills), the cobblestones streets, the sounds of the city, the great weather and of course the Mexican people.

What she doesn't like about San Miguel is the huge amount of 'gringos'. In San Miguel, 'gringos' are typically Americans coming here to reproduce their American way of living but at Mexican costs, usually without integrating or speaking Spanish. In the rest of Mexico, a 'gringo' usually refers to any Caucasian coming from the 'first-world' (USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, etc). Margret is trying to bridge the gap one meal at a time, through her current work but also through various projects she's working on.

She also found it hard to learn Spanish. Ironically, San Miguel is packed with Spanish schools for foreigners, but the city itself is not a good place to practice. The economy is now so dependant of the Americans living here that they will try to do anything to please their customers... including speaking the little English they know when they see the client is stumbling a bit, preventing most practice in real life for those learning.


Related posts:
Meet Bartolomé
Meet Hugo...
Meet Don Oviedo
Meet Don José Luis Partida Garcia
Meet Rosa

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