Ten years I searched. Ten years of unfulfillment. Ten years of going home alone. Ten years all in vain. From one mercado to another. Up hills and down hills. In taxis and on buses. Around corners and down alleys. In San Miguel de Allende and out of San Miguel de Allende.
I had no trouble finding moles for sale. Some carnicerias have one. Some pollerias have more than one. The supermarket Mega has lots. As does the not quite super market Bonanza. In Mercado San Juan de Dios, there are least four stalls selling moles. At the Tuesday Market, there’s that guy at the west end with the two plastic tubs chanting “Mole, moooooooooole! Mole, moooooooooole!” But not a one of those places make mole. They only sell mole.
Virtually every great Mexican mole I’d ever heard of, every one of those wonderful Mexican sauces that sometimes dated back to the earliest Colonial period, would have their name on some sign somewhere. Mole rojo. Mole verde. Mole amarillo. Mole almendrado. Mole huaxmole. Mole pipian. Mole colorado. Mole de olla.
I’d ask them where their moles came from and I’d get tales about generations of leather skinned women with raven hair pounding molcajetes with tejolotes for hours on end in some village that was hardly reachable by man or machine. But I could never get directions.
I’d hear that Mole Guanajuato came from a sophisticated factory in that magical city and they even had a website. But there was no “contact us” and never an address.
I almost gave up. Decided that perhaps I’d never meet a real mole maker. Resigned myself to being satisfied with the fine moles that San Miguel chefs like Maria Auxilio Trujillo, David Behnke and Jose Bossuett made in their restaurants. And then, last week, it happened.
I was walking home from a “mariscos y mas” lunch at the not long opened restaurant Grille Torres (try it, I can almost guarantee you’ll like it). I crossed the bridge from Avenida Guadalupe to Calle Insurgentes, walked up a block or so and saw a sign with the M word on it. Another place selling moles I thought. I thought wrong.
“Where do you buy your moles?”, I asked.
“I don’t buy them, Senor, I make them”, said the guy behind the counter.
“You make them?”, I asked. “Where?”
“Right behind this wall”, said the guy. “Right behind this wall.”
Could it be true? Could this be a real molinero? A real mole maker? I looked around the place and I knew it was true. Only a real molinero would have a shop with bags and bins and jars of all those endless ingredients you find in a Mexican mole.
I asked the guy his name. He told me Yozafat Armenta Rojas. I asked him his wife’s name. He told me Bertha. I asked him his son’s name. He told me Yozafat II.
I decided to buy sample sizes of three red moles. Mole especial. Mole almendrado. Mole ranchero. Then I asked Yozafat what made his moles special. He told me that some had more than 30 ingredients. I then asked Yozafat what made his mole ranchero special. He told me it was all in the number of chiles so I asked him what they were.
I walked up the Insurgentes hill and on the way picked up some carnitas, some cebollitas and some tortillas de harina (even though corn tortillas are better than flour, marriage is about give and take) and went home to check out these sauces. Thanks to the flour tortillas, my job was reduced to opening a bottle of Zinfandel.
I was impatient. I suggested we not bother adding any liquid to the moles (Don Day’s Wife prefers chicken stock). Let’s just heat them up in the microwave, spread them in paste form on the tortillas, add the pork and grilled onions and eat.
The verdict. Ten years of shoe leather later, I had found a guy whose hands actually touched the pepitas, the ajo, the almendras, the cacahuates, the nuez, the endless list of chiles. I had found a guy who actually makes moles. A guy who makes delicious moles.
I knew somehow, someday my molinero would come. I just didn’t think it would take this long.
Molino de Chiles y Harinas Santa Rita is located at Calle Insurgentes 157 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.