I admittedly am hooked on a novella (a soap opera that lasts maybe 3-4 months, and has an end!). They are a great way to learn nuances of the Spanish language. Novellas are so so intwined with the culture of Mexico. I pay attention in the food scenes, because you all know how I am.. The sheriff of Zacatillo in the novella Zacatillo...gets a delivery of take out. Tacos, green salsa in a baggie with a knot so not to spill a drop. He treats the salsa as if if were liquid gold. Why is the sheriff eating out? Well he was cheating on his wife, she found out and started “altering” his food. He doesn’t eat at home if he can avoid it. This is a comedy by the way. But food is central to this relationship, as it is central or the heart of Mexican culture. We should have listened more closely to Diane Kennedy, Susan Trilling or Rick Bayless even.
We had lunch today at El Tac’ntento. Es verdad! And you most certainly feel contento when you finish eating there. Four tacos, two drinks. But the FOOD. OMG! These are the tacos that in real life, in your kitchen, with help, would take you all day to make. Several choices of chicken or meat, or other traditional fillings, enhanced with the sauces/spices used to obtain THAT flavor. Fresh salsas are on the table, all sorts, a little cilantro, a twist of lime, are added, and two icy cokes (the national drink of Mexico, but that’s another story). The couple that run it are only open from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM, at which time your window of opportunity shuts. And these little street restaurants are all over Huatulco, all over.
There are food carts. There are the trunks of cars that produce complete meals. There are street restaurants like El Tac’ntento (where they have a stand, and a seating area where sometimes you have to bring your own chair) generally attached to the living quarters or are close to one, because it is a family affair. Then the “restaurants” with indoor seating, fans or air conditioners or both. Liquor. Maybe even good food, and entertainment. Depending. While Larry was down here building the house, he became a huge fan of the “Taco Bus”. An old school bus (old) converted to a taco stand. The tacos were sublime. Sadly, we heard they pulled up to Puerto Angel a few miles up the coast of us. Think Woodstock, moved to Mexico, to the beach, so baby boomers of a certain age can be found there as well as the low budget traveller (backpack with one change of clothes only), who wants a great beach, icy beer, maybe a joint, and a hammock for the night is just fine. Remember those days? The food was good then too.
When shopping for food we go to specific streets for specific items. We probably go to four to five stores before we even head for the supermarket, Super Che. We call the streets by what they sell, not their “given” name. Because when you say you are going down to fish street to see what’s come in today, everyone knows where fish street is. The same with the fruit and vegetable street, chicken street, and even flower street. The fresh fruit and vegetables (that you don’t nab from your own backyard) come in on Tuesdays, and Fridays. So those are must shopping days for most inhabitants of this region. Mexicans truly believe in fresh chicken. Fresh! And so if you insist, you go to chicken street. The chicken here is sooooo good. Juicy. Grills and roasts to perfection. A little yellow, from the corn, but locally grown. We see our favorite chefs in the market every week, and ponder on what delicious outcome will come from this trip to the market.
Meat street we avoid. It has to do with the 1910 Revolution. A very entertaining history, The Sausage Rebellion, tells the tale. They also believe in fresh beef, and their cuts are widely different from those found in the States and Canada. They hang it in stalls, drying. But, they do know how to cook meat, and they grill beef marinaded in secret sauce, carne asada, that can be a revelation. We are adapting. But every now and then a rib eye steak does call our name; we found a good butcher (who knows his market).
Everyone cooks. Generations of moles are still made in the traditional ways of the first mothers. Never ever make mole unless you have the time, ingredients (which are numerous, but you can taste everything in there), and patience to go for it. A friend took me through it twice. The second time was a remedial session she thought I needed. When I asked the why of some ingredient or step in the process, she would just laugh. Ok. I promise not to skip a step or even touch my food processer, that’s what my mortar and pestle (molcajete) is for. And that is why it tastes so good, and is far more sophisticated than many other cuisines of the world.
We are seemingly blessed year round with limes. We are in the middle of mango season right now, and who knew there were that many kinds of mangoes. We have two different kinds of bananas in the front yard (we could feed the entire region on what these trees produce), and a star fruit tree just getting going. The beautifully, sweet, ripe, specially arranged strawberries, in wheelbarrows pushed through the streets of La Crucecita, are sadly done. The honey people come down from the mountains to laddle honey into liter bottles for you, or bring your own container. I’m not complaining. The respect that is given food here speaks volumes. We are thankful. We know what it takes to bring these amazing foods to market. Thank you for letting me buy it, I say...