travel

Quiero Taco Bell!

mexican dishOne of the things Iíve gotten used to hearing down here, among other surprising complaints, (I had a client in town over Good Friday who felt cheated because he didnít see Jesus. Frankly, not being able to find a Jesus in Mexico over the Easter holidays is like saying you can't find a Santa look-alike in Manhattan at Christmas. I maintain that he slept through his visit) is newcomers whining about how thereís no Mexican food here.

Really? I havenít suffered any scary weight loss, I can tell you that, and Iím in Mexico. Unless Iím headed for my own show on the Discovery Health Network, there must be Mexican food involved. But no, these visitors insist it canít be found here, and of course, since what theyíre looking for is a plate of Doritos covered with Velveeta cheese and Ro-tel tomatoes, they are correct. I can no longer imagine shredded cheddar cheese on a taco, by the way, and I can imagine shredded cheese on pretty much anything.

Tacos are the exception rather than the rule on restaurant menus here, if thatís what youíre looking forward to. If you want a taco, the process requires that you first establish which taco vendor has the ďbestĒ tacos. These loyalties take on a feverish commitment similar to that of football fans, and once they are established, itís till death do you part. The vendors sell from carts that are closed up tight during the day. At night they are opened up, rickety tables covered with brightly printed vinyl are set in the street and the taco wars begin.

At our plaza here in San Antonio, there are three vendors selling tacos every night, one on each side of the little square. The patrons at each respective cart would meet you at dawn with pistols before they would change allegiance, in spite of the fact that the carts are close enough for the diners to hold conversations, and thereís no visible difference in the available selection of fillings at the three. Each stand offers several kinds of meatóbeef, pork, and cut up hot dogs, at least, along with toppings. Those will include chopped radishes, cabbage, onions, cilantro, carrots, lots of different kinds of peppers and a variety of sauces that are a risky business if you donít know the levels of picante that youíre dealing with.

Not only does Mexico have food, it has cuisine, arguably the most sophisticated on the continent. If you donít believe me, and I admit that I am less of an authority on this subject than, for instance, whoís getting kicked off of Dancing with the Stars, head over to Mexico Cooks! and get your eyes opened. That chick knows something about Mexican Food, as youíll see.

Now a permanent fixture in Morelia, MichoacŠn, Cristina Potters holds dual Mexican and United States citizenship. Cristina learned the cuisines of the central highlands of Mexico from the source: the mayoras (extraordinary older MichoacŠn home cooks) who have been her friends for mexican saucesnearly 30 years. She has mastered the intricacies of traditional Mexican recipes, flavors, and of course, the delights of the pre-Hispanic corn and chile kitchen.

Anyway, if youíre down here looking for the Number 3 combination plate with enchiladas, burritos, tacos, taquitos, guacamole, beans, cheese and sour cream on it, itís going to take you several stops at a variety of joints to assemble such a thing. You wonít find it on the menu at a good restaurant, any more than youíd find a Rooty Tooty Fresh Ďn Fruity at Mortonsí Steakhouse. You will find arrechera, skirt steak done in a way that is fantastic. Youíll find shrimp or fish Zarandeado, and grilled chicken that will make you go back and throw rocks at the rotisserie chicken sold in supermarkets in the States. You just have to know what youíre looking for. So go check out Mexico Cooks!

Elliott Joachim pulled the plug on life in Metro D.C. and headed South of the Border. In her blog, Lifestyle Refugee (honey, what the hell are we doing in Mexico), she regales you with how a middle range baby boomer builds a new life in Ajijic.

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