It's All About the Food
There are some days when this blog is easy for me to write, and then there are others, like today for instance, when I struggle to get past the first paragraph. And it's not because I don't have anything to share with you. We are as busy as ever. We've been back in Mexico for a little over a week and have explored 4 towns, sailed hundreds of miles in the open ocean, surfed a world famous surf break, and have even caught up with some of our good sailing friends who we thought we may never see again. Each and every one of those things could warrant an entire blog post on there own. But for some reason, every time I start typing, I type out a jumbled mess of rambling. I'm definitely not on my A game today.
So, after multiple tries at topics that are arguably more important, what I've decided to talk about today is something that I would like to think I'm a bit of an expert on. It's also one of the best things about cruising in Mexico. And if you haven't guessed by now, what I'm talking about is the food. And more specifically - tacos.
You may question my expertise on tacos, but I can assure you that I can back up my claim. After nearly 4 months of roaming around the country, I have consumed 14,880 tacos (give or take a few). Don't judge me, they are impossible to pass up. Especially when you are wandering a new town, there is a line of people crowding around a grill set up on the street, you can smell the burning of flesh over an open flame (Mmmmmm....burning flesh!), and best of all, the tastiest of tacos here are generally between 50 and 75 cents a piece. They are practically begging me to eat them.
Each region we've been to has a slightly different style of taco, with different ingredients, different spices, and different salsas that will melt your face off. All along the Baja Peninusla, it was deep fried shrimp or fish tacos, and was almost always whatever was caught that day. When we got to Cabo San Lucas, the fish or shrimp tacos were still around, but the ever tasty Pastor all of the sudden popped up (delicious...especially with a squeeze of lime). In La Paz, seafood was still readily available, but now chicken all of the sudden showed it's face (waste of time...don't bother, although Brenda will argue that chicken is great...but I'm writing this, so trust me, don't waste your time on the chicken tacos). When we got to Mazatlan, seafood was all encompassing, especially shrimp. They after all, have one of the largest shrimp fisheries in the world. Where we are now, in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, beef is king.
Sure, you can find a couple of places here in town that will sell you a shrimp taco or even pork, but don't bother asking for anything silly like veggies or chicken in your taco. If you do, they will swiftly give you a roundhouse kick smack dab in your juevos and throw you out on the street. It's blasphemy to speak those words here. Red blooded meat - it's what's for dinner here.
The place we ate at last night is called the red chair (because it has red chairs...duh). Their tacos are 15 pesos which works out to about 75 cents US. I can stuff 2, possibly 3 if I try really hard into my gullet before I feel like I'm going to burst. The tacos aren't really that big, but they come with a tray of grilled onions, radishes, limes, guacamole, and salsas that are phenomenal (the red salsa will literally melt your face clean off). None of that costs any extra so of course it all gets piled high on top of those tacos. And really, why would you want to stuff your face with more than 2, because after we eat tacos, we roam, and on the next corner, well, you guessed it, there are more tacos with meat cooking over an open grill that are impossible to pass up.
The best taco stands make fresh tortillas to go with their fresh salsas. If you have never had a fresh tortilla hot of the grill, well, that's a treat in itself. These aren't like the tortillas you pick up at Walmart in a big bag that have been sitting on a shelf for possibly 8 years. Those are like rubber, loaded up with preservatives, and I'm pretty sure they cause instant cancer if you eat more than 2 at a time. These are made with simple ingredients, like flour, water, and lard (lard is what makes everything taste so good here...trust me...Mmmmmmmm, lard). They are warm, with a perfect amount of chewy and an ever so slight amount of crispy. They almost melt in your mouth. If you put a little dab of butter and a spoonful of fresh salsa on a hot off the press tortilla, hold on, because you may actually die and go to heaven.
Brenda likes to have a cold beer with her tacos and I love a Limonada (it's like lemonade but made with limes...fresh squeezed, refreshing, and delicious). Dinner for the two of us last night, including drinks, cost a whopping 5 bucks (give or take a few cents...I'm not sure of the exchange rate right now...but still, 5 bucks for a night out on the town with some incredibly delicious food...you can't beat it).
I know what you are thinking right about now. “What's the big deal? I can go down to Jack-in-the-box and get 2 tacos for 99 cents and I never have to leave the comfort of the front seat of my car.” Well, I'll tell you what the big deal is. Those aren't real tacos, it's probably not real meat in there, and they taste terrible. And even more than that, they look disgusting. I've never been lured into a Jack-in-the-box from a mile away by the smell of meat cooking on the grill, and I'm pretty sure I've never seen anyone working at Jack-in-the-box making fresh salsa or tortillas in front of my eyes. So, you can take your 2 shriveled up, grease ridden Jack-in-the-box tacos for 99 cents and shove them up your... Oh, where was I?
Oh yeah, tacos. Actually, I should probably be talking about the food here in general. Because, even though I love me some tacos, I can't really say that we've had a bad meal period. Mexican food is just plain good. But it's not like the Mexican food in the States. That's a bad attempt at a knock off. Sure, there are some decent Mexican restaurants back home, but they still aren't the same as here.
I've been trying to figure out why there is such a difference in food quality from the States to here, and all I could come up with is the fact that we are in such a rush in the States, and a lot of the time, we focus on the quantity of food being served instead of the quality. If we go out to dinner at even a nice restaurant in the States, we expect that huge pile of food to come quickly. That means there has to be a lot of pre-preparation and food sitting around collecting dust. The veggies in most restaurants get picked across the country a little less than ripe, sprayed with some chemicals, sit in a warehouse, put on a truck, shipped across the country, and then after a bit of time, put on our plate. Here, the veggies get picked in the morning from a farm or garden within spitting distance of town, at a perfect state of ripeness, and put on my plate at dinner time, generally in the form of a hell-fire spicy salsa.
Meals here are an occasion. Don't expect anything to be done quickly. If we stop by a restaurant for a quick lunch before a monumental session of wandering, don't be surprised if that meal takes a couple of hours. Everything is cooked to order. Everything. And it's made with love and pride that comes from a kitchen that is usually attached to someones home. I can't remember going to a restaurant here that hasn't been someones family kitchen. I'm sure there are chain restaurants here, we just haven't eaten at any. Why would we when we can support a local family, eat in their home, and have the best and freshest food available, all for a price that to us as Americans seems impossibly cheap.
So today, while you are in the drive through getting your 2 tacos for 99 cents at Jack-in-the-box, just know that I will be getting my 2 tacos for a little bit more ($1.50), but they will smell heavenly, they will look beautiful, and most importantly, they will be delicious. Mmmmmmmmmm...tacos.
|Ooooooooooooohhhhhh!!! Tacos! Even Brenda is excited!|
|Shrimp Ceviche! Yes please!|
|Quite possibly the best breakfast on the face of the earth is in Mazatlan. Chilaquiles to die for!!!|
|Our last supper with our good friends from S/V Full Monty. They are heading south to Panama, but not before dinner at the Red Chair (La Silla Roja). Adios amigos. You'll be missed.|
|We are waiting for the bus to take us to Sayulita. Of course the bus stop is an unmarked spot under an overpass on the side of the freeway. Where else would it be in Mexico? When all else fails, follow the locals.|