Monday, June 28, 2010

Shop Cheap, Eat Good....

There are definetely pros and cons to living in Mexico and let's all admit it's not the public bathrooms, toxic water, or the godzilla cockroaches. Despite these minor inconveniences ,Mexico offers only top notch cuisine in the most unexpected locations. Whenever I go back to the States, friends always offer to take me out for tacos, possibly assuming that I am in need of a Mexican fix while I am away from home. And more often than not, except for those wee-hour-of-the-morning taco fixes, I politely decline. While I used to be a fan of Mexican food in the States, I am no more. Instead, this snooty gal prefers the real thing... whether it comes from the lux restaurants, moderate cafeterias, or evening tacos from the stand on the corner.... This country has the best of the best.... provided you don't ask exactly what is in it.
I've never been a great cook. It's not exactly one of my passions, but I do try hard to vary our meals, try new things, but also give the kids a taste of home. (and by that I mean, spaghetti, mashed potatoes not from a box, and chicken noodle soup!) I remember making my hubby dinner one night here in Mexico and he was so surprised. "This is amazing. When did you learn to cook this?" cabron. I've made this for you a bazillion times back home.! While I was a little butt-hurt, it finally made sense. It wasn't me. Or my cooking. Thank God. It was clean food.
Now hold on a second. You're prolly thinking,"Clean? No manches! With all the dirt, water, bugs etc.... How can your food be clean?" Don't get me wrong, if you're talking cleanliness, I soak all my veggies and fruit in that antibacterial solution before I even put in on the table or in the fridge. I'm talking clean. Free of steroids, free of pesticides and hormones and whatever other crap that American food has in it nowadays. Don't get your panties in a bunch. It's true. You can't tell me when you go shopping in the States, it's hard as hell to find an apple that isn't the size of a damn grapefruit!!! Well, maybe my kids are a little picky, but when I try to encourage them to eat fruit, I don't think they want to make a meal out of it! When we first moved to Mexico, we were in Mega, and passed the meat section. *gag "Babe, I'm gonna puke! What's that smell?" "Haha," he chuckled."That's the smell of meat. Real meat. Chicken. That hasn't been stripped of all of it's flavor, frozen, packaged and processed." *yippee. Little by little, I began to realize the difference between the fruit/veggies/meat here and back in the States. Tomatoes taste like actual tomatoes. The strawberries taste like strawberries. The snozzberries taste like....

You get the idea.

But, you can't just go anywhere and find it! It's getting harder and harder to find normal, natural food. Maybe in the ranchos and small towns, they're easier to find... but in a fast-growing metropolis, big box chain stores=Walmart=Superama=SamsClub=Vips=whateverelseyoucanthrowinthere, are bringing in what sells...Gi-normous apples, soccerball sized grapefruits and inflated/abnormal chicken boobs. What I love about Mexico is that you can still find the yummy, organic, small stuff... you just have to take the time and look for it. On Sundays, we go to the fruteria or the tianguis (the swap meet) for all of our produce, depending on how early we get up that morning. Following that, the carneceria is up next.

Now Yay for me since the tasteful food here is on my side. The negative to that would be the fact that I have ABSOLUTELY no idea how to order the different cuts. Lucky for me, the one of the butchers now recognizes me and somehow makes sense of my crappy spanish and hand signals. arrachera?!...and no, he will suggest something else/better. Today, in my best spanglish I went for dos piezas de pechuga de pollo en 2 cartones separados....medio kilo de carne molido, sin mucha grasa. (which he corrected  me by suggesting carne limpia) and finally, tocino muy, muy delgada so a girl can make some greasy, CRUNCHY bacon! The meat comes in daily, and everything was ground up in front of me.... came home and made some yummy chipotle burgers!

A little extra time visitng two places, we had bought blueberries, cherry tomatoes, all the meat for the week, fruits/veggies galore for about 600 pesos. Less than 50 bucks. Take that Wild Oats!

Ahhhh..... querido Mexico.

BTW... Anyone got any hints for the next carniceria trip? All I know is Chicken, Carne Molido and Tocino. Help a sista' out!


Amanda said...

I loved reading this because the carnaceria is something Im slowly tackling also. Im not sure if you use your crock pot and like to make a roast but if you ask for crane para cocinado, I think that's right sometimes they correct me but they know what I mean. You will get a nice chuck of meat for a stew and if your there in person they may ask if you want them to throw in one of those round bones with the marrow in it, if its free take it, it adds to the taste. Aside from what you said I also order pescado filetos. But thats from a different place. I bet your place would deliver next time your there ask if they do. I love all the freshness of the food and how easy it is to get it here.

Lesley said...

I feel exactly the same way about the fruit and veggies here -- I was in New York City recently and couldn't find a good tomato to save my life. And I missed all the luscious Mexican papaya, even if I do think it smells funny.

On the meat, I wish I could help. I always buy a whole chicken from the organic grocery store. Although I do know that "muslos" are chicken thighs. The times I've bought chicken from the carnicería, I've had to mime what I want. I really, really want a poster in Spanish of the different cuts of beef and pork. It shouldn't be that hard to find, right?

Anonymous said...

aaahh yes the meat dilema. I battled and still do sometimes learning the different cuts of beef and pork. I make a lot of dishes with beef (because that is what my husband eats :() Cuete is like a big chunk of stew meat (very lean) and I put it is the crockpot or boil it for a while to make tostadas, tamales, salpicon (tostada salad), or beef stew. Carne para cocer is a fattier chunk of stew meat. Vampiros or milanesa is just really thin london broil slices that my mother in law turns into stuffed beef rolls or chicken fried steak. Here in Sonora we get Rib eye and New York strip etc. but that is exactly what it says on the package so that may not be much help for you. Chuletas (pork) are chops and cabeza de lomo is tenderloin (pork). I hope this kind of helps but again as I am in Sonora things might be a bit different. Suerte!!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is good reading! May I link to you?

About Me

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I've been living in Mexico now for about a two years with my hubby and 2 kids. Not exactly by choice, but we're here nonetheless. Luckily, I live with quite a few of the accomodations that i was used to in the states. In spite of those convienences, we also have a water tank with asbestos, outdated electricity, massive amounts of dust, caterpillars that burn your skin, and thousands of windshield washers on every street corner. My kiddos and I are learning to speak spanish and adjust to life away from our family and friends in the States.


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