I’m not sure if we’ve really stressed how good the food actually is here. Thus far, we’ve eaten at a number of amazing restaurants from taco places (much more exciting than it sounds), cafés and pastelerías (cake/pastry bakeries), cantinas, comida corrida kitchens, and restaurants specializing in cuisine from different states of México, as well as from around the world (e.g. Argentina, Italy, China, and Japan, to name a few.) In México, they eat breakfast in the morning like we do, called desayuno, which like in the U.S. can just be cereal or yoghurt, or it can be more substantial like hot cakes, huevos rancheros/a la mexicana/etc., or even dishes like enchiladas or chilaquiles. For lunch, there is el almuerzo, which can be a multi-course comida corrida, or just a torta (a kind of sandwich) and the like. Lunch tends to occur later than in the US, as does dinner. Their dinner is called la cena, and the verb cenar means to dine.
I write all of this to say that food is a large part of any culture, and thus is a major part of our lives here. However, since neither of us have actual jobs at the moment, we really can only subsist comfortably by doing our fair share of cooking in addition to occasionally eating out. Soon after we arrived here, we went to our local librería and scoured the cookbook section. Primarily, we were looking for a book by the master of Mexican cuisine, Diane Kennedy. Like David Lida, Kennedy is a gringa who most Mexicans consider to be the definitive source on her area of expertise as regards México (for Kennedy, it’s cooking), probably due to a vested interest in research, and in the collating and writing down of a wealth of accrued information usually passed down orally or acquired through years of life experience.
We didn’t find any of her books, and we’ve looked for them in a few different stores and haven’t found them there either (although I admit that more recently we’ve stopped looking).
As an aside, the absence of her books may actually be due in part to their popularity. When I was staying in Xalapa, my host, Jeff, told me that at one point he needed a fairly common auto part. The employee at the auto parts store told him that they do not order that part anymore because it kept selling out, and it was too much of a hassle to keep ordering more! This is a key difference between the mindset in the U.S. and the mindset for some here!
Anyway, we did find another book: Mini Enciclopedia de la Cocina Mexicana by Irma Bolaños.
I’ve been using this book as a guide to our weekly menu (as I buy various local, fresh ingredients from our mercado and carneceria). It’s beneficial that the book is in Spanish, which helps me know what cuts of meat to ask for as well as the Spanish name for certain ingredients (and their respective weight measurement, using the metric system, of course). It’s fun to go to the market and buy things like leeks, epazote, and various chiles (fresh and prepared), all of which are available in the US, but buying them fresh and without too much expense at the market is just a neat experience. Our weekly trips to the market are getting much more rote, but I’m sure that we still look like those silly white people to most of the vendors.
So far, I’ve cooked cola de res (like a beef vegetable soup), sopa de lima (lime soup, a favorite of ours),
macarrón a poblana (Mexican mac and cheese), arroz de la jardinera, arroz blanco, albondigas en salsa de jitomate, enchiladas coloradas, flautas, huevos a la mexicana, entomatadas, various tacos and tostadas, salsa al molcajete,
salsa de pico de gallo, and I’ve made a few other recipes from various cooking podcasts that I enjoy:
Sometimes I “gringo-up” the recipes when I’m feeling lazy, for example, the albondigas (above) are supposed to be like meatballs, but I made them more like a meat sauce, which we put on tortillas.
This weeks menu also includes sopa de papa (potato soup), macarrón con carne molida (I imagine that this will be like a homemade, Mexican, hamburger helper??), cerdo en chipotle, alambre de pollo, enchiladas morelianas, and mamey milkshakes!
Mary E likes to claim that she doesn’t do most of this, but really she ends up doing almost all of the cleaning up, setting the table, and a fair amount of cooking, because I’m very slow-moving in the kitchen and I tend to dirty almost every dish and pot that we have nightly! That being said, there are 3 main reasons that right now I’m doing the majority of the cooking:
1. I like it
2. She’s here to do actual work, and I’m kind of a layabout (or economic dependent, if you will)
3.We split up a lot of the household tasks, and right now she does a lot of other chores, and so this lately ends up being one of my delegated tasks.
If you’re planning to visit us, be sure that we will take you out to a lot of fantastic places to eat, but you will also have to let us cook for you!
“¡Buen Provecho!” – Yepts