I’m sure that it comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever traveled in Mexico that the Mexican food we get in the States bares little resemblance to the real thing. Tacos, enchiladas, burritos, all take a very different form there. Max asked about getting chili at a restaurant. A puzzled waiter replied that there were chilies in the food. “No, No,” Max tried to explain. “Like a thick sopa or calda (soup/stew) with meat and beans and tomatoes.”
“No,” the waiter said, “We don’t have anything like that.”
Along the Gulf coast we ate a lot of excellent fresh fish; most often filettes but several times whole red snapper. No matter the fish, it was seasoned and pan fried and served with a puddle of black beans and a shredded lettuce, tomato salad. Usually French fries were served with it but occasionally seasoned rice. A side dish always holds a steaming pile of tortillas wrapped in a napkin.
No matter where we traveled, the tortillas were freshly made, thin, and delicious.
Tacos seem to come in two ways. We’ve had them arrive hot and covered in a picante sauce, more like the enchiladas that we get at home. More often they come as a tightly rolled cylinder with a little filling. These are crisp.
Some of our best meals were on the road. We always avoid chain restaurants but that wasn’t even an option in Mexico. Except the city of Puebla where we saw a Domino’s and a McDonald’s, we didn’t even see one. We stopped at little family run restaurants along the road. Invariably there are a few tables covered with oil cloth and a woman or women in the kitchen wearing the kind of coverall aprons that my mother used to wear. Several times children took our orders and served us.”Mama” came from the kitchen if we had questions.
In Oaxaca after an excellent restaurant meal, we found a stand buzzing with activity parked near our guest house. People were lined up around it, cars were double parked and motherly looking cooks (wearing the usual aprons) were placing huge tortillas directly on glowing charcoal. They were making Tlayudas, a traditional food of Oaxaca. One of the young men helping showed us how refried beans were spread on the tortilla, then the choice of all kinds of fillings were added, shredded chicken or pork, chorizo, tomates, lettuce, onions, avocado, salsa, the options seemed endless. Once added to the tortilla, it is folded over and placed on the hot coals until it is hot in the center and crispy around the edges. It is eaten by hand.
It looked delicious but we were already stuffed. We said we’d be back the next night but were disappointed when we learned that it was only there between 9PM and 6AM. It serves cab drivers, waiters, and all the other people who work until late at night or early morning. We never managed to wait until that late to eat.
Our Sweet Little Waitress