Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tacos in the crisp mountain air!

One of the things I love most about Mexico is how good food can just happen to you, right when you least expect it.

Last Wednesday, I got in a car at 7:30 in the morning to go with two Puente staff members to a town far, far away in the mountains, one of the communities they work with. They were going to check in on how the amaranth was growing, give advice to the farmers, and then lead a cooking with amaranth workshop. It was gorgeous country, but for the first time in my life, I felt carsick with every U-shaped curve. So when we stopped in Ayutla, a larger town on the way to Tejas, they asked if I wanted some breakfast. I stumbled out of the car, thinking, “Okay, something hot to drink might be good,” but that there was no way I could actually eat anything.

And then we sat down at a fonda that declared, with multiple exclamation points, that they had “caldo de pancita.” It smelled so good, suddenly my nausea went away and my appetite returned. I tried to figure out what “pancita” is, and in the end, I decided it must be some kind of beef belly, as it was lovely and smooth, soft and chewy at the same time. Garnished with some raw chopped onions, spicy chopped “chiles de canario” that were bright yellow with black seeds, and a spoonful or two of salsa, the soup made me instantly feel better. (But I don’t have photos because I felt too ill getting out of the car to think of documenting anything.)

On the way back, they asked again, “Should we stop to eat or just go home as quickly as possible?” Again, I wasn’t really hungry, but then one of them said, “Mmmm, tacos de tripa, que sabrosos,” and the question was answered. I started with two, one of tripe and one of “suadero,” which isn’t in my dictionary,” and then couldn’t resist and ordered two more, another suadero and one of “maciza,” which I think is some sort of thigh meat of beef. I don’t know if it was the cool mountain air, but they were so good! This time, I had my camera, but I kept forgetting to take a picture in my eagerness to eat. I finally managed to remember to take a photo of my very last taco.

It’s funny, Pola the agronomist asked me if I was vegetarian, because nearly all the volunteers are vegetarian. Ha ha ha ha! Given the type of American who comes to Oaxaca, Oaxacans must think all Americans are liberal, Bush-hating vegetarians. And even I am two out of three.

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