Hello all! It has been a very long time since my last blog post. I hope you are all well and that you have coped in my extended absence. I am writing this in a rather charming cafe in Mexico City called Rococo. It is very popular amongst the yuppy Condesa (a rather funky area f.y.i) population for its speciality brews and comfortable sofas. I can indeed confirm the sofa is comfortable and the brew was special! But I am not here to talk about coffee… not today at least. No, no. I am here to give you all a little gastronomic rundown on my first 2 months in Mexico City.
This is going to be a very difficult post to write due to the quantity of content I want to include. I am currently living in a city which probably has the strongest food culture I have ever experienced. It is a city where on every corner, literally, every single corner, there is a food vendor of some sort. The variety is overwhelming, the quality is astounding, and the way that my Mexican bros and sis interact with their food is nothing short of beautiful. It is so much more than sustenance and so much more than entertainment. It is absolutely integral to every form of celebration. Mexico has forced me to reflect on, reconsider and reformulate my relationship with food. I am a rather proud Londoner: I love my city, my parks, my football team, my friends, my family, my favourite restaurants and my favourite meals I used to have as a kid at home (*cough* roast chicken). But there is one thing I have realised in the last few months that I do not love about my city, and that is the lack of a truly traditional cuisine.
What do I mean by this? The food in London and other British gastronomic centres such as Bristol (see all my other posts!) is divine, varied, fun… Often, it is really delicious! Spectacular. But how much of the food that I have written about in this blog can be considered British? This is not going to go down a pro-Brexit path I promise you. But what food do we have that is purely British? We have a Sunday roast. Fish and Chips. Shepherds Pie. Bangers and Mash… I mean, it ain’t exactly inspiring, is it? 3/4 are based on a gravy and 4/4 are spud centred. We would be in serious trouble if it weren’t for clotted cream. Thankfully, we have that gorgeous spreadable heaven that has made a fair few guest appearances in my dreams over the last few dairy-light months. You get my point, yeah? It ain’t great.
I remember the first taco I ever had in this country. My main man Tommy, who has his pitch around the corner from my office, wielded that machete and went to town on the juicy hunk of beef that had been slowly stewed until beyond fork tender. Chop chop chop. 30 seconds later… 3 beautiful glistening tacos de maciza (meat trimmed of most fat, from the back of the cow) sitting there on my plate. I generously squeezed my lime, dolloped on the least intimidating-looking salsa, and chucked on some finely diced onion and coriander… I thought to myself “wow that really was the best taco I have ever had in my entire life. There is absolutely, categorically, definitely NO WAY that I will have a more delicious taco in my entire stay here in Mexico”.
As you have probably guessed, these were not my exact thoughts, but I am building up to a point, you see. Later that day, my beloved food guide Ellie took me to try some tacos de birria (a desperately tender and fatty stew of goat or lamb meat flavoured with the brilliantly red adobo spice. It originates from the state of Jalisco in the west). Once I had these tacos, I was sure. This is the pinnacle. This is IT.
Then we went for dinner… at the famous Tacos los Cocuyos in the picturesque Historic Centre. “Ok, fine”, I thought, “THIS is it. I was just joking before. This is the best taco I have ever had…”
This was day 1 folks!!!!
I have repeated this contradictory process a fair few times.
The taco is not what I expected. It is, normally, a simple and beautiful combo. Fatty, perfectly cooked meat topped with a squeeze of lime to cut through the richness of the meat and a dash of mildly to dangerously spicy salsa to season the whole thing. It is simple. But the labour of love that goes into each and every one, the cult followings that form over-literal, veritable holes in walls, is the most charming thing I have maybe ever seen. I cannot put into words how satisfying it is for me to be lost in whatever neighbourhood I am walking through, spot a random shoddy A F-looking restaurant or stall and know that I am about to sample something delicious. Name a place in England where you can eat mind-blowing munch for 80p from a tiny tent outside a tube station??
Obviously, the food here is not just about tacos. It is very taco-heavy… I genuinely feel that most of what I wanted to say about the culinary culture has been summarised neatly in these last few paragraphs on tacos, but the list is far more extensive. There’s the hugely popular soup pozole made from a selection of chiles with shredded lettuce, meat and giant chunky corn kernels. There’s this chain here called Casa de Toño which I kinda feel serves the purpose of Nandos. Every time I have gone to have this soup, I have just sort of ended up there. It has that same kinda “cheeky” feel that a meal at Nandos has. It is affordable, a safe option and just quite good. There are huaraches, which are like a fatter corn tortilla topped with refried beans, cream, cheese and normally, you guessed it, a meat of some form. There are tamales, there are sopas, there are tortas, there are quesadillas, there are gringas, there are tlacoyos and so many more!!!!!!!!!!!!! These are just the dishes I rattled off the top of my head; the list is endless. Needless to say, I am having a lot of fun here.
I am gonna wrap this up because it is a very long piece. Being exposed to this food scene, which is so dynamic, has been one of the happiest experiences of my life. I mean it; the food here simply beggars belief. Having had the opportunity to try all this Mad Mexican Munch has confirmed to me that food is a hugely, hugely important part of my life. It is something that consistently puts a genuine smile on my face, and the satisfaction I get from sampling a new delicacy cannot be replicated by any other activity in existence.
I have learnt a lot during my short stay here. From my internship for example, I have learnt that the Domain Authority score of 2 that this blog has is not very impressive at all. From the cheeky codger that nicked my wallet on the metro in rush hour, I have learnt that living abroad can be tough and very frustrating. Finally, from every #NoFaffGaff I have eaten at, I have learnt that food in Mexico is integral to the culture and daily operation of this fascinating country.
Thank you so much for reading this long post; I hope you found it interesting. I hope that one day you all have the opportunity to come to this overwhelmingly impressive city to try a few of the dishes I have banged on about. Mazel Tov Mexico.