Sunday 15 November 2009

Adventures in Mexico Part 5: Eats Drinks and Leaves

Back to a last look at life in Mexico… I left off my previous Mexican adventures post talking about food and drink; both of which I’m missing after a few weeks in Brazil. The food because of the spicy salsas (sauces) with everything, and the drink because of clamato, which really grew on me!

I went to a whole host of nice restaurants in Condesa, Polanco, Lomas, Palmas, Downtown and many more small roadside places with the people I met. Mostly I ate tacos, enchiladas, and huaraches. Must admit that having cheese in everything started to get me down after a while. Even the sushi contains cheese! Chilli salsas with everything on the other hand was a great bonus, which sort of made up for things. 

Salsas and Lemon!


Breakfast was always too heavy for me. Chilaquiles, beans, scrambled eggs with meat and various other dishes that really looked they should be saved till dinner time. Almost everything is eaten with tortillas and wrapped up to make tacos. For some reason I always thought Tacos were crispy, but apparently that’s Tex Mex and NOT Mexican food. Tortillas are soft like Indians chapattis, and called tacos when you roll them up with stuff inside. Everyone has their own favourite taco place, especially for Tacos al Pastor, which is the Mexican equivalent of a chicken donner kebab but so much nicer.

Tacos al Pastor


In general though, at the low end of the price scale food is basically some combinations of tacos, sauce, cheese, lemon, and bean paste. Soup is big as an entree. Lemon is used on everything and even squeezed into Tequila. Fresh vegetables were nowhere to be seen – to the point where I actually noticed, which is saying something considering I’m not exactly Mr. Vegetables!

I did eat at a few fancy restaurants too, including Loma Linda where the speciality is Lomo, Las Grutas at Teotihuacan where they had Aztec dances, Sobrinos where the business guys go to eat local Mexican food, El pendulo where there's a brunch place inside a bookstore and rich Mexican families go for Sunday brunch, and a Pakistani place called Tandoor where the Hindi part of the menu bizarrely was literally the Spanish word spelt using Hindi letters, but the Tandoori chicken rocked and the Balti lamb was great.



Mexicans eat chilli on everything. Even when it makes them suffer! Apparently there’s about 50 types of chilli, and you have to know when to use different kinds. I couldn’t really taste much difference between them, but everyone else seemed to have no trouble.

Cheap meals cost about 70 to 100 pesos, which is 4 or 5 quid. Tip is never included or suggested on the bill. You ideally leave about 15%. Water is not drinkable, but apparently not because there aren't enough purification plants but the piping system is so bad that it's not safe to drink water that's been through it.
But by far and away the best part of the food experience in Mexico was that lunch times are from 2 til 4pm, which I thought was the greatest thing ever. You really get a decent break in the day, although it does mean you need a really solid breakfast and lots of coffee in the morning. When you do get to 2pm though, you can really sit down and focus on lunch and socialising and take a proper break from the grindstone. Fantastic!

Drinking in Mexico is largely an Agave experience. Tequila, Pulche and Mezcal are all made from the Agave Cactus, but taste quite different. The shameful Tequilas we get in the UK are seriously put to shame by the good stuff, which is sipped out of a brandy glass and NOT knocked back. It is drunk with an accompaniment of spicy tomato juice and lemon. Mezcal is typically drunk alongside beer, which is either ‘clear’ or ‘dark’ (claro or obscuro) and comes in mid-sized mugs.



Mezcal (in the shot glass)


More common than beer though is Clamato, which is a bit like a spicy Bloody Mary, but includes clam juice and is mixed with beer and is apparently really good for hangovers. I tried it one afternoon and it worked like a dream. Talking of mixers, probably the only thing I really couldn’t get my head around was that when drinking spirit mixers like rum and coke, Mexicans usually mix coke with tonic water to reduce the sweetness, and also to reduce feeling like crap the next day. Imagine drinking really watery coke and you get the idea!

Clamato with Beer

Clamato with Beer

Thursday is the day everyone goes drinking, and 5am finishes are pretty common. If you run a business in Mexico City, best keep things light on Fridays :)
On nights out, I started to get a better grasp of Spanish. Mexican Spanish is much easier than Spanish Spanish - there’s no lisping. It turns out that ‘bueno’ and ‘entonces’ have too many meanings to follow, Haha is spelt jaja, Que padre! is the Mexican way of saying ‘very cool’ and the distinguishing feature of Mexican Spanish is the use of diminutives; they use ‘–ita’ to indicate smallness… not just Ahora (now) or Poco (little) but Ahorita (really soon) or Poquito (really little), and Ahoritita (really really soon) or Poquitito!

And to end my Mexican adventures here’s my favourite Mexican phrase...
Tu di rana, y yo Salto”, which translates as “You say frog, and I jump”. In other words, “I'm there for you!” Loved it. Will have to go back one day.
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