It has been well over one month since this blog has seen its author, but alas, I arrive with a treasure trove of tales of the land to the south. I spent my holiday in Mexico this year with my sister and my brother-in-law at his family's hometown that lays between Leon and Guanajuato in the state of Guanajuato in south central Mexico. My trip involved quite a bit of travel throughout southern Mexico, including Guadalajara, and the gold coast of Mexico along the southern Pacific (between Alcapulco and Puerto Vallarta). The trips by car and bus were rather long, but ultimately worth the adventure - however rugged it turned out to be (showers and toilets were not always available).
Because this blog is devoted to food, I will share my experience through food goggles. To begin, I arrived near midnight in the city of Guadalajara. I had not eaten all day and was near death when I got to my hotel. I immediately took my nephew and grabbed a cab to the only restaurant in the vicinity that was not closed already, and ended up at "Sanborn's" - a strange mix of 24 hour diner, candy shop, and book seller. The coffee was terrible, and the frijoles refritos were clearly left out of the fridge overnight -- it was like having a meal at the Breakfast King. I ordered the tri-colored enchiladas with sweet mole, ranchera chile (made from tomatoes) and a tomatillo chile verde--the only edible thing on the plate and rather delicious. My nephew stuck to his diet of meat, meat, and more meat. His "vegetable" side consisted of a basket of warm corn tortillas. While the china was charming, the quality of this diner food left much to be desired -- but much better than airport food. I think next time I will just wander the street for a taco truck.
One thing I do regret, however, about my trip to Sanborn's was that I did not load up on that terrible coffee while I had the chance - I was horrified to be scolded over and over by my many mothers and sisters in Mexico about the destructive nature of coffee, that I will be afflicted with the shakes, and that I will eventually shrink (as if this is not already the state of things). I was stuck with instant coffees and thinned syrup at local convenience stores as an alternative. Fortunate for me, I packed a 1/2 pound of my own coffee grounds - but finding an automatic drip machine was quote another challenge . . . if I had to do it again, I would pack my Nalgene Press-Bot Coffee Press
After being rescued from Guadalajara, I was driven to Leon, but had the fortune to stop at Mariscos de Luis that lay just about 20 minutes out of the city and off the side of the highway along a dirt road. This seafood fonda was an open-aired shelter filled with tables and chairs, and plenty of Pacifico. The food was outstanding. I was brought a small plastic cup filled with a piping hot seafood broth and whole shrimp - head and all. It was like eating a rich ciopino. I ordered shrimp tacos, but I think the best thing I ate was a shrimp cocktail filled with stewed tomatoes, avocados, onion, garlic, and chile. The surprise was that the dish was served warm with crackers -- yes, crackers (what happened to tostadas?!). This was perhaps the best meal I had during my whole trip.
Upon settling in at my sister's house, I was taken to her mother-in-law's house for preparation of the Christmas tamales. To begin, we had to prepare the masa (dough). Making masa takes
hours, and in Mexico, it is all done from scratch, not from instant Maseca packages like we are accustomed to in the States. The corn was hulled, cleaned, and placed into buckets with water to soak overnight. At dawn, I left with Jova, my "concunada" (Sister of my brother-in-law) to the molinero (local corn grinder). We took about eight 5-gallon buckets to the grinder and promptly mixed in each bucket a whole bag of rice just before grinding. I was told that this would make the tamale more spongy.
The masa was then subjected to about 5 hours of kneading and resting by a group of women at Dona Nicha's house (my sister's mother-in-law). We made three fillings while the dough was prepared: pork and red chile, tomato-chile-cheese, and sweet tamales with spices and raisins. The whole process took until about four in the afternoon and then another 2 hours for proper steaming in large stock pots. The tamales were finally ready for eating and I ate about 9 of them before passing out from exhaustion and ultimately a food coma.
Well, this covers the first half of my trip, and I fear that anymore typing will make my tired eyes droop to sleep. So I leave you for now, with promises to type more about the second half of my trip to Manzanillo and neighboring beaches along the Pacific coastline.