We’re really enjoying getting to know the local cuisine. Eating good food is fun, no matter where you live, right? And sharing a meal, be it with family, friends or a combination of both, is a positive experience in any culture (unless you are cannibals, I suppose).
We’ve already visited and enjoyed some local restaurants (best tacos ever – the tortillas here are so fresh!), and not so nice restaurants (pink-in-the-middle chicken fingers? Yeah, not going back there…) Some challenges while navigating menus here so far have been trying to find unsweetened drinks (like iced tea), staying away from the water (only order botella de agua), and simply just trying to read our options in Spanish (although some places offer menus in English).
Some of our favorite local fare already include arrachera beef, pork and noodle tacos and these simple taquitos made by this small (cash only) place down the hill from our house (just beware the hot sauces – takes a bit getting used to – and yes, I found that out the hard way). Also, if you like avocado and limes, you are in luck as those two are basically a main staple of any Mexican dish.
In circumventing one particular menu recently, I couldn’t help but notice the word “lengua”. Translated into English, this means: “tongue”. Apparently, beef tongue is “widely used” in Mexican cuisine, and for example, you can enjoy tongue in tacos and burritos. Amazingly enough, tongue is not simply used in the Latino community – research it a bit further and you’ll see that countries all over the globe offer all kinds of culinary plates featuring tongue (“tongue toast” anyone?).
I’m not going to criticize anyone for actually eating tongue (although it is very high in fat, as almost 75% of its calories are so derived – so what’s the point? If I’m going to consume that much fat in a single item, it had better either be in a very tall glass with an umbrella, or smothered in chocolate). But here’s my problem when ordering off of a menu that has this lengua option. Say I order tacos with beef. And the table next to us order tacos with tongue. And let’s say our camarero is just finishing a long shift after a long, tiring day and not really paying attention (we’ve all had those work days)… and rather than bringing me my beef tacos, he brings me my neighbor’s tongue tacos – which, of course, I don’t discover until it’s too late – and now I have no choice but to become a vegetarian.
Seriously: I can’t deal with that type of stress when I’m supposed to be out on a nice, relaxing dinner with family, friends or the combination of both.
Slimy licking and chewing appendages aside, there is one traditional Mexican beverage that we have discovered, and truly enjoy: horchata (pronounced: or-CHAH-tah”). Horchata is a traditional Mexican beverage made with rice, sometimes flavored with lime and cinnamon and sweetened with sugar. Originally horchata was made with the chufa nut and sometimes melon or squash seeds. Feel free to google “horchata” if you need more background on this wonderful brew – but I am telling you, it’s liquid heaven.
You can find all kinds of horchata recipes online – and in fact, the flavor of the horchata we’ve tried here has even varied from restaurant to restaurant. I was given a recipe from a fellow mom at school – and I made it this morning, and I have to say it was muy bueno confirmed by the fact that both our gardener and our Spanish teacher – both native Mexicans – really liked it. Take one cup of white, uncooked rice and soak it, overnight, in 5 cups water, with a couple of cinnamon sticks (soak at least 6 hours). Put the rice/water/cinnamon sticks in a blender and blend for a bit, then pour through a strainer into your container of choice. Add a little vanilla, sprinkle in some more cinnamon and add about 4 ounces of sweetened condensed milk – stir and pour over ice.
I’m hoping we’ll continue to find other delicious drinks and delectable plates that are traditional to this area. It’s certainly fun to try new foods and experience new tastes, especially when you can then recreate them in your own kitchen.
But just as long as those new foods and experiences don’t involve lengua.