Another Favourite Local Dish

(Post 58 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

I think my love of tacos is becoming the stuff of legends, but that’s not the only local food I enjoy! The dish I’m going to share today might not seem “Mexican,” but it’s on the menu of just about every local cocina economica, a small family restaurant that does brisk business at midday (between most start after 10:00 and close by 3:00). I love cocina economicas, and I have three good ones right around here who send me their menu daily. Sadly, at this time, only one of them is still operating. I try to order from them an average of once a week. Some weeks I don’t order at all, other weeks, I order every other day. It depends on the menu, how busy I am, and if I’m in the mood to cook or not. I really like how the menu comes out sometime been 8:00 and 9:00 A.M., at which point I can order for delivery whenever I think I’ll want lunch. A “half” portion for one person from these folks is just 40 pesos (about 1.90USD or 2.50CAD), and I add a 10-peso tip. Delivery is always within five minutes of the requested time!

The menu today had nothing that particularly appealed to me, so I did a special order of a “pechuga parmesana,” which some other kitchens called a “pechuga cordon bleu.” It’s a chicken breast with ham and cheese, lightly breaded, and pan fried. You can get them in the frozen section of any supermarket, but let me tell you, they’re nowhere near as good as one made with fresh chicken and the chef’s secret spice blend in the breading!

You get “salad,” black bean “soup,” and a pile of tortillas with your meal, as well as a side of red or green spaghetti or rice. I love the green spaghetti, but the red not so much (hmm, same thing with salsas…). It’s happened before where I ordered green spaghetti and they sent red, so now, I ask for green spaghetti or rice and it’s always a surprise what I’ll get. These folks know spaghetti should be al dente, and the creamy sauce is not too heavy and is well seasoned. I’m not a huge pasta person, but I love how these guys make it.

The pile of tortillas is always too much, so I leave it to make a couple of meals over the next few days. So, really, the amount of value you get from ordering lunch is staggering, especially since the food is as delicious as it is inexpensive!

Another dish I enjoy from this kitchen is their breaded pork. I think they make the best breaded pork in the city, putting lime zest in the breading.

But my absolutely favourite dish is, of course, mole chicken. There’s a kitchen with better mole than these guys, but right now, I’m not being picky. If mole shows up on the menu tomorrow or Saturday (yes, they operate Saturdays!), I’ll be sure to get it. I always have the mole with rice.

BTW, I love raw carrots. With my current dental situation, I can’t be chewing on crisp carrot sticks like I normally do, so it’s a huge treat to have a big braces-friendly grated portion sent with lunch. 🙂

Pro tip: lime juice really elevates boring old iceberg lettuce.

Question: what item is surprisingly missing in the above meal?

This Week Is a Bit Much

(Post 57 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

Monday, 8AM, boom, work on my leaky roof started. I had been told it would be 9AM and was under the impression it was a one or two-man job that would take a day or two. Oh, no. Full work crew of three to five depending on the day, plus a full week of work, from 7AM to about 3PM! Thank goodness I currently do not have a ton of work that requires quiet! Bonita, “La jefe,” is  so happy with everything that is going on. I don’t think she realises how bored she usually is until there’s excitement like this. She blossoms when I have people working around the property for her to supervise. She doesn’t want anyone to come too close, but she can sit for hours and watch people work.

It’s a bit of a shock to have people here after months of social distancing. Oh, don’t get me wrong — we’re still very much aware that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and are limiting contact and taking precautions — but it’s still lots of people about the property when I’m used to being alone all day. One thing that helps is that the way the house and property are set up, I was able to give the crew chief a key to access the property and a bathroom without giving access to my house. So I don’t have to get up super early to wait for them to arrive and I can sleep peacefully until I’m ready to be up… or they start making noise! Bonita has been very good about letting them in in the morning without any fuss and doesn’t seem bothered by the change in routine, greeting me normally each day.

The noise levels were high Monday and Tuesday as they broke up the original cement roof, but now, they are at the applying fresh cement step of the process, so the day was muuuuch quieter. The only excitement was when all the materials were delivered, which involved having to move my truck out of the way, get La jefe into her harness and leash, and open gates so everything could be brought in under La jefe’s watchful eye.

I am now barricaded in my office — this was the best place to stack the bags of concrete where it was certain they would not get wet.

Lots of gravel! The way it is delivered here is that it comes in large heavy-duty woven plastic bags that are emptied into a pile. The bags are then reused for another order. You can also bring your own bags and have the material delivered in them rather than dumped into a pile. When we had the side yard covered in fresh stone, I accepted delivery of something like 50 bags full of stone that were unloaded by hand from the truck. The use of tools like dump and hand trucks is very limited here. In fact, when I saw someone use a hand truck/dolly to deliver my freezer, I was surprised. Cement is mixed by hand. So, yes, labour is inexpensive in Mexico, but it’s also inefficient, hence why construction projects can take so long.

They smoothed out the roof today after having applied some sort of weatherproofing product and added guide lines for when they start pouring the cement.

This is not my crew — the landlords are paying — so I don’t have to worry about feeding anyone, but I made it clear that they are to come to me for cold water and Coca-Cola. They use my side terrace with its table and cosy chairs as a break room. Since it’s within sight and sound of my office, I know when to head out with a pitcher of cold water.

The crew chief and I had a chat on Monday that was very interesting. He asked when I’m renting instead of being a homeowner. I explained that I wasn’t sure until this mess started if I even wanted to stay in Yucatán, never mind buy a home, but now, I do. So I’m working on figuring out my path to homeownership. Which is where things got interesting. Because he laid out the exact same plan my maintenance guy/gardener who knows me well did… I now have two people who told me to contact them when I get closer and who promised to help me out so I don’t end up doing what I did in Canada, buying something that seems perfect but is a poisoned fruit (ie. no internet in 2012 but promised for 2013 and then told in 2014-2015 that I’m never getting internet). I’m getting really excited about the thought of owning my own home again and am thrilled to be meeting people who understand that I’m not an expat with deep pockets and who are willing to connect me with people who will treat me like a local with limited savings.

With the state of the world right now, there is no point in expending energy planning my next adventure (spoiler: I had planned to go Peru this autumn as flights there are cheap!), so I’m glad to have another place to direct my energy and keep some positivity about the future in such tumultuous times. And it’s great to be getting some building and construction knowledge to apply for when I have my own build! 🙂

In Which I Learn that Unit Can Mean One or One and One Is… Variable

(Post 56 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

I wanted to try a different green leaf for my smoothies besides spinach and kale. I used to use chard instead of spinach before I discovered kale. So I thought that could be a really good option.

(Chard is one of those Spanish words that doesn’t really resemble the word for that food in any language that I am even remotely familiar with, acelga. On a hunch, I just checked what the word is in Arabic, and sure enough, it is so similar that it must be the root of the word acelga.)

I had to order some things today that I can only find a Chedraui, so I decided to just put together a produce order at the same time, and they had chard on their website. Recently, I ordered celery and it was per unit. I figured that meant a whole bunch because that’s the way that I have to buy it at the store. I have to ask the produce manager to split up a bunch if I don’t want the whole thing, and depending on the produce manager, my luck is hit or miss. Imagine my surprise when I just got one big stalk of celery.

Chard was also priced per unit and it was eight pesos. Considering how huge the leaves are, it did not seem unreasonable to me that the price per unit meant per leaf. Nope. It was per bunch:

The quantity of bananas was intentional.

I just spent a half hour washing every single leaf carefully and then making myself a lovely packages for the freezer. If anyone needs their greens, you know where to knock. 😂

This Is What I Got for Trying to Support a Local Business

(Post 55 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

I walked over to my friend’s house this afternoon to drop off his Amazon package. We stayed well apart, but did take a few minutes to chat. We marvelled that it was exactly two months to the day that I got back from vacation!

There’s a taco place that I love that is just around the corner from him. I almost never order from there from home because I have to phone in the orders and, frankly, it’s just less trouble to be able to use an app or to send a text message to another restaurant than to call them. But when I’m around there and it’s meal time, I love to pop in and either eat there or order for takeout. Like most restaurants, they are currently open for take out or delivery.

They admitted to struggling and to having  to really reduce the menu to avoid waste, but they said they were still doing brisk business on what I wanted anyway, which was just an order of four tacos al pastor.

I should’ve known something was off by how heavy my bag was when they gave me the order, but I figured that maybe they were extra generous with the salsas.

They were. And they gave me two free tacos. And they gave me double tortillas and extra meat on the others. So I basically got 12 tacos for the price of 4. 😳 Yay for leftovers! I can’t get over how many restaurants are sending me a little extras every time I order. Usually, it’s just a little scoop of guacamole with a few chips or some grilled onions — something I sometimes order as a side but didn’t that time. And sometimes, like tonight and in the case of my last order from my favourite sushi restaurant, it’s a a really generous gift that turns a meal into two, like extra tacos or a double portion of chicken fried rice! My favourite lunch place is also being sneakily generous, like sending me white meat instead of brown. It’s really good business because it makes me feel appreciated as a customer, which extra makes me want to order again.

The taco al pastor is by far my favourite fast food here. It is surprisingly nutritious, and while every place is sort of technically the same, a slight variance in the spices in the meat and in the sauces, plus the type of tortilla they use, can make a different experience from restaurant to restaurant. These folks have a spicy chipotle sauce that others don’t. Another one that I really like has a tree chile sauce that I have never seen anywhere else. My neighbourhood taquería up the street has the best garlic sauce of anybody in the city, I think. So I’m not really loyal to anyone particular taco place, but I have a reason for ordering from one restaurant over another on a given night. It really depends on what sauce I’m in the mood for!

I was really amused recently when the taquería up the street sent me a note with my order saying that the chef was bored and experimenting with salsas and what did I think of their new tamarind and habanero sauce? The lady who has the Chinese restaurant around the corner uses me for similar experiments – she figures that if the foreigner can handle the heat, the locals will also. I remain really surprised by how many locals do not eat spicy food. I still generally do not enjoy the feeling of the spicy foods, but I really appreciate that I can taste the flavour behind the heat now. So I said to keep the tamarind sauce on the menu! 🥵😋

So two months of lockdown locked down… Time marches on. I am so busy I don’t even see the days go by. I feel really bad for my extroverted friends who are struggling and finding the days are very long…

Correos de Mexico Seems to Be Making Good on Its Promises for Improvement

(Post 54 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

I got mail today!

The first item was purchased on Amazon on February 29th. I didn’t realise it was coming through Correos de Mexico and would never have ordered it had I known. DHL got it to the border fairly quickly — Aduana scanned it in on March 11th, and that was the last update. Getting packages to clear customs here is like placing a bet, so lots of fun for folks who like gambling. I would say 75% of things I order from outside Mexico that don’t come from a large company with good brokers, like Amazon, get to customs and never leave.

The second item was a letter from my best friend, who now lives in New York state. She mailed it on April 22nd, so it took less than a month to get here. Transit time for mail has gone from so long that we lose hope and forget about it (up to six months) to about six weeks to now just under four weeks!

I remember when I first came to Mexico how things would just never arrive — the postal system here had a horrible reputation that was well-deserved. It was actually astounding that a country as developed as Mexico lacked a viable postal system. Correos de Mexico has been promising improvements and reforms for about a year now and I’m actually since them happening. I am going to have to give sending something to the U.S. another chance. Nothing has made it there so far and it’s so inconvenient to go to the post office (the one in my neighbourhood is just for distribution and I have to go to a larger one north of me to actually send anything!) that I have been loathe to try. But getting a letter in less than four weeks in the current global climate is making me optimistic.