Adventures with my mother: Day two

Yesterday’s mission, after a swim and a bit of a walk on the beach, job number one for mum and I was to get to the “supermercado” and try to buy some groceries.  We have a kitchen here, and so to not cook for ourselves at least some of the time is a little silly.  We walked to town and found the grocery store.  It’s a tiny place – at least by our standards, four aisles, and one bank of refrigerated stuff, which was mostly drinks.  We walked the aisles, looking for the basic stuff we needed, and marveled at the way things were different.  At first in the store, we didn’t buy anything,  save a tin of black beans and four small bottles of tonic water. (The battle to obtain tonic water is epic.  There’s not much of it, and it only comes in little bottles that my mother can’t truck with.  We’ve gone into store after store, and when I ask for “agua tónica? Grande, no pequeño” the clerks all reel with shock. Whether big bottles just don’t exist, or they’re appalled that your intake would be such that you need a big one, I just can’t say. Small bottles it is.)  There were shelves and shelves of junk food.  Chips, many bags of something with a pig on it (pork rinds? Is that a thing? I’d never considered the possibility that pigs had rinds, like a watermelon or something?) and mountains of pop.

junkfood 2014-02-05

All the liquor is in there (my mother is also surprised at the scarcity of gin, to go with the tonic, but is starting to see an emerging picture of a non-British drinking pattern.) and veritable rafts of cookies, biscuits, lady fingers, candy and strange puffed snack foods composed of what, we cannot say.
The square footage and variety of hot sauce would blow your mind…

mumhotsauce 2014-02-05

and in my favourite aisle, hundreds of candles (mostly religious, and many featuring Our Lady of Guadeloupe, who’s a pretty big deal around here) positioned next to the bug killing stuff. There’s no knowing if there’s a message in that.

ourladyofraid 2014-02-05

(My mother claims there is. There’s such a massive number of tiny ants here – they get into everything, and she hates them so much that she’s been as the avenging hand of Shiva, killing them any way she can -except with the Raid, she won’t buy that.  Mum says that the candles are probably by the Raid because maybe you light one and pray that the ants won’t get into the sugar again. In my case, I’m hoping to find a way to keep them from taking up residence in my laptop every night.  I’m yet to find a place to keep it where when I get up and turn the thing on, a hundred very tiny ants don’t pour from my keyboard as it heats up.)

We were wondering where the “good food” was (not that beans and gin aren’t good food, in my mother’s estimation) but we hadn’t found anything that we really needed.  Turns out there’s a second room – tiny, no bigger than my living room, and you open the door and go in, and that room is air-conditioned, and voila. Everything “good” is in there.  There you find the butter, and the milk – here it comes in tetra pacs and doesn’t need refrigeration, but there is anyway.

milk 2014-02-05

There’s something called “horchata concentrado” that promises to be delicious, and was flying off the shelves…

horchata 2014-02-05

and big bricks and bags of spices that we couldn’t identify. They had no words on them to translate and we guessed that they’re just so common that people here identify them by the way they look.

bricks 2014-02-05

I think the big brick of red stuff is maybe paprika, and I think the brown one could be cumin… but what could the big bag of pale green stuff be? The black? (I use a lot of spices when I cook, but my mind cannot comprehend a life where a brick of paprika isn’t a lifetime supply.)

There are boxes of dried peppers of all kinds, and so many sorts of fresh peppers that the mind reels. Even with the fabulous diversity I get in a Toronto grocery store, there were peppers I couldn’t identify for love nor money.

peppers 2014-02-05

There were these big bags of stuff that look like pasta, and might be pasta (we didn’t find much pasta other than this) but it was shiny and a little translucent in a way that pasta isn’t, and there was a sign on it that I couldn’t totally translate, even with the help of google.  It said “Harina de Maiz nixtamalizado maseca 1k”

notpasta 2014-02-05

All I could get out of that was that it’s corn flour something, and that you get a kilo of it.  It looks interesting though, and I’ll buy it and cook it if I can figure out how on earth I would do that.

There were plantains, and a few vegetables, including the strange chayote that we got fond of while we were in the Domincan Republic, but very little fruit.  What fruit there was reminded me of the standards we have for produce in Canada and the US.  We don’t just want our fruit and veg to taste good, we want it unblemished and gorgeous to look at, and that just doesn’t happen here.

oranges 2014-02-05

See that? Oranges that are really yucky on the outside, and really delicious on the inside.

In the end, we got coffee (very good coffee, it turns out) some yoghurt that mysteriously contains “cereales” but is pretty tasty. Some tomatoes, onions, a chayote, an avocado, milk, tea, bananas, tortillas. rice, beans and some manchego cheese that I managed to order sliced, but wasn’t able to figure out how to ask her to wipe the ham off the slicer before she did it.  Such is the state of my Spanish.  I’m grateful I got as far as I did.  What we didn’t find? Bread, buns… or really a lot of fruit or vegetables.  My guess is they come from somewhere else, and that this small supply is for the tourists.  The words I learned in Spanish yesterday? Two.  “Cortado” – for sliced, and “panaderia” which is bakery, and what we’re looking for today.

139 thoughts on “Adventures with my mother: Day two

  1. Wow, am I first again? Here, we have something in our produce section called “uglifruit” , and it IS ugly! Kind of like a wrinkly greenish grapefruit with a skin disease….haven’t tried it, though it’s supposed to be very good.

    Good luck with your grocery shopping!

  2. Try keeping the sugar (and anything else dry you don’t want bugs in like flour, rice, etc.) in the fridge or freezer depending on where you have room. I learned to do that here in S. Texas.

  3. We sprinkle cinnamon around the doors and windows in the spring because ants are repelled by it. Not sure what to do when they invade the laptop, though.

  4. The bags you were identifying as “pasta” look to me like a chip I’ve been served in a Mexican restaurant. It’s very light and crispy, and I can’t remember what it’s made of but the shape (circle with cross in center) and color look just like it. The orange ones I haven’t seen, but are probably similar.

    • It’s my understanding that the wheels are made of rice flour, and they are typically deep-fried and eaten like potato chips. One can obtain them pre-cooked from street vendors in Chicago, served with optional hot sauce.

    • They are called duritos (pronounced like Doritos chips) or chicharonies(chick-a-roni), they are a wheat “pasta” but you fry in oil not water. they only cook for about 10 sec or so. You would want your oil about 380 f. and about an inch or 2 deep. drain on a paper towel. duritos are usually served with a lime to squeeze over them and hot sauce or salsa.

  5. The “pasta” is a processed pork product. The red “pasta” is seasoned with peppers and tan is plain. They are typically deep fried.

  6. The wheel dealies are duros or duritos.They are made of wheat (or sometimes pig skin) and are either fried or microwaved very quickly. They are served salted or cinnamon/sugared, and are often sold cooked by street vendors with the ubiquitous ear of corn dipped in mayo…

  7. Yes – I second Nina. Keep things like sugar in the fridge/freezer. It’ll definitely slow the ants down. (South Florida) The brick of red might be spicier than paprika. The Italian Ice place by us has a horchata flavored ice – delish.

  8. Travel sure opens up a lot of new experiences, but I have to say that the bugs issue is not my favourite among them. We have ants in our house sometimes, big suckers; I sprinkle powdered hot red chili peppers along all the doors and the base of the walls, anywhere I think they may gain access. Seems to work, and as I have a kilo of the stuff I got from an ethnic grocery place in Winnipeg and for which I have no other use (1/8 teaspoon of it renders any food I’ve tried it in too hot to eat!) it seems like a good way to use it up. With my picky family, eating in other countries might prove a problem, which is one reason we’ve never gone anywhere outside Canada as a group. Sounds like the exploring and learning are fun, though!

  9. Horchata is basically a sweetened rice milk, and it IS delicious. I recommend it.

    And, the sign saying “Harina de Maiz nixtamalizado maseca 1k” doesn’t belong with the wheels – Maseca is the flour you use to make tortillas out of. It’s made from corn processed with lime (the mineral, not the fruit), otherwise known as “nixtamalized” corn.

    • As an aside – I highly recommend making your own tortillas too. Keep your eyes open for a tortilla press. You can get them in Canada too, but it could be a fun (and cheaper) souvenir.

  10. I second the Horchata. It’s very tasty.
    The Harina de maiz is corn flour. You can make tortillas or corn meal muffins out of it.

    Maybe there’s a local outdoor market you can go to for fruit and vegetables?

    • Careful not all cornflower is the same. The version she mentioned is processed with lye and used in tortillas and tamales. Very different than the kind used in say cornbread or muffins

        • Oh, and nixtimalization makes the corn more nutritious in some way that I can’t remember, but I think that’s part of the point. Something to do with the protein, maybe?

          • Yes, nixtamalization removes an undigestible portion of the corn to make it more nutritious, easier to grind and easier to cook. The harina de maiz that everyone is talking about is a variety of cornmeal, but your little wheels are more likely the puffed corn (not wheat) that others have mentioned. They’ll become mush in water. If you want cornmeal for tortillas or tamales, it will look like a finer version of what you’re used to. Maseca is a brand sold in the US, it may also be a generic name for it. Have fun! We have an ice storm today, so I’m a little jealous.

        • You are correct, it is generally lime (an alkaline), but some foods are indeed processed with food grade lye (another strong alkaline) including such common foods as bagels.

  11. Ask if the red stuff in the pic is red recado (recado rojo). If so, it’s a spice mixture (not so spicy that it’ll burn your mouth), so be sure to buy a small amount and take it home! Google for vegetarian recado recipes, and then experiment.

  12. What fun! The thing I love about food in Mexico (and many other places that are not the US) is that there is a separate shop for everything. Have fun at the panadería–maybe you will find a fruit stand or a tortilla shop on the way!

  13. perhaps your veggies come from a van or cart that comes around in the day…that is the way my sis gets her fresh stuff in a small village there…also fresh sea food caught that morning…

  14. Extra large plastic Ziploc type bag for the laptop? We frequently have an ant invasion in the spring, where you dare not leave anything unsealed in the kitchen.

  15. Keep your laptop in a ziploc bag when you’re not using it. If you didn’t use any large ziplocs while packing your suitcase, I suppose they might be hard to come by there. A two-gallon ziploc will hold just about anything.

  16. I love hearing about your Mexican experience. Next time you’re in Cali, you can visit one of our supermercados and ask questions or read the English names of some items.

  17. The red stuff could be achiote (like here: http://www.mexgrocer.co.uk/Achiote-El-Yucateco-Wholesale.html) and the brown stuff this or similar (http://www.mexgrocer.co.uk/Bistek-Condiment-El-Yucateco-100gr.html). You dissolve them in hot water or vinegar and use them to season dishes as you cook.
    There are lots of different spice mixes and they come in lots of different colours.
    Almost like a non-meaty stock cube where you break off the size you want. I use achiote a LOT and I love it.

  18. About the ants: Many ants navigate using the scent trails left by scouting ants. I remove these with bleach, but you could try vinegar for a more green alternative. Ants are also repelled by cinnamon. I’ve always used oil, but ground up powder may very well work. About the Junk food: Did you know Mexico recently outpaced the US in obesity rates?

  19. The little red peppers in the left look like Arbol, and the darker larger ones on the right guajillo. If you enjoy cooking with peppers give them a whirl! Loads of fun. 🙂

  20. Those blocks of spices are recado and spice mixture for mole. The have many kinds of mole, but my favorite is the dark one (Poblano?)

    • Second that. The dark one is probably something like poblano, but there are so many different kinds, it could be something more local…

      • You should definately buy those spices and try them..you will never get anything like it if you don’t get them there! Definately not paprika!

    • I would also say those spices are for moles. One of my favorite things. I’m half Mexican and grew up eating mole all the time, though my grandma always made it with chicken I’m sure there’s veggie options out there.

      I also live part time in Cabo San Lucas and they have big bottles of tonic water there so it just must be the small town you’re in, not Mexico in general that doesn’t have them.

  21. There should be a market where you get the fresh veg. They don’t stock that stuff in the groceries, it comes in every morning from the farms. I visited a college friend in Mexico City when she was doing her doctoral diss research and she took me to her local market and fed me the most amazing avocado I have ever tasted.
    Enjoy your trip!

  22. As someone with mucho experience in Mexican supermercados may I suggest you try the ‘torcidito’ cheesies. They are muy bueno and not as spicy as they sound.
    You are missing yet another snowstorm you lucky thing. Enjoy your sunshine and knitting in warmth. My hubs and I are heading to the Baja this weekend where I’ll be getting my vitamin D while I work on socks.

  23. The long flat black chiles on the right look like pasillas, not guajillos. Pasillas are good medium-hot workhorse peppers. I made chili with a big blend of pasillas, guajillos, anchos and New Mexico hatch peppers and it was still mild enough for even wimpy palates. (Seconding that the ones on the left are likely chiles de arbol, which are hotter.)

    Also seconding that that harina de maiz is meant for tortillas or tamales, not for use as regular cornmeal. If you feel like experimenting with making tamales (it’s a Project, but fun!), then green tomatillo salsa + cheese is a killer vegetarian filling.

      • Depends. You can (and then you can use the liquid you use to plump them up as seasoning) or you can add them as they are to dishes. That’s what I usually do.

        • I usually cover them with boiling water and let them soak for 20+ min, and then puree the whole business. My husband (the actual Mexican but the slightly less perfectionist chef in the family) likes to break them into chunks and throw them as-is into his pan of beans and let them soften in the beans’ simmering liquid — very tasty, but the texture may not be so appealing.

          • I toss them into the pot as is too…because that’s what my grandma taught me to do (she’s Mexican as well) but I don’t mind the texture. Maybe because I’m used to it?

      • Cut open the chili’s and empty stem/seeds; 2 options are to just boil them for about 10 min; or you can cut them open and toast them in a pan/broiler/grill with onion/garlic until you see them smoking,turn them, and then stick into simmering water with 1 red tomato. Whirl all the above in blender with about 1/2 c of the water you just simmered them in, you will see the it go from light red to dark red. Then drain through sieve to catch all the skin/pieces.

      • I usually cut them (chiles pasilla, that is; I “failed” the human verification and I don’t know if this is going to post in reply to the appropriate comment or not) open and dump out the seeds, give them a rough chop (2cm strips, maybe–VERY rough), then toss them in a hot pan with just a tiny bit of vegetable oil until they’re fragrant. Add hot water so the pieces are juuuust covered and let the whole thing sit until the water starts to turn reddish-brown and the chile pieces have plumped and softened. The cut edges will look much thicker.
        I usually use dried chiles for making lentil and kidney bean chili, so when they’re soft, I drain the liquid into my chili pot and then scrape the chiles onto a cutting board to cool a little bit. Once they’ve cooled enough to touch, I start chopping. At about the coarse chunks stage, when it feels like I’m just pushing them around with the knife, I add a generous amount of salt and keep chopping until I get a fairly uniform paste. Maybe ten minutes from the cooled state to chile paste, and I don’t make chili without that step.
        On a related note, I go through a truly unreasonable amount of paprika and if I could get it in bricks I’d be a very happy person.

  24. Horchata! Usually made with one of these: ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, barley, or tigernuts. Served cold/slushy. Delicious!

    If you’re a hedonist like myself and my friends, mix with your preferred brand of rum or brandy, and make it a Filthy Cabana Boy. Woo!

  25. Horchata is delicious! Chill it before you drink it, and if it’s concentrated like that, water it down to your taste. Think Ribena, except with rice instead of fruit. Very sweet.

  26. Could the outer room be intended for tourists from the north? Even if the people of Mexico do have increased obesity rates they presumably don’t live on that food exclusively.

  27. I love those little orange discs! They are duritos, like someone said above, and you deep fry them in very hot oil very very quickly. They puff up like mad and they kind of end up with the consistency of puffy cheetos. I usually end up either salting them or just eating them the way that they are. My aunts always made them for us kids while we were playing outside, so many childhood memories!

    Pork rinds have always struck me as a very odd food. What part of the pig is the rind, and why would you want to eat it? I don’t eat orange rinds. But my father loved them. Anyway, love your stories of your travels! Have fun!

    • Pork rinds are made from the skin of the pig. They’re more commonly eaten as a snack food in the southern part of the US, though I do see them in grocery stores here (in the northeast US).

  28. I hear you about the tonic water. I’ve had a similar experience with club soda in Indiana. Very hard to find, and when you can it’s in small bottles.

    Enjoy your vacation! Love the new look of the blog. Very clean looking and easy to read.

  29. duritos! one of my favorite mexican street foods. please don’t boil them, you’ll be really sad at the result. you should get blocks of the spice mix to take home.. much like indian curries, mexican moles are deep, varied, and usually all delicious. if i had to take a guess, the bag of green spice is for green mole. (if you try to use it like paprika though, you’ll be in for a surprise.) i tell ya though, take that horchata, throw in some local rum, and sit back and relax. not a gin and tonic, but delicious.

  30. You found more produce there than I find at the grocery store when I visit my boyfriend in Chicago. I exaggerate – slightly – but I’ve never been to a place where people eat so few vegetables! I do so love to visit the Mexican groceries when I’m there tho (carniceria). Harina de Maiz is used to make corn tortillas, so it wouldn’t do you much good on its own. I love raiding the dried peppers 🙂

    It’s probably for the best that you couldn’t figure out how to ask them to clean the ham off the slicer – they probably would have found you quite odd for asking. 🙂

    By the way, grilled tofu with mole sauce is amazing. (it’s chocolate-based, but not sweet)

  31. Think there is/was a veg/fruit market in the square by the church on Wednesday. Sugar/sweet in the frig, laptop in Ziploc – isn’t travel a “new and broadening experience”??

  32. First, I don’t know why I am failing the human error test. #2 your mom could pass the Judi Dench lookalike contest hands down. #3 Its all about the beer/tequila, rompope and some other really toxic thing that starts with an O. #4 Chili? Could be Chili Negro, it’s all about the region your in. #5 I just got rid of a bunch of ants here at work by spraying Windex where there are cracks, like the wall/counter in the kitchen. Havent seen them since.

    • (I failed the human error test the first time too. Fingers crossed this time.)

      Just wanted to say that Windex does a great job at killing earwigs too. (Ok, it’s a tad more expensive than vinegar.)

  33. Hi, just so you know, your new posts aren’t getting picked up by my RSS aggregator. Awesome adventure, thanks for sharing it!

  34. I would second all the people who say look for the fruit and vegetable market; there always is one, and this is where you will find the best produce by far, and the cheapest.

  35. Also, if you can get horchata at an actual restaurant, do, it’s better than the stuff in the jars. Horchata is a wonderful thing, also fun to make!

  36. Duros de harina, your little wheels, are puffed wheat. Chicharrones, which you’ll find fried up at stands on the road look similar, but are pork. Mmmmmm, the panaderia. Marranitos (little pigs) make a delicious gingerbread breakfast. 😉 All the very soft cheeses are raw (queso blanco, queso fresco queso panelo and requeson) if you care. They’ve never killed me yet.

    • Oh – someone beat me to it. Yes to horchata and rum. Yes also to horchata on its own, or in your coffee for a bit of a change.

  37. To keep the ants out of your laptop just balance it on a can that’s in a fry pan or other low sided container of water. Your trip sounds like a really fun adventure.

  38. Ok, I know change is constant in life, but your blog is not showing up in my RSS/Feedly feed anymore. Do I need to put in a different address and resubscribe?

  39. Sugar ants! Bah! Sprayer bottle of full strength vinegar and orange and/or lemon and/or lime peel kept at room temp. Spray first thing in morning, after cooking, and nightly wipe down counters, spray all sinks, and maybe baseboards, window and door sills before retiring. Destroys old scent paths and the citrus oil gets on them and makes them “stink” so they avoid it.

  40. Wow! We can comment on comments now! How cool!
    I’m guessing the red brick is some variety of chile powder. My parents brought me some bright red chile powder from New Mexico… very yummy, but not *too* spicey (they aren’t as much into spicey as I am).

    However, being of Hungarian descent, I can say that a brick of paprika can go pretty quickly when you use it in just about everything 🙂 I think a brick that size would perhaps last a year for me!

  41. Looks like fun and wonderful to be warm after all this cold miserable weather! The red block of spices is probably achiote, in English, annatto. In my experience in Central America it’s used on meat before grilling or blended in with tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and tomato paste to make a yummy sauce they usually use on chicken, but would also be good with just chickpeas inside a tamale. Enjoy the warmth!

  42. Europe is a short hop from the UK (excuse the fact that I seem to believe Europe and the UK are separate things), and so, when I can grab respite care for Mum, I will take a quick flight to Spain. My Spanish is now excellent (on the noun only – relating to food status) but even with the small dispariity between here and mainland Spain I still struggle with some words – and the Spanish version of vegetarian is “without meat”, not without meat stock, not without gelatine,nor without suet, but simply lacking pieces of meat. Good luck with your Spanish, acelerar el día en que usted habla bien español, y buena suerte!

    • “My Spanish is now excellent ”
      Hahahahhaha. Eso es lo que tú crees. La verdad es, que es terrible, Has de haber usado Google translate.
      ___________________________
      I find very strange all the fuzz about pork rinds, as pork rind is sold everywhere in Canada, and it is made by the same companies that sell potato chips, and all those bagged snacks. Also those little wheels, I think are made of potato flour, are also sold already puffed, in Canadian supermarkets, and in Shoppers Drug Mart.
      The fruit sold in México does not look good, because, the best is exported to USA and Canada, and other countries. The corporations export the best, and leave the worst for national consumers.
      To the person who said:
      Vegetariano (Ve-heh-ta-di-AN-o) = Vegetarian
      It is wrong. The Spanish “r’ is not pronounced as a “d’ in English. Many English speakers make that mistake, and say “todo” (all) instead of “Toro” (bull) and vice versa..
      Tonic water, is, “agua mineral ” or “agua de soda.” and it can be sparkling, “agua mineral con gas” or flat, ” agua mineral sin gas”..That “harina de maíz nixtamalado, is for tortillas and tamales. Water at room temperature is added to make the dough.. It is made of dry corn cooked with limestone, grounded and dried up.

  43. For the ants try sprinkling cinnamon where you want to “draw the line” they will not walk over or past that.
    And, look for a fruit called picaya, pee kie yah, it is a rich purple meat with tiny black seeds. About the size of a grapefruit, shiny blue black skin sort of the texture of a plum. Delish!!!!!! And, have a grand time. See you in Tacoma next week.

  44. Oh, and pork rinds are totally a thing. It’s pig skin, cut in pieces and fried in lard. It puffs up and becomes crispy when fried. Definitely a junk food, very popular with some people. Never tried it myself, but you are correct that it is very much not vegetarian!

  45. Go to the Mercado! That is the market, where all the freshness exists! Fresh tortillas, fruit, cheese. If you eat there, make sure it’s fried. Try the quesadilla de flor de calabaza. Horchata is delicious, but not from a bottle. There is a long tradition of freshly made fruit waters, fabulous stuff. Enjoy!

  46. Eeeek! I failed the human test the first time ’round, so this is just to see what happened — though I must say, envy mounts as the snow cover grows; we must have hit close to the six inches forecast for this wee spot in southern Ontario, and a pox on this bad winter [shaking fist at grey sky].

  47. Thank you for the lovely multicultural tour.
    I am in southern California and I have a multicultural grocery store close to my house. I am usually the one asking for advice on what various fruits and vegetables are, but yesterday a fellow shopper asked ME how to select good celery and what to do with it. What a role reversal! I was so happy to be a source of information rather than the reverse.
    I so love your blog!
    Nancy Paris

  48. The fruiteria is in colonia a 3 minute taxi ride w oodles of fresh fruit. All kinds. Taxi drivers all know where it is. Also fresh squeezed juices. And….fresh pork rinds just in cSe anyone is interested.

  49. Those round spoked items are snack food. As others have mentioned, you can deep fry them quickly. We haven’t had much luck with microwaving them. We often prepare them in our hot air popcorn maker.

  50. Chili powder is also good for keeping out ants. You might try a mixture of vinegar and chili powder in a spray bottle. You can also make your own Horchata pretty easily. You can soak rice in water overnight, strain out the rice, then add a tin of evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. If you can find a tortillaria, fresh tortillas are amazing.

  51. Love the new site. It did take me a few minutes to redirect Outlook to the new feed but no big problems.

    Love, love that you and your Mom are on vacation together. Cherish it! Also loved the pictures. Sock and flowers are wonderful to look at on a dreary, snowy day. Thank you.

    PS. I am told that I am not a human being but only a human being would continually for 5 or more days try to post to your blog. Only a human being would fall in love with a pattern then spend the last week throwing her project across the room because SHE could not follow a pattern.

  52. I love listening to you tell about your adventures! I’m taking a Spanish class starting next month so I especially enjoyed the introduction. 🙂

  53. If you want to be truly amazed by the number of hot sauce varieties, have us take you to one of the larger grocery stores when you are in Texas next month. Sounds like you are having a wonderful trip — enjoy the warmth.

  54. Hahahaha as a Mexican living in the United States this story made me laugh. You guessed right about most of the things you didn’t know about. Oh that makes me homesick. Who would have thought the way grocery stores work in your homeland would make you miss home? Glad you’re having a great time. While you’re there, try the Horchata. Also look for Jamaica, another delicious beverage. Mmmmmm my mouth waters just thinking about it! 😀 Now that you’re finished your sock, what’s the next project(s) on the needles?

  55. In addition to a separate fresh fruit/veg market, in most Mexican towns we’ve visited there is also a separate Tortilleria (sp?) – makes only or mostly fresh tortillas. Think of it like rural France – different small shop for everything.

  56. Looks like you and your mother are having fun!! Most folks will probably be very happy to explain how to use the food stuffs you saw in the the store you went to. Although foods can be spicy in Mexico, the goal is to make food tasty, not burning hot! You can adjust how much heat by choosing the right chili peppers (chiles) or by adding something like peanut butter to decrease the heat of your sauce. Usually the smaller the chili pepper the hotter it will be. Also removing the seeds and the internal ribs of a pepper will decrease the heat of a pepper!! In the past most of the best and better produce was exported and not available for locals to buy. Oranges are not naturally all orange, but folks in the US like orange so that is what we get in the US. I really liked the small reddish bananas, but any fruit in season is usually great. Enjoy!

  57. I think the brick of red stuff is not paprika but recardo. In Belize it is used to flavor stewed chicken and beans and rice, amongst other things.

  58. OMGosh!!! You are hysterical!!! I’ve learned NOT to read your books while trying wind down and go to sleep! I’m usually hiding under the covers laughing!!! 🙂 Mom is very photogenic! I think the two are probably a load of fun!

    P.S. I don’t think they “do” bread and buns…they eat everything in a tortilla! And they probably assume you can make your own!

  59. May i suggest Bacardi Añejo (ahn-YAY-ho) rum? In Puebla, where I’ve studied, you can buy it very reasonably at the OXO (chain convenience store). I wished I could stuff my suitcase, because it’s US$40 in Indy. I’m hoarding the last two shots for my son and me to toast my grandson’s birth in April.
    As for bread, you’re likeliest to find Bimbo white bread (you’ll probably see Bimbo futbol jerseys, too), and you may also find pan tostado — yup! Pre-toasted bread in thick slices like garlic toast only plain.

  60. Your ‘bot doesn’t think I’m human. Too bad; I had all kinds of good grocery advice for you. Hint: I used to own a Caribbean restaurant.

  61. If you’re looking for a modern grocery store, I suggest taking the taxi 30 miles north to Cancun or 30 miles south to playa del Carmen. Walmart is popular with the American and Canadian tourists. There is also a Mega store in playa. I once got sick after eating freshly cut fruit from a street vendor in Mexico. Our resort had a fairly decent grocery store where we could buy the essentials.

  62. Hi Harlot, I like the new web design.

    Glad you found real food. It sounds you found the equivalent of a Canadian ‘variety store’ first.

  63. Hmmm, trying to post but no luck as yet and just found the question.

    Like the new site. But what if I’m an android?? Enjoy the vacation.

  64. Pork rinds, yes, they are a thing. Gross as it sounds, and DH loves them. Me? I leave the area when he insists on having them.

  65. Hello… The pinwheel looking things in bags are actually a chip. You take them, deep fry them and they puff up. Sprinkle them with salt and they are delicious. My aunt sends them to us from California and we love them.

  66. Ants: Grew up with them in Asia and the easiest way to handle them is to just put things on top of water. For your laptop, put some cans in a tray of water and put the lap top on top of that. For food, same thing. In Asia we have special “ant cupboards” where the feet of the cupboard are put in a special plastic thing where the outside is filled with water and the inside is dry – for the legs of the cupboards. You can never kill in the ants in a tropical climate, I’ve discovered, just find ways to live with/around them.

    (Though, having said that, there is a new thing you spread across the path they walk – they eat it and take it back to their home and it kills everyone there. Works for us, we have only one entrance to our house that isn’t already surrounded by water.)

  67. You know, I would happily sacrifice pretty fruit if we could get more fruit that actually tasted like something? Horchata = delicious, as so many have mentioned. If it won’t cause import issues being food products, I’d snap up those bricks of spices & as many dried peppers as I could and do a Tamale Making Day once I got home. As someone mentioned above, it’s a Project, but with so many hands used to the holiday cookie project, I bet it would go swiftly. If you’re going to make tamales, you might as well go BIG and freeze them. Not that they’ll last very long in the freezer, but it’s the thought. I hope you enjoy your trip! I’m pretty envious at the thought of sun, warmth and new food adventures. This may also spur me to install my Rosetta Stone Spanish…I’ve been to scared to get started with it, but I think it may be time now!

    (Also failed the human verification test. Whut?)

  68. Paprika or cayenne will help keep the ants out. ;^)
    Can’t wait to hear about your report on the Panaderia. There will be interesting things like you have never seen before, IME. For me, the culture shock was the melt down I had on my return at the grocery. I hit the cereal aisle and simply had to leave. It was too overwhelming after only 3 weeks of not being barraged by a million decisions to buy groceries.

  69. If you don’t already have some at home, get the staff at the grocery or the liquor store to recommend a good brand of Mexican vanilla extract (what they would use at home when cooking for their mom). My stepmom grew up in southern California and swore by the stuff. When I first went to Mexico, walking across the border to Tijuana in the late ’80s, she made me promise to bring her back a bottle. You could get a 750 ml bottle for the price of an ounce or two of the American brands!

    Yes, I did ask the lady at the store which brand she would use when making something for her mom. And no, she did not steer me to the most expensive brand, either.

    I forget the brand name I bought, but a friend who speaks Spanish better than I questioned the lady closely about it and found the brand was often featured in recipes in cooking magazines!

  70. Horchata is great as long as there is not too much cinnamon in it. If you do have trouble with ants, (in your laptop, where ever!) buy cinnamon sticks and lay them around the area. Old Mexican remedy that really works. We have them in our work room at school!

  71. Pumpkin or sweet potato empanadas are the best! Try the gingerbread pigs (no one has been able to explain the gingerbread in the shape of pigs. Even the Mexican baker didn’t know! Has to be a good reason!) and the semitas too! Love a good Mexican bakery!!

  72. 1. Might yesterday’s rat be an opossum? We get them in the US, I don’t know about Canada, or Mexico, but they do look a lot like large rats.
    2. powdered cinnamon around your laptop should keep ants away…just lay a path.
    3. Have a WONDERFUL time on your adventure!

  73. The chicharrones (fried pork rinds) are delicious, though not especially vegetarian. Look for huge sheets of them in the mercado, if only for the novelty. When my grandmother was still alive, we would walk to the tianguis in her colonia and she would buy me a whole sheet of fresh-fried chicharron. You can use it in beans and as a filling for tacos. Good stuff–except in large quantities!

  74. if you find blackboard chalk at the grocery store, get some and try that for the ants. You draw a square around your laptop, and wherever you think they are getting in the kitchen……….they won’t cross the chalk.

    • Actually, ants will cross chalk. Doesn’t even slow them down! We tried it outside last summer. Haven’t tried cinnamon, though.

      The captcha wants me to drop a “music note” into the circle. There is no music note, but there is a treble clef. I hope that’s what it means!

  75. “¿Podría limpiar el cortador? No comemos carne. ¡Gracías!”
    That means, “Could you please clean the slicer? We don’t eat meat. Thank you!”

    “¿Cocínan con manteca?” = “Do you cook with lard?”

    Vegetariano (Ve-heh-ta-di-AN-o) = Vegetarian

    Tejedora (Teh-heh-DOH-ra) = Knitter (feminine)

    ¡Hasta luego! (Ah-sta Loo-EGG-oh) = “See you later!”

    Hopefully some of this Spanish helps you! My DH is from Mexico & I’m always practicing Spanish with him. 🙂
    Btw, be careful when ordering any “vegetarian” tacos or bean & cheese burritos, as it’s convenient to make deep fried beans & tortillas in lard. :S
    We’re both vegetarian too & nearly found this out the hard way, lol! That’s why I included the lard question up top. Have fun on your trip!!! Cuba & Mexico on one season? I’m so jealous!!! 🙂

  76. We have the pork rind thing over here in the UK too. Called Pork Scratchings it is small pieces deep fried and puffed up. Handy hint: Copy your comment so you can paste it into the box when the computer decides you aren’t a human!!!

  77. Yes, there are pork rinds as snack food. The market is the best place for fruits and vegetables. I’m pretty sure that red bag is not paprika. The blackish/dark brown back might be for (brown) mole and the brownish-green bag could be for green mole… The pale greenish-white is a mystery…

  78. The blog has dumped my comment twice now. I am apparently not human. I really am human, but I’m not retyping again my instructions for yummy home-made tortillas from the masa you found. You’ll have to get a local to show you. Maybe that’s better anyway.

  79. Holidays with Mums are to be treasured. My Mum (88) and I have been going to a cottage every year for a week or three ever since the kids were little. A note about the blog. I do miss seeing the tweets and archives near the main page. Still getting used to a lot of scrolling….

  80. With the small pasta, here’s what you do. Put a little oil in a fry pan and put the pasta in. Heat it until it starts to brown a little. You have to watch it really carefully because it will go from brown to burnt quickly. Stir it around as it’s cooking. Once it’s brown, pour in some salsa. If the salsa is really thick, add water, too. Let it cook until the pasta is tender and the liquid is boiled down pretty far. Then you’ve got the best filler for your corn tortilla that you’ll ever find. That’s how I learned to cook it in northern Mexico anyway. I still have it from time to time and it floods back memories of the friends who taught me to cook a proper Mexican meal. And no meat!

  81. They are called Duritos. Also spelled Duros or Durros

    (no, not Doritos – that is something completely different)

    They are a snack food – you can deep fry them or microwave them. They puff up and get the texture of a pork rind – but they are made from wheat.

    They are a popular street food in parts of Mexico- and make a good warm snack.

  82. We have been on our sailboat in the Caribbean since November 18 and shopping for food has been one of our biggest adventures! Currently we are in Les Saintes, off Guadeloupe. The bread and cheese are fantastic but fruits and veggies are difficult to come by. Sock yarn is, too, by the way. Am having it brought in via visiting family!

  83. Horchata is a rice water drink. A lot of people love it. Not my favorite, but fresh made is better than the bottled. My favorite drinks are Aqua de Melon (Cantaloupe water) or Agua de Sandio (Watermelon water). If you see those, try them!!

  84. Hey I’m a little later to the game (my blog reader stopped uploading your entries with the url change!) but my friend brought the “wheels” back from Guatemala and if you lightly fry them in a pan (like making homemade popcorn) then they puff up into yummy snacks. It was like magic!

  85. I don’t think I’m going to be the first mexican answering this, but the spices look like different kinds of “mole” (in spanich you pronounce the e at the end, so it doesn’t sound like the animal or the skin thing) it is a combination of up to 200 ingredients, the brown one contains cacao amongst them. I can guess it was a pretty small town if the supermercado is like a market. I hope you loved your stay in Mexico.

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