16 June 2009

Mexican Flies

Mexican flies are far more difficult to swat than norteamericano flies. Mexican flies are faster and can escape and evade far more skillfully than fat, slow norteamericano flies. I base this solely on anecdotal evidence—all of the anecdotes my own—but to me that evidence is overwhelming.

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I must return to the subject of eating out on the economy for a moment. Tomorrow I will have been in Mexico for two weeks precisely. During that time I have eaten in a restaurant once, and I have never eaten at a food stand. Other than that one time, I have washed and cooked my own food entirely.

Now then, if it were possible financially for me to eat at the restaurants in the historic downtown district every day, such as Harry's New Orleans Café, I would without hesitation. They are as safe as any restaurant in downtown Chicago, but their prices are the same as swanky American restaurants because in great part they are feeding Americans and some filthy rich Mexicans here and there. That is not going to work for me.

So that brings me to the real Mexican restaurants up the street here. In spite of horror stories such as California Ruthie's, I am going to roll the dice now and again after sizing the place up as best I can. So many of these are sidewalk cafés, and I'm tellin' ya! That food looks and smells delicious! And it bears no relationship whatsoever to the “Mexican food” that we have in Iowa, near as I have been able to tell. Lots of new and interesting stuff. Occasionally, I am going to roll the dice with some of these little Mexican restaurants.

So what about the sidewalk food stands? I don't know. These places are where the working Mexicans eat their lunch. There is this one stand that intrigues me because of the tortillas they turn out. Mexicans crowd around it for lunch, and they do not seem to be keeling over.

On the other hand, my friend Rick the Sailor some years ago caved for some ice cream a little further south on the Gulf coast--rich, beautiful, delicious ice cream from a Mexican stand. He fell deathly ill. I can no more afford to become ill than I can afford to eat up town.

But who is to say that I will not fall ill from this Mexican butter that I am about to slather on these beautiful garbanzo beans—chickpeas to you southerners? The Mexican F.D.A. does not inspire confidence. I am developing a great fondness for the Mexican people, and I would not want any insulted by a comment like that. So let me hasten to explain that the reason I say that the Mexican F.D.A. does not inspire confidence is not because there are no intelligent, competent, and dedicated people working in the Mexican F.D.A. There undoubtedly are. It is just that there are no funds down here. There are no funds for anything down here. I don't care how competent or how dedicated you are, you cannot do much to ensure the food is safe if you do not have adequate funding.

It all boils down to a crap shoot.

But life is a fuckin' crap shoot, so what the hell?

It is just that it would be a goddamned shame to have survived the Mexican army and the Mexican police and the Mexican narcos up there on the border and then get nailed by Mexican butter in the heart of this country. At my wake I'm not so sure I wouldn't rather have my children be able to say, “The narcos got 'im down in Mexican” than have them have to say, “He got some bad Mexican butter.”

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Perhaps nobody except me will find any of this interesting at all. So be it.

I visited a new addition to San Miguel de Allende the other day. High end condos are being built in there. What I found most interesting was that the new streets being laid in were of cobblestone. It was fascinating to see a brand new cobblestone street being installed. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera. In any event this new addition will conform in general appearance with the rest of the city.

There are some street repairs going on now in the historic downtown. These are ancient streets, and this one is not technically cobblestone. I would call it “slabstone.” There are squares of rock carefully mortared in to make a very attractive checkerboard patterned street that is much smoother than the cobblestone. The colored granite squares that you see are really the sidewalk, not the street.

This is Canal on the way up to El Jardin, that shaded plaza that I keep returning to.

You can see that the crew is simply jackhammering out the old squares of rock that have shattered and are mortaring in new flat slabs of rock.

We are not going to let a contract to lay blacktop over the top of these stone streets as they did with my beloved brick streets in Cedar Rapids. Of course I realize that Cedar Rapids does not have the immense amount of cheap labor that would be necessary to repair those brick streets. We have enough cheap labor here to construct a street out of little cat's eye marbles and mortar if we wish.


Candy Minx said...

I can not believe it's been two weeks already. Time has flown by!

I hope that the accounts of fear with food are exagerated. Um is there any advice to how long your tummy's natural bbalance and bacteria will take to adjust to a new climate and new digestive bacteria in Mexico? I believe if you were to venture out to eating something you didn't prepare yourself...I believe the trick is to only eat a small portion.

Tourists tend to overeat when they find new foods...whether in Mexico or in Canada or in Spain etc. Thats why people get ill travelling because our immune systems are for our own neighbourhoods. So to build up your immune system...maybe eating half a taco. Half a portion of food...and then wait a few days. Don't eat a whole meal out in a restaurant.

I don't know, I'm sure you've done a lot of research on this...but my feeling in: just a bite. Let your tummy develop and accept new bacteria.

Señor Steve said...

You know something, Candy? I was coming around to that very theory myself. It makes sense, doesn't it? The concept of lack of acquired immunity to the byproducts of new bacteria explains why a nation of Mexicans seem to be able to eat stuff that puts American tourists under.

I shall work my way into this gradually.

Ruth said...

I ate all over the place with impunity, Steve. As long as you stay away from the water, or stuff that could be washed in water, and stick to the real Mexican food, I think you'll be okay.

It was going for a rare steak that did me in. Mexican cuisine is usually well cooked. That takes care of those nasty little bugs.

Sheila said...

I ate from street stalls throughout Central America. Just use commonsense. Look at the vendors hands, watch the turnover, best avoid fried stuff as the oil is often old, but I found it OK and never had real problems. And you are correct about it being very different than americanised mexican food! But I do agree with Candy, adjust gradually. You are adjusting to the climate gradually so that should help - there is always a tendency to either overeat, because its a holiday! or undereat because you are too hot and too not drink enough water. YOur innards will adjust, you will notice the change as the gut flora and fauna change. Don't make too many changes at the same time eg don't go from all meat eater to vegetarien at the same time as changing the cuisine. Good luck.

Señor Steve said...

Great suggestions, guys.

It is not that I am a finicky eater. Far from it. Hell, I waded right in over in Asia in my younger days. It is just that the stakes are a little higher here. I cannot afford to get sick.

We will tackle this just as y'all have suggested.