The last time I was in Mexico, it was in the middle of the hottest summer I have ever had the displeasure of sweating through. There were bugs that were so large that I have blocked them out of my memory. I ate a combination of three things almost every day for 2.5 weeks: chicken soup, pan tostado, and Coca-Cola from a glass bottle. I spent my time in three remote villages in the South.
When I went back to Mexico recently, it was as a young professional in the city of Leon.
When I sat down to write about my recent trip, I realized that one of the most adventurous things I did on the trip was a very out-of-my-comfort-zone dinner. I can honestly say that I enjoyed everything on my plate and hope to eat it all again. My next post will be about the history of Guanajuato, but this post is all about the food.
What I Ate In Mexico
I have never been a person that voluntarily eats insects, let alone craved them after the fact, but I went full Andrew Zimmern in Mexico and found myself noshing through a WanderLost Travels version of Bizarre Foods. Every time we went to a meal, I asked my coworker if there were any traditional Mexican dishes on the menu. This led to me having the most unique dining experience I’ve had to date.
Disclaimer: This is nothing compared to Jake’s long list of impressive eats, including but not limited to: shark, buffalo, rattlesnake, cactus, worms, deer heart (raw), pig brain, alligator, snapping turtle, pheasant, snails, rabbit, wild turkey, armadillo, antelope jerky, conch, various wild plants such as pine needle tea, catnip tea, paw paws, May apples, cattail tubers, and last but not least, a big grub on a bet. But I digress as I realize we just lost all of our Vegan friends.
It’s a little known fact, but I am terrified of crickets. It’s a very real irrational fear that I have. I used to work in a place that had a cricket infestation. I would typically be paying invoices while one persistent cricket chirped. I could find and Hulk Smash all of the rest, but never this guy. It had the effect that I imagine Chinese Water Torture has. Now every time I hear a cricket, I cringe, tear up, and look for the fastest route away from the symphony of Hell.
So naturally, I could not pass up the chance to eat the persistent cricket’s next of kin when the opportunity presented itself at an upscale restaurant in Leon, Mexico (#retribution). At first, I was hesitant to try the crickets, but I did not want my coworkers to see me lose my cool over a few dead insects. I ordered the dish and was amazed! The crickets were so delicious that I found myself going back for thirds. My coworkers agreed that we could eat the light and crunchy dish as a daily snack.
But why stop with crickets when I was on the path to eating as many traditional dishes as I could before I had to hop on a plane back to the States? Brace yourself for the main course that I couldn’t believe I allowed myself to order:
You could say that I really made out with all of the food in Mexico (you’re not the only person disappointed in that joke!). The Taco de Lengua was a surprise for me. Once I got past the look of the dish (which was a cow tongue stuck directly onto a tortilla with a few toppings), I could appreciate the texture and tenderness of the meat.
And to top it all off? Tequila con Alacran (Tequila with Scorpion)!
Not only did I eat a scorpion, but the plate that came out with the drink had fruits, spices, salt, and a sizeable amount of crushed worm. While I did not mind the taste of the worm and was intrigued by its lovely, deep pink color, its granular nature made it challenging to get out of my teeth. Was it hard to think about eating something that I regularly see dead on the sidewalk in summer? Actually, after the crickets, this part wasn’t so bad.
Eating Local Dishes
It’s only been in the past year that I’ve made a pointed effort to eat local and traditional dishes when I travel. Food is a large part of every culture, so being open to trying something new is another way to gain insight into a different part of the world. It’s no surprise that foreign dishes that you love taste infinitely better when made in their country of origin.
Sharing Meals Together
Beyond the types of food you’re eating, sharing a meal with someone else is a special event. Holidays are celebrated by breaking bread together, so sharing a meal with someone else should be a little everyday celebration. On this trip, I enjoyed celebrating with members of my company’s Mexico office and connecting with them about life and work. We have a richer understanding of one another that conference calls and e-mails do not achieve.
Reflecting On The Past
Through this trip I am reminded of my last time in Mexico, where my host family made my entourage special pizzas with ketchup for the tomato sauce and canned Lit’l Smokies on top because they wanted to make us feel at home. Whether you are of the Chicago deep dish persuasion or prefer a thinner pie, you can imagine that the pizza did not taste like the usual American pizza my group was accustomed to.
It didn’t matter. We were all so moved that people opened their homes to us and went to such lengths to make us comfortable, especially when they had so little. During my Leon visit, I did not forge a river in the back of a chicken truck like I did when I was 11, and I wasn’t sleeping in the room that a daughter graciously gave up for the duration of our stay. I had coworkers that went out of their way to pick me up at the airport and eat with me at every meal, and I stayed in a nice hotel. It was a completely different experience, yet both trips were incredible. The people I interacted with were vibrant, engaged, and full of stories. The buildings were colorful. The food was fresh and fantastic. I sincerely appreciate both trips because of the beauty of the Mexican culture that has continued to leave an impact on me.