When Sylvia Plath's tiny cupcakes came out served under a bell jar, I was officially enchanted. The only thing better than reading about an exquisite meal, is eating one yourself. Those two pleasures combined? Well it's almost too much for those who geek out on great food and great literature.
In Mexico they don't just celebrate independence on one special day, but have an entire patriotic month, September, that arrives as a blur of red, white, and green. Flag sellers set up on street corners starting the end of August and excitement builds as residents young and old wait for the early morning hours of September 16th and the grito de independencia, when Miguel Hidalgo cried for freedom from the steps of his church back in 1810 and the War of Independence from Spain officially commenced.
You know the moment - when the growling in your stomach becomes disruptive to neighbors, your head starts to ache, and you need food. Now. That's the miracle of Mexico's street food: whenever and wherever you are hungry, you can always find something around the corner to fill your stomach. In Mexico City's La Roma, a quirky neighborhood with a lively nightlife, you have dozens of regional cuisine options from all over the country – everything with its own special Mexico City touch. If you decide to venture out, you will fall in love with street eating in La Roma.
“She's from one race and I'm from another,” Elsy says bluntly. “I don't like Hudut, I wouldn't eat it, and she loves it.”
“But why not,” I ask. “It sounds delicious.”
“Yes,” she agrees. “I hear it's very good.”
I hold my breath and wait for Denise to get offended. She has just described the main dish for the holiday Settlement Day, celebrated by the Garifuna in southern Belize where she's from. But she only nods her head in agreement and I shake mine in amazement.
Francisco, my friend Michelle's father, is apparently the king of bacalao. Every year he makes it for Christmas, honoring a tradition that dates back to the Spanish conquest when the conquistadors brought bacalao (salted cod) with them to the New World. The fish was "discovered" by the Basque people, who, in their whale-watching trips to Nordic waters, encountered this northern delicacy and brought it back to their homeland.
Salt cod was originally brought to Mexico by the Spanish during the conquest and quickly became a popular ingredient. This recipe is a Mexican Christmas tradition and a riff off the classic Spanish dish Bacalao a la Biscayne, made with hearty potatoes, salty olives and capers, tomatoes, and chiles.
Rows and rows of sticky, crystallized figs, pears, and pumpkin slices sit beside skulls made from amaranth seed, dipped in chocolate, and delicately decorated with googly eyes and streaks of colored frosting. Mounds of sugar-brushed pan de muerte fill the air with the scent of orange-blossom. Everywhere you look are papel picado flags with images of dancing skeletons and tombstones. It's a world of the dead.
Once upon a time in Mexico, beer options were limited to the big breweries: Modelo and Cuahtemoc. Despite slight variations in color, Mexican beers like Indio, Sol, Tecate, León, Victoria, and Corona taste pretty much the same. They're simple, drinkable beers that cost you about $1.50 and are available everywhere.
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