LET’S START WITH SHOPPING
We started living here and quickly discovered that if you want fresh veggies, you should go to the tianguis. Most towns have their own market day, and Chapala’s is Monday; neighbor town Ajijic’s is Wednesday. The tianguis are markets set up along the street, sheltered with tarps, and they sell everything imaginable that you can carry away in a bag, from food to clothing and CDs and DVDs and toys.
Some of the veggies are a third the price of the grocery store, and most all are significantly cheaper. And the grocery gets their produce trucked in from who-knows-where, while the tianguis usually get theirs from the nearby Guadalajara farmers market as well as their own gardens or farms. Not as convenient as one-stop shopping in a store, but it’s always fun and interesting.
There are so many different veggies and fruits available, many of which I’ve never encountered. My what-the-hell-is-that moments are getting fewer and farther between, but they still happen.
We are now buying our veggies for the week here, and we will either buy a couple of fresh fish (whole and cleaned or filleted) or some chicken breasts, all very fresh and tasty. We buy our hamburger (real cubes of fresh beef ground while we watch) and bacon sliced to our specs at a little butcher shop or carniceria across the street from the Soriana grocery store. If we need fresh cheeses, we can get that at the tianguis too.
On Tuesdays there is an organic market where I buy my assorted lettuces and salad leaves, like baby spinach, sorrel, and Swiss chard, since many are already washed and disinfected or at least the dirt mostly rinsed out. More expensive, but organic – and it saves me a lot of work. This market has organic breads and prepared foods, honey, eggs, clothing, juices, all kinds of produce, organic soaps, toothpaste, shampoo and more – and it’s in an actual building.
Then there’s Super Lake grocery where you can get all kinds of gringo food so you can eat like you’re still in the States – for a price. For example, I bought a small roll of frozen Jimmy Dean sausage for some stuffed jalepenos I want to make, and that cost me $8.50 US! I had already bought the other ingredients at Soriana or I would have opted out.
The local Walmart has a lot of gringo stuff – especially in the “ethnic section” – and looks more familiar. A lot of expats shop at Walmart and Super Lake, but they’re missing out on the experience of living in Mexico, if you ask me. They’re often afraid to venture out to the markets. We have shopped in them since we got here in mid-February and have never had or seen a problem or anything to be afraid of.
We have found the people here very nice and welcoming and helpful, even though our Spanish is pretty pitiful. Yes, there is crime, yes, there is violence, but you don’t go where that is, for the most part. Sometimes you can’t avoid it, but it’s the same back home too. Really, it’s family people going about their business of living here, not a bunch of thugs and pickpockets waiting to prey on the gringos. You might end up paying a little more than local Mexicans in the markets unless you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and bargain, but it’s to be expected. Even just hesitating and starting to leave will often get you a much better price automatically. The prices are better than you’d ever get in the States, so many gringos just pay them the quoted amount.
So, when in Rome – or wherever you are – do as the locals do. You’ll be richer for it, both experientially and financially!
On to our first recipe!
I have always loved guacamole, but I never had the gumption to try to make my own. It’s so easy – who knew! Great with chips or Lorena made it as a side dish when she prepared fish for us.
For two to four servings, depending on your serving size, you need:
2 man-fist-sized avocados that are a little soft, nicely ripe
1 large or two small Roma tomatoes, finely diced
½ medium onion, finely diced
1 large limon (key lime) or half a regular lime
fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Choosing avocados was daunting to me until I’d bought a lot of them and have had them ripening in the kitchen. I now know that it’s great when it’s just a little soft all over. If there are areas that you can actually press in on, that part might be black inside – yuk. Then you have to just scoop around that part. Avocados don’t really ripen on the tree, apparently, so often they are rock hard at the store. Just take them home and put them in a bowl on the counter and check on them till they’re ripe. Or I’ve heard putting them in a paper bag might be better. I haven’t tried that yet.
Take a big knife and slice the avocado, seed deep, all the way around longways. Twist the two halves and they will come apart with the seed staying in one side. Whack your knife blade into the seed, give it a little twist, and it will come out cleanly – keep the seed handy.
Scoop out the tasty meat from both avocados into a bowl, and mash it with a fork. Squeeze the limon (lime) juice onto the mash to prevent any browning of the fruit if you get delayed. Use quite a bit of juice for great flavor. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Play with the amount of cilantro, limon juice, and salt to get the flavor you want. Serve with chips – and margaritas! It’s also wonderful as just a side salad-y dish with many of your favorite meals.
Garnish with some tomato pieces, onion bits, and cilantro and/or chips
TIPS: If your guacamole is going to be served a little later, put the seed back into the middle of it. Somehow it helps to keep it fresh. Cover with plastic wrap, placed directly on the guacamole so that the contact with air is minimized and refrigerate.
Also, if you will find the tostadas, possibly in the Mexican food aisle, these make very fine-tasting chips if you break them up. Probably significantly cheaper than a bag of chips too, though not as perfectly pretty.