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January 4th, 2009:

We are one with Street Food Vendors of Querétaro

We felt obligated to take advantage of both of us having New Year’s Day 2009 off from work, and so parlayed it into a 2-night stay in Querétaro, a town of ~1.6 million people located two hours northwest of Mexico City. Our recent string of luck continued, as we happened upon yet another holiday festival– the town squares were bustling with folks celebrating the New Year with their families & street vendors doing a “land office business”, as we like to say back in the Midwest.

One of the most prevalent offerings appeared to be these sandwiches made with buns that were liberally fried in oil (in the center of that grill they are sitting on). I was initially tempted, until I saw one up close & realized that the red-ish coloring was the oil that permeated through almost the entire bun... Sounded like a recipe for a displeased tummy... :)

One of the most prevalent offerings appeared to be these sandwiches made with buns that were liberally fried in oil (in the center of that grill they are sitting on). I was initially tempted, until I saw one up close & realized that the red-ish coloring was the oil that permeated through almost the entire bun... Sounded like a surefire recipe for a displeased tummy... :)

I will admit, I have been a bit shy about partaking from street vendors during my stay in México thus far. The food always (well, almost always) looks amazing, but my stomach is not über-resiliant to new bacteria friends in general, and YMMV when it comes to hygiene practices at any given food cart. However, the delights being proffered in the aisles of vendors along the north & south sides of Jardin Zenea were attractive enough to inspire me to gamble.

To cut to the punchline, I ate at SIX fantastic street vendors in Queretaro and did not get remotely sick!! I was very excited about this accomplishment, which I interpreted both to mean that my stomach is becoming as strong as a team of Clydesdale horses, and that Queretan food stalls excel in cleanliness.

The only trick about dining at street vendors is that the bathroom options are fairly limited, so one must be careful to resist the siren call of these tasty drinks with Squirt & fresh-squeezed OJ too early in the evening. I held strong, despite the fact that you GET TO KEEP THE GLASS the drink is served in, and free glassware (or earthenware?) is my Achilles heel...

The only trick about dining at street vendors is that the bathroom options are fairly limited, so one must be careful to resist the siren call of these tasty drinks with Squirt & fresh-squeezed OJ too early in the evening. I held strong, despite the fact that you GET TO KEEP THE GLASS the drink is served in, and free glassware (or earthenware?) is my Achilles heel...

To highlight our fine dining selections between John & me:

  1. a tamale verde (tamale stuffed with green salsa & pork), probably the most flavorful tamale I’ve ever had. (Confession: as my first course of the evening, this is an admittedly wussy choice– tamales are known for being one of the “safest” options from street vendors, because they are made in advance, wrapped in their protective corn-husk jacket and steamed, thereby being the epitome of safe food handling practices. But hey, I was easing into things, ok?)
  2. elote (corn), cut off the cob, piled into a styrofoam cup, and covered in lime juice, mayo, chili powder, salt & shredded cheese
  3. pseudo-flan (aka, something that looked like flan & we thought was just plain-old flan but apparently we misunderstood when we asked the lady who was selling it, because though it had the consistency of flan, it had a nutty flavor. Still good though!)
  4. tacos al pastor , these are cooked on a spit similar to another favorite of mine, gyros. The pork is marinated with various spices & chili peppers, cooked vertically, then served with onions, cilantro, and whatever other toppings you desire!  I always get excited about adding guacamole salsa to them, which is sooo good but also sooo spicy (be forewarned)

    Our Tacos al Pastor vendor hard at work

    Our Tacos al Pastor vendor hard at work

  5. churros rellenos, basically Mexican donuts (with a straight line instead of circular shape) filled with whatever goo your heart desires– we opted for fresa (strawberry) and cajeta (carmel-y syrup)

    John excitedly waits for his fresh churro action

    John excitedly waits for his fresh churro action

  6. and finally, un esquimo, a milkshake-like drink made by blending ice, mystery liquid (likely evaporated milk/water), and flavoring (we recommend Rompope, an intriguing eggnog-flavored liquor).

    This esquimo stand was a 4-blender operation.

    This esquimo stand was a 4-blender operation.

The best part of the esquimo is that while we were standing in line to place our order, we observed that you could select either a cup or plastic bag as your serving vessel. John was undecided for a while, but after the two locals in line ahead of us BOTH opted for the plastic bag + straw, he determined that must be the auténtico way to go. This was another first for me (drinking from a baggie), and I think it totally helped us to blend in with the locals & offset my height…

In summary, our New Year’s Day dinner cost a total of about 80 pesos for two people (aka $5.78 USD), and each course was fantastic! My street vendor bravery continues to increase.  And don’t worry– when my luck runs out, I will try to spare you the details of any gastrointestinal repercussions.

Various Forms of Security in México

Security personnel are incredibly pervasive throughout México, but we’ve seen a few incarnations in the last couple months that strike me as particularly amusing.

"I totally have this situation under control. As you can see, I've been working out. I strategically chose this height of stone to maximize the view for the ladies."

"I totally have this situation under control. As you can see, I've been working out. I strategically chose this height of stone to maximize the view for the ladies."

Mark & John take their turns guarding the highly-coveted Santo mask

Mark & John take their turns guarding the highly-coveted Santo mask

During our visit to Garibaldi Plaza, we were befriended by this gentlemen on the left who was selling cervezas & tequila shots, who seemed to take ownership of our little group of 6 gringos. When crazies approached us trying to sell crap (i.e. not tequila/cerveza) or beg for money, he shooed them away. Here, our bartender-turned-security-detail is seen in a rare moment of letting his guard down with Ben & the bottle of tequila in question

During our visit to Garibaldi Plaza, we were befriended by this gentlemen on the left who was selling cervezas & tequila shots, who seemed to take ownership of our little group of 6 gringos. When crazies approached us trying to sell crap (i.e. not tequila/cerveza) or beg for money, he shooed them away. Here, our bartender-turned-security-detail is seen in a rare moment of letting his guard down with Ben & the bottle of tequila in question

 

And finally, you may recall Ponch from the television classic CHiPs in the late 70's-early 80's, yes...?

And finally, you may recall Ponch from the television classic CHiPs in the late 70's-early 80's, yes...?

Well, the town of Morelia has Ponch on duty 24-7, intently trying to figure out the protocol for writing traffic tickets. Classic.

Well, the town of Morelia has Ponch on duty 24-7, intently trying to figure out the protocol for writing traffic tickets. Classic.

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