Thoughts on Food

October 11, 2007

I love food. And I am a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat or seafood because I have an active visual side to me that brings up images of the critter in its live state that spoils any chance that I might want to eat it in its (dead) state…

I really sometimes wish I could eat meat, as life would be a lot easier, especially in Mexico.

But I can’t change who I am, so there are always a lot of challenges for me that relate to food.

I love vegetables.

I love spring vegetables, peas and asparagus tossed with some parmesan, red pepper flakes, pepper, olive oil, and penne pasta.

I love summer with zuchinni, corn, onions and black beans.

Winter and fall with hearty lentil soup and crusty bread. Roasted root vegetables. Baked potatoes with chile on top.

It’s a whole new world with new seasons and foods to go with them here in Mazatlan. I have a lot to learn!

Last night I made a pot of rice and we topped it with an onion-jalapeno-zuchinni-black bean mixture that was really delicious.

But it’s when we go out to eat that things can be challenging. I eat a lot of quesadillas – or sometimes I push them around on the plate…too greasy to eat. Sometimes the salad that was requested without bacon comes with it instead. Sometimes the refried beans have so much lard or something in it that I can’t eat them.

Yesterday we wanted a little celebratory comida next to the ocean (we picked up our FM3’s) and I ordered a green salad. It was a couple of pieces of iceberg lettuce with a few bitter pieces of green pepper and some tomato and cucumber. No dressing, just a couple of squeezes of lime…. Would it have been so hard to put a little cilantro and maybe a shake of chili powder? Or some jicama? Or a red pepper?

So, my question is – where is the love for vegetables in Mexico? What am I missing?

To be fair, I had a wonderful meal a couple of days ago of a potato taco and tostado that they whipped up for me when I explained I was “vegetariana.” There is also a place with a wonderful vegie chile relleno, a pizza place with wood fired pizza and usually good salads (except for the mishap with the bacon.) And there is a juice/sandwich place that is really excellent, too. We had excellent pasta at a restaurant up in the golden zone, too. We have heard about a place that makes baked potatoes with many different toppings and we need to try it soon.

There must be several hundred restaurants at least here in Mazatlan, and I don’t want to restrict us to only going to ones that seem like they’ll have good options for me. Makes me feel like a party-pooper. I don’t mind eating salads all the time if they were actually salads that I felt like the chef cared about.

So there’s my challenge – trying to be a good sport when I don’t get good food. And being open enough to try restaurants that may not seem at first to be a good candidate for a vegie meal. I was very pleasantly surprised the other night….and look forward to many more great vegie meals like that potato taco.

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More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Jalisco after 11 years in Mazatlán, México.

    1. Mexicans are meat eaters for sure, and most restaurants cater to them exclusively. The salads I’ve been served are much like the one you described.

      Yet I’ve found a few vegetarian dishes here and there, but mainly as street food. In San Miguel, the lady with the brazier under the Quebrada Street bridge makes gorditas filled with potatoes and carrots. Vegetarian, but not recommended, the baggies of orange corn puffs covered with onions and peppers in tomato sauce. Roasted or steamed ears of corn are good, though.

      A couple of itinerant vendors here sell steamed, green garbanzo beans, or cacahuates (goobers), or roasted yams.

      But the best is fruit, cucumber and jicama doused with lime, salt and chile powder, served in a one-quart clear plastic cup.

      I’ve gotten bacterial infections and amoebas in Mexico, but only in your better restaurants Never from street food.

    1. I was recently on a trip in Mexico with a vegan. Be thankful that at least you eat cheese and eggs! He basically had two choices, starve or go lacto-ovo, which he did. For the week he ate mostly quesadillas.

      We were given the wonderful opportunity of eating at a Mexican friend’s house. His mom made special chiles rellenos for my vegetarian friend. I thought that was nice of her.

      I was a vegetarian for a few years but went omnivore when I was an exchange student in order to be easier to accommodate. Now I love seafood and find that I eat beef maybe 3 times a year.

      Sounds like you’ll be cooking a lot!

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Come on over to East Mexico as we have more vegetarian restaurants in our area than we had in Colorado Springs/Pueblo.

      You will have to try some of the more exotic vegetables like Chiote, Huitlacoche and Gasparitos and others I can’t spell or pronounce ;-)Then fruits like Chicozapotes

      We do eat the occasional shrimp or fish but very seldom – less (read none) since my mishap in New Mexico with the penicillin laced breaded shrimp from China – ouch!

      We find the vegetables more flavorful here – tomatoes, potatoes, the vast varieties of peppers and some varieties of lettuce etc.

      I bet with a little more time under your belt you will find more suitable foods that fits your diet.

      In the past three years spending six months in th States and then six here in Mexico we always returned to the States feeling starved for good vegetables and fruits – oh and the carrots and oranges are great here not to mention all the free bananas from our two yards ;-)And my personal favorite a kilo of avocados for 17 pesos (that’s 5 LARGE green globes for $1.57 US – yummmm!

      One of the reasons we are in Mexico is the food is sooo much better than it was in Colorado – perhaps you had better luck in Washington?

      We live in a sub-tropical climate here where if you shove a broomstick in the ground three days later it will sprout. You gotta LOVE IT!

      John Calypso

    1. Sorry – one other thing – Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want (sans meat products etc.) You will find typically the restaurants are very accommodating with a willingness to make you something special and often MUY SABROSA!

      Juan Calypso

    1. I agree with Juan Calypso, don’t be afraid to order off the menu. I was thinking of all the resturants that we frequent and I cannot think of a single one that would not be more than happy to make a special dish for you. One day last week we were at a steakhouse, and the chef was doing a vegetarian meal for a group from India. Just last night we were out and I was kidding about Lobster Newberg with the cook, guess what I had for dinner!

    1. Um, with all due respect, what “you’re missing” is cultural difference. Vegetarianism is still relatively rare in many parts of Mexico. Therefore, salads are not a priority in many places because the priority is a meat dish. What you’re missing is that *your* priorities and what you’re used to is not universal. Leave your home and leave your comfort zone. People do things differently and think about things differently in different cultures. Your touchstones are not one size fits all. What you like and you know is not what everybody likes and everybody knows. Welcome to Mexico and get ready for many more “I don’t get it” experiences. You often won’t get it, and in some cases might not get it for long while, but live here long enough and rest assured, eventually you will. Then you’ll be going back to the US and not getting it there!

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