Embracing the Local, the Artisanal and the Handmade

February 4, 2022

Don’t we all love to enjoy those special foods and drinks from our local area? I know I do! Whenever possible I choose my purchases by how local they are or how artisanal and handmade. I choose to – as much as possible – reject corporate food and drink. If you had to choose a place to buy a burger and fries, wouldn’t it be from a place that buys quality meat, hand cuts the fries and uses fresh oil instead of a Burger King or McDonalds? Sure, there’s a price difference but I would rather go less often and eat better food.

At the top of this post is my latest obsession, mineral water. First, if possible I like to buy in glass bottles but I love that there are several smaller Mexican brands to choose from. I love Topo Chico, which really shouldn’t be included here because it’s now owned by Coca Cola, but it is still a favorite of mine. I love the glass bottles and the color variation in the labels. Here’s the story of Topo Chico, if you’re interested.

Garci Crespo is a wonderful water that comes from Pico de Orizaba and emerges in springs in Tehuacán, Puebla. (Peñafiel is another mineral water brand that seems to have also been founded by Garci Crespo so there is some connection here that I don’t understand yet.)

Agua de Piedra from Nuevo León is another really wonderful mineral water. Each of these have a variation in mineral content and also the amount of carbonation.

Lahar is another water, this time bottled by Cerveceria Colima. They say it is water off the Pacific that falls as rain on the Colima volcano and then is filtered through the volcanic stone. Those of us who lived in the Pacific Northwest when Mt. St. Helens erupted know the word lahar as in “violent and muddy pyroclastic material and debris flow.” The Colima volcano is very active and is just one state over.

I imagine there are other mineral waters that I’ll try over time, but I much prefer spending a little more on these Mexican treats instead of a giant plastic bottle of something made who knows where. How about you?

As you can see from the photo above, I also love to buy our local fermented drinks. Kombucha, beet kvass and ginger beer are my favorites. Most of the local “gringo” grocery stores carry the first three and the last two Lo Vegano products are available at the Monday and Tuesday farmer’s markets. Some of these makers also produce sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented treats, too.

The other day a friend brought me some kefir grains (thank you Mary!) and also gave me these guajes. As you can see when you open the pods there are a bunch of green seeds inside. These are popular eaten raw in salads or put on tacos or anything, really. They are kind of spicy and different!

Whenever we travel (ha ha, it’s been a while!) in Mexico I usually want to head to the main mercado right away. I love seeing the unique foods and vegetables and usually buy too much!

Last week I ran out when the guasana truck went by and bought 30 pesos worth of these fresh garbanzo beans – a huge armful. You pick off the beans and lightly steam and salt them and eat them like edamame. I put some in a salad, too. They are a real seasonal treat and are only around for a few weeks a year. I had these for the first time at a Morelia/Mexico soccer game in Morelia, what a perfect stadium snack!

I’ve been reading a wonderful book called Eating to Extinction by Dan Saladino. This book has made me think more deeply about how important it is to preserve our local specialties, not just for the history of the place but because they are part of what will help us during these times of climate change. If one area gets too cold or warm to grow the usual crops, won’t we be glad to not just be a monoculture and to be able to borrow from other areas?

The book I mentioned is one of the reasons I bought the tiny bananas, above. While there are 1,500 varieties of banana in the world, cultivation is dominated by the Cavendish – the only banana most of us eat. And guess what? There is a fungus threatening the Cavendish – won’t we be glad if there are other options out there, not just to eat but possibly to contribute their genes to the fungus fight? I like these little bananas so much, and they break perfectly into pieces that I put into a half of a date for my sweet treat after a meal.

I hope you all enjoy the local specialties in your area! Please comment and share your favorites! I wonder if any Mazatlán readers will chime in with the fantastic Mazatlán marshmallows (suaves)? If not, you have to give them a try if you visit, here is a little bit about them.

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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. Fascinating to see the guasana Nancy. There are days I miss Mexico so much. Life marches – sometimes hobbles – on here as we dare to hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight. I won’t quote Churchill but you remember what he said about WW2. Glad you are both well and still enjoying wonderful Mexico.

      1. Oh, Anne, How nice to hear from you! We really need to have a reunion one of these days, fingers crossed this pandemic finishes soon! Take care amiga. xoxo

    1. Great article…thank you for educating me to the name guajes…now hoping I remember it. The guajanas that you shared with me sat in a bowl on my counter and I just munched on them raw throughout the week. Delicious!! My new favorite local treat are guayabas de fresa…my neighbor has a tree and he has been sharing them with me all week. He says you will never find them in the market because they go bad so quickly. They have a tart/sweet taste, with little seeds inside to consume and are delicious. I even throw them in my smoothies! If I’m coming your way in the near future, I will drop some off for you to try!

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