Today is Saturday and that means my taste buds go further south to a place I could call my second home.
Mexican foods attract me, as does the land. I have traveled around much of Mexico. The first, as a child, was just a short visit across the border during a family vacation to San Antonio. I loved it. Later, as a teenager, I journeyed through central Mexico to Chihuahua, Guadalajara and Mexico City. Later went to Acapulco and I’ve even been to places along the west coast and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I have endured conditions from blistering hot to shivering cold climates, mouth parching heat in deserts to blissfully wet thunder showers south of Baja and nasty bugs and ugly beasts that I never want to see again. In my travels, I’ve eaten many of the diverse foods from so many of the states in Mexico. I hope soon to travel back to this varied land.
Today, as I ponder what recipes to share, I think of all these places, and I’m inclined to say, my favorite is still the clear turquoise waters of the Mayan Riviera, memories that go way back. A lot has changed since we first ventured to the area. There is no bumpy two-lane, pothole filled road leading up and down the coast. It is now a thoroughfare. The day ventures by jeep, meandering around cut brush roads along the coast, hoping to find the ‘perfect hideaway’ and sandy beach, which we did many times, are not to be had any longer. Now, there are glorious driveways to fancy resorts. I think the best beaches now have been gobbled up to make way for such ‘grand’ places. If you like that sort of thing, fine. Go to Miami or Cancun. But, selfish me would like the old Riviera the way it was when we first ventured there. Small and sleepy fishing villages dotting the coast from Puerto Morelos to Tulum. No American fast food, no dippin’ dots, no big buildings, that is, nothing higher than the tree tops, and I certainly do not care for the billboards lining the freeway being in English. To me the charm is in figuring out what they are selling, which is mostly beer. That is my idea of a fun vacation, tooling down dusty roads, drinking local beer and discovering what the heck the signs and billboards are trying to tell me.
The foods from these coastal exploits were amazing. They include lime soaked shrimp grilled over wooden embers at a beach side ‘eatery’ (no electricity) on the east side of Cozumel and fresh caught grouper lightly seasoned and grilled with a simple papaya salsa on the outskirts of Akumal. Banana leaf wrapped pork (Cochinita Pibil) in Valladolid not to mention our ‘cheese dip’ episode, but that’s another story. Real down-to-goodness tamales from a elderly woman on Isla Mujeres and I remember the best chicken tortilla soup I’ve ever eaten, discovered down a side street in Playa del Carmen. Not to mention the freshest guacamole, made right at our table by our good friend, Nico and who also served us for years in Playa at our favorite and small hotel. He served us morning breakfast and noontime lunch under our palapa in between keeping our cooler full of ice and beers. From our first day, we rarely asked for a thing, he just appeared as though he knew our wants and I suppose, we being creatures of habit, he did. Mexican people, the land and especially the food attract me.
I hope to visit soon and when viewing and experiencing the changes, I will remember the Riviera as it used to be. These are some of my favorite memories and soon, I hope to ramble some more about others, but for now, I must get to today’s recipes.