If you want to eat fresh food that is locally caught for a good price, than Mexico is the place to be. We have probably cooked 75% of our meals on the boat and have eaten the rest out. We get our groceries from a mix of sources. For dry goods, we shop at MEGA which is a large, Mexican Wal-Mart style store. Fresh fruit and vegetables we often buy at the local market or food store, however if we don’t go there the day of, or the day after their vegetable delivery then the selection is bad and the fruits start to rot. There are Costcos scattered throughout Mexico and that is where we get harder to find American items (like candy and maple syrup) and large quantities of certain food items. We have tried to stick to the philosophy of “Eat like a Mexican” (local stores, fresh foods, taco stands) because of the tremendous cost savings. Eating out at American style restaurants and shopping at Walmart (yes, they are here) can greatly increase the food budget.
Some cities like Mazatlan and Manzanillo have huge Central Markets with an abundance of fresh fruits, veggies and meats. A visit to Mexico would not be complete without going to one. There are stacks upon stacks of colors, smells and sounds. Lauren B. teases me about my low tolerance for the butcher sections. But can you blame me if I could live without ever having to see another pig head staring at me? Remember the paintings where the eyes seem to follow you as you walk across it? That’s the way the pig heads are.
However our favorite part of the food experience in Mexico is the street food. Our go-to places for lunch are street taco stands, where we can get a taco for 10 pesos (one dollar). They cook up the meat fresh right there. There are other types of street food vendors. Many times vendors selling juices will set up camp underneath a bridge to sell drinks to people waiting for the buses. They sell different types of their “agua frescas” such as horchata (a sweet creamy rice drink with cinnamon), Jamaica juice (a tea made from a flower that tastes similar to cranberry juice), and others. There are snack carts that sell candy, nuts and chips as well. On the beaches, it is common to see ladies walking around selling homemade flan, baked goods and fruit cups. Most beaches are scattered with Palapa restaurants (the buildings with palm-leaf roofs). These restaurants tend to serve seafood dishes with ingredients caught that morning.
Now – I’m going to switch gears on you for a minute. A talk about food in Mexico would not be complete without mentioning “Montezuma’s Revenge” or “Turista” as they call it down here. Yes, it is the dreaded travellers diarrhea. What I can say about this less-glamorous part of the food experience is this: When eating out, say “No lechuga” (lettuce). Unless you are at a fancy restaurant, it is unlikely that lettuce has been properly washed. Much of the hielo (ice) in Mexico is purified now but in smaller towns don’t count on it. It is also important to not eat fruit cups that some vendors sell on the street as it is almost impossible to guess how long they have been sitting out in the sun. Some remedies that I have used are Pepto Bismol, Activia yoghurt (which is everywhere down here) and Imodium. When we buy fruits and veggies for the boat, I soak them in a mixture of water and Microdyn, an iodine solution that kills most bacteria.
We will miss the food in Mexico when we leave, and we know that we have more food adventures awaiting us in French Polynesia and beyond!