Taco Tour Veracruz

I left Torreón about a week ago and flew to the city of Veracruz and I have now visited several cities in this state, Veracruz, Córdoba, Yanga, Amatlán, La Patrona, and Xalapa. I visited a couple of them for research purposes and some of them for interest. I ate taco or taco adjacent food in Veracruz, Córdoba and Xalapa.

Veracruz, the first city I visited, is a port city, with weather roughly equivalent to South Carolina. Unlike South Carolina, people walk outside and don’t blast AC everywhere. I visited the city for two reasons: to look at the setting of a famous legend (La mulata de Córdoba) and to go to the beach. I did both. I did not eat any tacos. I did eat tostadas, which are toasted tortillas with some kind of something on top. I had some with shrimp, and some mixed shrimp and ceviche. Highly recommend.

After than, I moved on to the city of Córdoba, to see where this mysterious figure came from. It also turns out that Córdoba is famous for its coffee, so I went to a coffee museum and drank coffee at every possible turn. I did not eat tacos there, but the city is worth mentioning because in my hotel for breakfast I had empanadas that tasted exactly like verenicke, Mennonite perogies (which in parts of Northern Mexico are sold as empanadas menonitas, so I guess it wasn’t that much of a stretch). (They had cheese inside. I was expecting meat, and somehow, even though it was a tortilla shell, it tasted just like fried venericke). I sadly took no pictures of these empanadas.

In Xalapa I have had exceptional taco luck. Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet some people who work to promote human rights, as it pertains to women and girls, in the city of Xalapa. After meeting these people, I happened upon comida corrida (set menu) where tacos were the main.

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Then today, I went to see a tomb dedicated originally to land rights activists (agraristas) and which has since been renamed for illustrious residents of the state of Veracruz. After seeing the park where this tomb is located, I had Pakistani tacos.

This has been a great trip so far for many reasons, but tacos, of course, remain # 1.

 

 

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Taco Tour Torreón

Torreón is a city in the north-central part of the country, about halfway between Ciudad Juarez (which borders El Paso Texas) and Mexico City. I have been to this city before to go to and from La Honda, in Zacatecas. This time I am not seeing any Mennonites, nor am I, sadly, eating any delicious Mennonite food. I am, however, eating delicious food.

I have found time in between my trips to archives and museums to eat gorditas and tacos. On Thursday, I went to the local “Casa de Cultura Jurídica,” which is essentially a small library, archives and information area affiliated with the national supreme court. The archives were remarkably efficient and so I was able to examine multiple documents – dealing with the massacre of Chinese descendant people in 1911- in a short period of time. (I’m writing about an excellent novel that upends the traditional historical discourse on these events, Julián Herbert’s La casa del dolor ajeno). This left me more time to see museums and also eat delicious food. Below, you will see some gorditas. They are kind of like pupusas, as in, they are thick tortillas filled with things. They are made slightly differently, and are very tasty. Since I ate in, I got to have coke from a glass bottle. After that I went to the Museum of the Revolution, to see what it had to say about the massacre.

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Gorditas La Pestaña

The next day, I went to go see a museum, Casa de Cultura Arocena. I was interested in seeing what this museum said about the same events. The museum was well done, and the narrative arc of Mexican history included African descendant people (something I have not seen in other Mexican museums in Mexico). It also had an “annex,” which is a building that used to be the Chinese bank, which I also wanted to see. The inside was renovated but the outside may have preserved some of its original facade. Inside, of the Russell annex there was a new exhibit on soccer. Since one Torreón’s stadiums was called “La casa del dolor ajeno” so this was interesting to me. (The Russek family that donated the annex to the museum is likely related to a group of Russeks in Chihuahua who were notaries or bankers involved in some land dealings with Mennonites. For those readers I know academically, you’ll notice the same surname as a great critic of Mexican literature and photography.) I then did some other tourist things without melting in the heat – including eating a snack in a very cute restaurant.

In the evening, I heard a Supreme Court Justice (Margarita Beatriz Luna Ramos) speak about gender and the law, and then I ate tacos. At a place called Taco Taco (this place was recommended by a Mennonite person I met while doing research in Chihuahua, so as you can see, all my interests converge). They were so good – immediately improved my already pretty good mood and had such a nice mix of flavors with all the different salsas. They came with 8 different salsas, some of which reflect the Arab influence on Torreón’s food (the onions look just like shawarma onions) and there was one salsa with sesame seeds mixed with chiles. I wish I had been hungry enough to try more!

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Taco Taco

Re-starting my blog

I used to be famous for taco tours and my taco blog, back in a day when the internet was different, weirder, more personal, less SEO-based. I think it is time to go back to my blog. I will probably never be famous for it (it is more likely that I will get famous in my academic field than that I will be a famous tacoguru) but it seems worthwhile.

This summer I am in Mexico for about a month doing research, and then I will be at home writing up the research. In this time, I guarantee you, my loyal readers,  a couple of posts each week about tacos, in Mexico and in the UNited States. Get ready.

Cooking Another Cookbook

I am currently on a research leave and so I have time. A lot more time. So, I have taken up cooking again. Those of you who have followed my blog for quite some time may remember when I cooked through Plenty and Jerusalem. I started to work my way through Plenty More and then I got the Oh She Glows Everyday cookbook for Christmas, and decided to work my way through that. It is a vegan cookbook, which is handy since I don’t eat dairy unless I’m taking my Target brand lactaid pills. The cookbook does have hilarious ideas about appropriate protein levels. I am sure they are are more than enough to survive, but I lift weights, so I prefer to eat a bit more protein.

This cookbook is great for several reasons: none of the recipes are difficult to cook, they don’t typically involve a lot of unusual ingredients (which is handy as I am only staying in my apartment for 4 months and don’t want to stock an entire kitchen), work well with substitutions, and are delicious. There are also not a ton of recipes, so I think that this project is a bit more feasible than my Jerusalem project.

The recipes also often call for a food processor or vitamix, but this little guy works fine for most recipes I’ve tried.

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Today there is a snowstorm and nothing is open so I took the opportunity to write at home instead of the library and spend my breaks cooking. I am also happy that I got my groceries delivered yesterday, instead of my original plan, which was to have them delivered tomorrow.

This morning, I made some cookie dough balls (amazing).

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Then I had some lunch. Then I made roasted garlic sundried tomato hummus (with budget bytes version of sundried tomatoes). I have eaten a lot of hummus in my life and this might be a new fave. Now I am going to go eat some hummus and make curry for dinner.

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On Violence, Culture and Literature

A few weeks ago I presented at a conference about human rights, and I discussed conflict about land between LeBarons (a group of polygamous Mormons with an exceptionally violent history) and primarily Indigenous ejidatarios (people who live on collectively owned land granted or restituted by the Mexican government). My conclusion pondered the merits of consuming representations of the obviously violent aspects of this conflict, particularly as it is situated in Mexico.

“This talk about violence, and the overt representation of violence, may do harm than good. It is another way to exoticize Mexico. It overshadows the structural violence that leads to abject violence, which is then represented in visual and print cultures. I wonder if paying attention to the everyday bureaucratic actions and corresponding acts of resistance and the ways that they are represented would be a better approach. It would allow us to return to the reason we study literature, culture and history: the chance to glimpse times, people and places outside of our own experiences and to offer us ways to pay attention and to understand what we prefer to ignore. Returning to why we began such an unproductive career path in the first place allows us to trace the history of the machine that produces so much violence it has now become palatable for us.”

Mexico City

I have been in Mexico City for over a month now and I am not ready to leave. I don’t even know where I am going to. Is Ohio my home? I remain uncertain. This summer has been wonderful. First, I hosted by mom and our dear friend for a week. That was a bit stressful, but, I actually saw a number of my favourite tourist sites again – the basilica, the Frida Kahlo house in Coyoacán the Popular Art Museum, and we did parts of my friend Nacho’s patented Mexico City tour. We also had some problems with water in our airbnb, but I just recently got a refund so I’m now again fully on board with the precarious economy.

 

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Me and my mom in Coyoacán at the Frida Kahlo house

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Visitors!

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Santa Muerte

Then, since the beginning of July I have been in an apartment with my friend from my writing group and fellow Mexicanist. Every morning at home we wake up at 6:30 and go onto whatsapp and write. Anyone can join, but no one wants to. She makes me coffee every day and then we write every morning. We did other things during the day that pertained to both of our current book projects. I often went to the archives and museums. We also did yoga, at a great studio around the corner. It turns out that after a month of near-daily yoga I am pretty good. I can almost hold crow pose for a whole breath!

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Wearing a sweater from my roommate

I ate a lot of comida corrida, and my favourite and best tacos, where I went last year with my friend Santiago, his hilarious nephew and one of Santiago’s thesis committee members.  I went to a few museums, saw the altar to the Santa Muerte (Saint Death) and soaked up the energy of this incredible city.

Mérida and Progreso

Every time I come to Mexico I like to go on vacation. I know for some people it seems that my life here is a vacation, but I guarantee to you that no one on vacation would wake up at 6:30 in the morning to write. I am here to do research, and the first part of that involved visiting with people and conducting informal and perhaps one could say unauthorized by my research board interviews. The next part of my work here has been to visit archives, as you can see by my previous couple of posts, and gain permission to reprint some images, and then to write. And write. And write. Writing is exhausting. That is why I need a vacation.

A few weekends ago, I went to Mérida. Overall as a travel destination I’d give it a solid B+. This is because it was terribly humid and because of the sexual harassment (way worse than Mexico City on a day-to-day level. Although, in Mérida, there are no signs on public buses telling me I should blow my whistle (provided by the city) anytime I am assaulted. Maybe men should blow their whistles when they feel tempted? But I digress). I think the other part of this is my fault for flying a cheap airline that is always late and flies out of the most crowded corner of the Mexico City airport.

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La Chaya Maya Cochinita Pibil

The first evening I was in Mérida I just wandered around and at really good food at La Chaya Maya. The next day I went to Chichen Itza. That is the type of place that doesn’t even look real.

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Tacos PM

But, all my pictures look worse than the ones on the internet, and I think that mine look pretty good. That afternoon I ate some more tacos (Thanks again for the rec. Brian) in a very fancy neighbourhood with some smoky charbroiled flavour to the meat.

 

2016-07-17 10.44.24After that, I decided to go see some Cenotes. I highly highly recommend the ones in Cuzama. Really easy to get to as long as you don’t mind Mexican van travel. And if you have a long time to wait. I ended up being in the same van as two other guys who were visiting the cenote and so we took a little moto-taxi that I thought was going to break, and then shared a possibly former mining train-cart (horse-drawn)… little did we know we would spend like 5 hours together. We took one cart, to another moto-taxi, and then to another really long horse-drawn train cart. The first cenote, pictured, was pretty open, and like one I had seen before in Tulum. Then we went to two other cenotes, each one more closed up than the last, so that by the end we were wandering through a cave. It is among my top three travel destinations: Copper Canyon (Chihuahua, Mexico) and Semuc Champey (Guatemala) are tied for first.

My final afternoon (that would be after the cenotes) I went to the Progreso beach, which was insanely busy. My hotel also had overbooked (they say overbooked, I say, you are a bed and breakfast so you have 5 rooms, so you are disorganized) so I ended up staying at a decent Mexican hotel for the same price. It was clean, nice enough, and had terrible wifi. Everything a Mexican hotel should provide. The next morning I got to experience the beach without so many people. Much much better. Then I began my trek back to Mexico City.