So, a bit about food here, everyone’s favorite subject:
El Tigre is a torta stand on the corner, and just may be my favorite restaurant here. It’s also nice that it takes approximately 30 seconds to walk there, and that a giant torta costs 27 pesos, which is $2.07 dollars. Tortas are huge grilled Mexican sandwiches, most of which contain meat and cheese, and also pineapple and avocado, hot chilis if you want them, and various other ingredients. You can order “the Jenny,” the one vegetarian option (pineapple and cheese) so called because one of the old Casa volunteers, Jenny, was a vegetarian, and ordered the sandwich so many times they just started calling it that.
The favorite taco stand of the Casa is El Progreso, where you can order a greasy but delicious taco with bistek and queso (steak and cheese: they slap it on a giant griddle right there in front of you and fry it in under a minute, cheese and all) and then smother it in toppings such as hot peppers and onions, potatoes, beans, cooked cactus, guacamole, and of course, salsa.
One thing that’s really different about Mexico: There are no supermarkets. You don’t go and stock up for the week. The big Mercado is an indoor market with many different venders with specialized stands selling fruit, dried goods, meat, or dairy. If you want to find the perfect strawberries, for example, (and Gio and I went on quite the strawberry hunt through El Mercado San Cosme when we were making dinner) you can muse over the fruit at approximately 12 different stands in the market before making an informed selection. There’s no slice bread: you buy the bread fresh at the panadería (right around the corner) each day. By the next day, it’s stale. You also buy eggs fresh each day or so at one of the nearby corner stores. So nearly every day I find myself going out for one thing or another: eggs, bread, fruit, yogurt at a small store a block or two from the Casa.
Casa dinners: Every Monday, two volunteers cook dinner for all the other volunteers, and we have our weekly volunteer meeting afterward. A couple of weeks ago, I made the Monday dinner with Gio, one of the other volunteers who has been here for almost 3 years while going to a nearby University. We made burgers, a fantastic salad, agua de sandia (water flavored with fruit is common here- this was flavored with watermelon), and chocolate covered strawberries for desert. If I do say so myself, it was delicious. I also really enjoyed cooking with Gio. I got to speak Spanish all day, while we went to the market and then cooked, since Gio is one of the volunteers that only speaks Spanish. He was very patient with me and all my mistakes in Spanish! Tuesday through Thursday we also have shared meals for the staff and volunteers living at the Casa. We have a meal rotation, so you end up cooking about every 3 weeks. We also have a rotation for clean-up duty. It’s really nice to have a nice dinner provided each night, and it feels good to serve a nice dinner for everyone else when it’s your turn. Sitting down to eat together is also a big part of living in a community together and keeping up that sense of the Casa family.
Every Saturday there is a tianguis, an outdoor market, at the end of the block. On one end are tons of stands selling fresh produce or dried goods or piles of candy or clothing or toys or kitchen accessories. The other side is prepared food- tacos, aqua frescas, pastries. A few Saturdays ago I had lunch at the tianguis with Nico and Jill (the directors of the Casa), Agnita (their 2 year old daughter), and Heather (a former volunteer who was visiting). We had tacos de barbacoa (not in fact barbeque, as it sounds like, but lamb). You eat them with chopped onions and fresh cilantro. They had a very distinctive flavor- I think I liked it, but I haven’t quite made up my mind. I do know that we are all eating very well here.