Tasting the world, one stall at a time.
I’m considering Mexico as a bonus to this eight month trip. I initially had no intentions on coming here until I found out that two of my friends live in Mexico City. Katie was a volunteer I met in Guatemala and she teaches English in Mexico City. We found we had a mutual friend by the name of Sam who also teaches at the same school. I met Sam during my second go in South Africa in 2012 and visited him a few months later in London. Both of them invited me to come to Mexico City to meet up! Of course I will! But first I gotta get there.
Overland from Antigua, Guatemala to Mexico City took me almost a day and a half to get to. It’s so far away! However, there was only one border crossing where my precious sand went by unscathed. Just one more border to go through, presumably the toughest one but thats later on. Before the main city, my initial bus ended in San Cristobal which was a really cool place to see for the moment. It was like a larger, more European version of Antigua.
I couldn’t explore long though. Almost immediately I had to find some way to get to Mexico City and was able to find a bus, albeit a tad more expensive than I anticipated.
I arrived in the city around noon and took an expensive cab to Sam’s place. The first cab in any new country I go to is always the most expensive because I don’t know any better yet. Sam teaches during the day but gave me the address to his place. He forewarned me that he lives with 14 other housemates and it can be really loud at night. When I walked up to his place in La Condensa, I knocked at the door and was greeted by one of his 14 housemates. The place was just like I expected. Imagine a frat house with a bunch of dudes living in it, that’s always filthy with dirty plates and an insane amount of empties everywhere, except this building was taller with more rooms. And there were a few girls living here also. Thankfully, Sam lived on the highest floor away from most of the noise and with his own bathroom. I walked into his room and found a fresh towel with a note on his desk pretty much saying to make myself at home. The shower was much needed!
Later on, I heard an English accent behind me. It was Sam but I didn’t immediately recognize him at first. His accent has grown a lot stronger since I’ve seen him last. We caught up and went out into the city beginning with the Hippodrome and Mexico City. The drome contained a casino and a horsetrack to bet money on. I’ve never been to a horse race before! There I met a few of his fellow teachers, most of the from England and a couple were local. Since I was there, I may as well bet on a horse. Sam showed me the book with all the stats of the horses in play. I couldn’t understand any of it but instead bet 20 pesos on the sole horse that had “USA” next to its name, Don Porfirio.
“I gotta go with my home country”, I told Sam. I only bet a measly 20 pesos which is equivalent to a little more than a US dollar. The odds of Don Porfirio winning wasn’t very good. 15:1.
When it was time for Don’s bout, I stood and watched with no expectations to win at all. Soon, the gates lifted and the horses were off! I shouted for Don, not knowing which one was Don.
The race was over and Sam let me know that my horse won! Don Porfirio won me 300 pesos which would be my spending money for the rest of the night! Thanks Don.
That same night, Sam, his buddies, and myself went out and did what Sam said we would do when I arrive to Mexico City and that was to drink everywhere. We did just that. I managed to have the three most “Mexican” libations in one night: tequila, pulque, mezcal. All three absolutely horrendous. Save for the mezcal, but the only reason that was okay is because that particular mezcal was chocolate flavored. I also had a freakin delicious torta. It’s a sandwich stuffed with heaven.
The next day was the International Fair held at Sam’s school where he teaches. Sam described it as an annual fair with different stalls featuring foods from around the world. That was music to my ears. It was time to get my grub on.
The fair not only had different food stalls, but also music and attractions for people of all ages. The food attracted me the most. As Sam prepared for his attraction (he was one of many teachers who volunteered to let students pummel him with wet sponges) I made it my objective to eat something from every food stall in the whole fair! This is how I did:
I specifically started here first because I needed some phở in my life. They didn’t have it here so instead I had a couple of spring rolls, one vegetarian and one with meat. The woman at the stand was impressed when I greeted her with a “xin chào”, which means “hello” in Vietnamese.
Guatemala and El Salvador
For some reason, these two countries were combined into one stall. Perhaps because the foods are so similar. I expected to see a pupusa, but was offered a tamale de chipilin. It was a tamale wrapped in a green leaf and it tasted excellent!
Most of the food at the France stall were pastries and dessert. None of them caught my attention, but I HAD to have something from each stall, so here I tried a croissant, which was better than the one I had in actual Paris.
The Israel stall had a lot of neat things going on for it, but all I wanted was a big ol’ piece of bread and some hummus. The woman slathered extra hummus on my plate because “Why not”?
The Venezuela stall was the biggest one I’ve been to and they had plenty to offer here. There were so many great looking choices, I had the woman behind the stand choose for me. She chose an arepa. It’s two corn maize slices of dough with shredded meat in between. I’m not a fan of too much corn maize but it still hit the spot.
The UK stall had foods I’d expect the American stall to have, fat tasty sweets and baked goods. I did see scones but instead opted for the chocolate cupcake staring right at me. The woman who made them came up to me and told me she made them. Thanks woman. Your cupcakes were, as the Brits would say, “quite lovely”.
I was ready for the Brazil stall. Few know that Brazil in number one on my list of countries I need to visit. Here I had a picanha; savory meat between a baguette with some special red sauce. I practically swallowed it whole.
I needed a drink. The Italy stall had pizza and a few Italian sodas. I got one with Kiwi in it. Tasted weird at first but soon grew to like the taste, even though some of the Italians there said they never heard of a kiwi flavored Italian soda.
I couldn’t possbly fit anymore food in my belly, but the souvlaki pita with the greek yogurt was whispering to the 0.0001% of me that was still hungry. That disimal percentage was certainly glad.
I didn’t make it to all the different stands. I skipped USA, Canada, Mexico, but missed Finland, Sweden, Australia, and a couple others. Meanwhile, Sam and Katie, who I found later, were busy getting botched with wet sponges by any student who wanted revenge.
I stuck around on a chair because my body couldn’t move from all the food I just ate. I had the company of some of Sam’s co-worker teachers to chat with as we watched the cultural musical acts perform on stage.
The fair ended around five or six in the evening. Sam and I got out of there because we had tickets to go to the Electric Daisy Carnival, a giant electronic music festival right here in Mexico City!
I’ve never been to an electronic music festival, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Here I go, way out of my element!
Three more posts left.