When I was a child, my parents and I frequently traveled into the deep parts of Mexico, to the towns of Cozumel, Acapulco, Cancun, Chichen Itza, and more. My parents also went off the beaten path to try restaurants and shops that were not set up for tourists, places where local people would dine and shop.
I enjoyed these culinary adventures. We learned many drinks, including milk, were served warm. If we wanted our milk cold, we would get it with ice. Sometimes, the milk wasn’t processed, so there would be flecks of butter and froth on top of it. In Mexico, the preparation of real Mexican food is different than it is where I live in Texas.
On one of our excursions, my parents, in their broken Spanish, asked around for a place to get ‘authentic’ Mexican food, and we were directed to a small restaurant. When we pulled up, it looked like a small white washboard house, with a front screened porch, plastic tables and chairs, and wonderful smells emanating from the kitchen.
The only food on the stained menu I recognized were ‘tamales’, and back home, I loved those, so that’s what I ordered. When the tamales arrived, I took a big bite. The first thing that happened was I choked. They were on fire they were so hot! My eyeballs sweated and pearls of lava rolled down my face. Yet, I’ve always liked hot and spicy food, so I sucked on a lime, then tried again, only this time I was prepared. The meat in the tamale was stringy, chewy. It was a bit gamey, and I wondered if maybe it was spoiled.
I mentioned this to my mother and father, who then both tried it too, and they motioned for the cook who was also our waiter. After a few words of Spanish conversation with him, I watched my mother’s face turn a strange color. She turned and looked out of the screened porch to the side yard, at the white picket fence. The man said in broken English, “We use only fresh, only fresh, good meat.”
My mother excused herself to the restroom, which our host graciously pointed her to. When I looked at my father and asked him what was wrong, he said, “I’d rather not say.”
My younger sister, who had not wanted anything on the menu, was bouncing around by the window. About the time my mother came back from the bathroom, my sister said, “Look, there’s a chicken and a pig out here in the yard.”
My father said, “There was a goat out there too, when we pulled up. Bet he’s not there anymore.”
My mother went back to the bathroom.
Boy, guess he wasn’t joking when he said the tamale meat was fresh…
Love and stuff,