January 25, 2017

Lost in translation Mexico City style...

So I was asked today how my Español was coming along...after a year, it’s about as good as my Russian was while we were living in Moscow.  There I could say “no more vodka please” and used a sophisticated expression for what I thought was “have a good evening” only to realize after 2 years I was actually saying the childish equivalent of “nighty nighty, sleep tighty”.  I finally figured that one out the week before we moved from the motherland which explained the never ending side eye I received.

Today I was standing in line at the grocery store and heard a woman behind me launch into a quick-paced heated Spanish conversation.  Her voice was insistent and got louder and louder as she was relentlessly trying to get her point across.  I minded my own business, stared at the ground and tried to politely ignore the escalation behind me.  After a minute I finally turned around to see what was happening...only to realize she was simply trying to tell me her cashier aisle was open so I didn’t have to stand in the long line on aisle three.  The crowd behind was staring at the floor. My high school Spanish teacher is slowly shaking his head with tears in his eyes.  Lo siento Señor Mecina!

We all know Starbucks delivers a comical experience when it comes to writing names on cups.  “Ann” seems to be hard for Spanish speakers to say - so I usually say my name is “Anita” (little Ann or Annie).  This prompts deep rooted snickers and belly laughter every time.  I’m always up for a good laugh but I was starting to get a complex.  I finally asked a Mexican friend - que pasa?  She said “you are 5’9” and the fact that you call yourself ‘little Ann’ is hilarious to Mexicans - they are not buying it!”.  I now tell them my name is Gabriella Maria Sofia Francisca. The laughter has stopped.




Metro station identification is genius here.  Like most urban metropolises, Mexico City has a bustling metro subway system that was built in 1967 in preparation for the Olympics. To make it easy for visitors and because adult literacy rates were low at the time, picture icons were created to identify each stop, (side note:  50 years later, literacy has risen to just under 95 percent). 

This easy to read metro stop identification makes sense to me and is far better than, say, the Russian metro system where station names are at least 15 characters long - all consonants with a few Greek letters thrown in for good measure.  

You make the call...which seems easier to you?


Moscow Metro
  
Mexico Metro

January 18, 2017

Mexico City Street Tacos! Prepare to never be the same...



Steve and I both stopped in our tracks one day as we rounded the bend on our way to the gym.  We were engulfed in an intoxicating cloud of Mexican heaven.  We were on "street taco row"...glorious, glorious street taco row!  Found on many streets and street corners in Mexico City, this is where the honor system is king and there’s no such thing as one too many.


Some taco vendors sell their "comida" (food) straight out of the back of their cars so it’s no surprise to see people, many in suits, having breakfast and lunch tailgate style across the city, all starting at about 7 a.m.


Shopping cart style...

To come clean, on our first day of street taco discovery, we did not partake.  Let’s be honest, we’ve all heard of a man named Montezuma and his infamous revenge

So we inquired about the health risks of eating from street vendors and quickly learned not all taco stands are created equally.  "Choose wisely" was some of the best advice we have received.  So we benefited from the experience of other ex-pat friends who introduced us to what has to be one of the best street taco vendors in the city.  

So for our weekly pilgrimage, this is our absolute FAVE taco stand with Javier at the helm... 


 

The anatomy of a Mexico City taco stand...
  • Take a hot grill...fire up chorizo, res (beef), pollo (chicken), carne asada (grilled steak) and cerdo (pork) - usually done 3 different ways
  • Add brightly colored bowls filled with chilies, green and verde salsas, guacamole and always a bowl full of quartered limes to squeeze on everything, evvvverything...  
  • Pile all of this on a double stack of tortillas
                                  Provecho!


Payment is at the end of this culinary fiesta when you finally wave the white flag.
We always start with 2 tacos each...and end up eating, well, way more.  What are you supposed to do with indescribable melt-in-your-mouth tacos?  Uno mas, por favor!  And repeat.  



And now for the Throwdown:  

Authentic Mexican tacos vs. the American Tex-Mex style taco

To lay a little ground work - the authentic Mexican taco is quite different from the jumbo stuffed and loaded Tex-Mex tacos we all know and love in the states.  

Let's start with the foundation - the tortilla.  Tacos in Mexico City are almost always made with soft corn tortillas, roughly 5 inches wide (I’ve actually never seen a hard shell taco in Mexico, although tostadas, yes).  Next - the stuff inside - and here is where things fork (pun intended) drastically. Never will you find lettuce or tomato or grated cheddar cheese on a taco in Mexico, unless you slide it in when no one is looking. Authentic Mexican tacos follow the golden rule - less is more, purism rules. 

Here’s the beef:  take the meat, throw in a little cilantro, maybe some white onions and top it off with verde or red salsa or habanero salsa for those with a sincere death wish.  And don’t forget the lime.  

As much as I love Tex-Mex - this throwdown goes to Mexico!




January 11, 2017

Oh Hello Mexico!

There we were...sitting in our favorite cozy London haunt.  A big glass of wine was blocking out the cold and the rain that had been pounding the streets sideways all day. With complete satisfaction, we had just polished off a heaping plate of bangers and mash.  And then he said it...Mexico.

It hung in the air for just a minute - like a big piñata begging to be broken open.  I wasn't sure I had heard him correctly... "What was that you said?  I'm sure I heard you wrong, but I thought you just said Mexico...?"

Three months later we arrived in Mexico City for Steve's next assignment with, to be honest, an equal amount of excitement and trepidation.  We had just landed in one of the largest and most fascinating cities in the world.  And so the adventure began...






Can we all just agree that after our first overseas assignment in Moscow 6 years ago, perhaps this is a nod to warm temperature redemption?  The weather in Mexico City is quite glorious year round. There is a rainy season from Mayish to Octoberish when it's warm and sunny all day until about 6 p.m. and then it rains for 2 hours and then it's over.  Heavy winter coats and gloves are packed away, hopefully never to be seen or heard from again.  If interested in our Russian adventure:  Who Moved My Borscht?

The weather the week we arrived last December:













We quickly joined a gym to help us settle in to a new routine.  Now, Mexico City sits at an elevation of 7,382 feet.  For those keeping track at home, this is higher than mile-high Denver and about the same height as Machu Picchu.  Have you ever tried pounding out a treadmill workout at 7,382 feet? The sensation must be similar to running in quick sand with a sumo wrestler strapped to your chest.  The first time I hopped on the machine - I kept glancing at the incline reading thinking someone was punking me with a remote control, cranking the elevation up to full tilt.  Two minutes in...I could not breathe.  So my usual treadmill workout turned into a walk, run, walk, run for, oh, about 2 months.

The good news - I was in solid company...my athlete extradoinare husband was also wheezing and pacing himself until we acclimatized over time.  And then he started doing hill repeats outside and ran a marathon, but that's another story for another time...

¡Oh Hello Mexico!



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