Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Travels with Blondie: The Rosca de Reyes Files

Rosca de Reyes
One great aspect of my graduate program are the opportunities to go abroad and study food cultures and systems in other parts of the world. This past winter intersession one such trip was Food Cultures in Mexico where we would study in Puebla and Oaxaca. A significant part of the trip was spent visiting organic and industrial farms, observing interactions and the products available in the markets, and studying the changes to the Mexican food system since the passing of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. But I'll just mainly show you the food.

AeroMexico Breakfast
Since my trip started out with an airline breakfast, I feel the need to share. I haven't had cooked airline food in a long while, so when I found out that AeroMexico would be giving me free meals I'll admit to being excited. It was nothing to really be excited over--except I did get the opportunity to eat two salads on the way home and that was heaven--but still. It's nice to get fed.

We had the fortunate, or unfortunate, situation of being in Mexico during the days of Christmas. It translated into repeatedly being fed Rosca de Reyes aka Three Kings Cake. One lesson occurred at Panaderia El Mirador, a traditional bakery in Puebla, where we fed that Rosca de Reyes at the top of this post, but no conchas, though we had to watch hundreds of conchas being made.

Other thing we got to watch being made, but didn't get to taste. It was a tease.

Street Doughnuts
Doughnuts in general were little funny things to find, they were everywhere, but not in obvious places. This small doughnut stand was tucked in a small space off the town square.

One very interesting adventure was the tour of the centro de abastos, the massive main food distribution market. It was the Hunts Point of Puebla, and every stall was filled with fruits and vegetables for the day, including, of course, fresh huitlacoche.

And gorgeous little plump tomatillos bursting out of their skins.

Pig Head
At the back of the market was a smaller market where individuals could pick up food. The most interesting stalls to me were the meat ones. No refrigeration, barely any ice, just raw meat and pig heads hanging out in the hot Mexican sun.

This market did yield one delicious find: the best huarache of my life. It was made fresh by a lady in a stall--there's no name, no hours, no phone, no way to even tell you the stall number. But the cheese, mushrooms, and chorizo wrapped in her freshly-made tortilla ended up being one of my meal highlights of the entire trip.

Kranky McFlurry
One thing that was a let-down was visiting McDonald's. I love visiting McDonald's in other countries, just to see what crazy things I can get. Here, the only non-American item was the Kranky McFlurry.

Kranky McFlurry
Which didn't even live up to its picture. Like not even close.

Mac and Cheese
Other post-NAFTA American corporate influences including the obliteration of the traditional Mexican diet for cheap processed foods.

Costco Rosca de Reyes
And Costco cake.

Chinese Buffet
But, surprisingly, the Chinese buffets I spotted, and there were a couple, are from the influx of Chinese into Mexico during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Looking into this more is one way I'm already rationalizing a second trip.

More Mexico to come later this week......

Panaderia El Mirador
31 Oriente
Puebla, MX

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