Eating Around the World, Part 5, Eating With Mexicans

When went to Mexico City when I was in high school, it was not my first nor my last trip into Mexico. Until some time ago when things got more dangerous in Mexico than before, from the time I was in high school, when I was in college, after I got married, and when I had little kids, I made many, many trips into Mexico. Before I went to Mexico with the Foreign Language Club from Choctaw High School from Oklahoma with my high school, when I was in high school in California was my actual first trip into Mexico. I went to Tijuana when I lived in southern California. We only went sight seeing and shopped that time. We didn’t eat anything. However, when I went with Choctaw High School’s Foreign Language Club, we were prepared before we went. We were given a kind of medicine to take because of what is called Montezuma’s revenge. If you aren’t careful, you can get your stomach all messed up as an American traveling in Mexico. This was the only time I took the medicine, and I don’t even remember what it was, but all the students who went on the trip were supposed to take it. We were cautioned not to drink the water and be careful of raw fruit and vegetables because we would get sick for sure if we drank the water and possibly if we ate the uncooked fruit and vegetables too. We were told to drink bottled Coca Cola and things that that was a much better idea for our stomachs. The trip I took was with several high schools throughout Oklahoma, and we were all one one train. One of the students got Montezuma’s revenge on the train and was really sick. I heard they hadn’t taken the medicine we were all given and had been eating and drinking just anything. It worried me. When they served my Coca Cola in the dining car in a glass with ice, it worried me, but I was okay. I saw the fruit sitting on my table, and I wanted it, but I didn’t eat it because of the kid who got Montezuma’s revenge and all the warnings they gave us. However, I did eat while we were in Mexico, but I understood to be careful.

The restaurant was made like this. They fought the bulls in the middle, and all around on the inside, there was a kind of long balcony with tables where we ate.

Before got to the hotel in Mexico City, we stopped in a town that had a bull ring restaurant. It was shaped like a circle with a bull ring in the middle, and the dining area was a large balcony all around the bull ring. What was happening in the bull ring was so exciting that I don’t remember what we ate. They were letting whatever student that wanted go down and “fight” a baby bull. My brother was on the trip too, and he went down and fought the baby bull. It was quite an exciting restaurant!! My brother got out there with the cape. The bull came charging, and all I can remember is that my brother didn’t stand his ground, but ended up running for the side of the ring and jumped behind a wooden wall where the bull couldn’t get to him. Another boy tried too, and he did the same thing. My brother said the other boy was so scared he jumped right on top of him when he ran behind the wooden wall.

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After we were in Mexico City, I wanted to go out and eat real Mexican food rather than the kind I ate at Pancho’s or Casa Bonita, my favorite Mexican restaurants in America. I went to a restaurant with a friend and ordered enchiladas because it is one of my favorite Mexican meals. When they brought them, they looked just like what I had eaten at Pancho’s or Casa Bonita in Oklahoma, but they were different. Like they other enchiladas, they were tortillas rolled up with meat and cheese in the middle and a cheese sauce over them. They brought me my two cheese enchiladas, and I began asking questions about them. I learned that the reason why they tasted slightly different was because the cheese was goat’s cheese rather than cow’s cheese like the ones we get in America. They were slightly different from what I ate in America, but they were good. I took several trips to another restaurant close to the hotel, but just because I was hungry, and I wasn’t looking for Mexican food, just food, and I had a lot of scrambled eggs, toast, and fried potatoes.

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On several trips into Mexico, I also ate Mexican ice cream. You can find the ice cream in shops usually close to the square because the square is where all the life is in a town in Mexico. All the young people hang out at the square in the evenings. There are mariachis playing music, vendors selling ice cream, etc. It is quite pleasant on the square. It is like a park. I have eating Mexican ice cream several times, and it doesn’t taste the same as American ice cream at all. Because it doesn’t taste the same, every time I went to another country, I expected to find strange ice cream like I found in Mexico, but most of the ice cream around the world tastes pretty much the same, but even if it is hard to explain, the ice cream in Mexico is different from the ice cream in the rest of the world, and it is good.

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When I was dropped out of college because I had no money, I was working at the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, California. Across the street from the Boardwalk, there was a little Mexican lady from Mexico who was selling food that she made in a small wooden stand. I used to go over there and buy her food for my lunch because she was a really good cook. I usually bought a burrito from her and then went and sat on the beach to eat it. Her burritos weren’t fried like the ones I had eaten at Dairy Queen. They were just tortillas rolled up with meat, beans, and cheese in the middle.

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When I was in college, I took a trip with some of my college friends, both American and Japanese friends, into Mexico, just to a border town south of Texas. We wanted to eat at a Mexican restaurant. We found a restaurant where we ate refried beans, Spanish rice, and enchiladas. It was basically the same as Pancho’s or Casa Bonita in America.

When I was living in Granbury, Texas, I worked on a Mexican ministry for a while. I made good friends with a girl who was from Chihuahua, Mexico. She gave me Mexican cooking lessons. She taught me to make tortillas, refried beans, salsa, guacamole, and Spanish rice. She was an extremely good cook. I met her down at the park one day for a picnic, and when I brought burritos made with homemade tortillas that she had taught me to make, she was overjoyed!! She was so happy with my Mexican cooking!

On another trip into Mexico, when I was married and had kids, we were looking for a church in a small town, and one of the people from the church invited us to come an eat breakfast with them before worship services. We went to eat with them. They were eating refried beans, scrambled eggs, and tortillas for breakfast. It was a good breakfast. When we got to Chihuahua, the preacher from the church invited us for lunch. For lunch, we ate fried chicken with a little chili spice in the crisp part on the outside of the chicken and Spanish rice.

While living in Texas when my older kids were small, I taught at at small school in Huckaby, Texas. The school had first grade through 12th grade all in the same building, and I taught English and Reading to the junior high and high school kids. The Mexican kids figured out that I spoke Spanish, and they all came to my classroom at lunch time to eat with me. They got so possessive that when other students who weren’t Mexican wanted to join us, they tried to lock the door and keep them out, but I wouldn’t let that happen. Any student who wanted in to eat with us, I let them in. The mother of one of my Mexican students couldn’t speak English, and she used to make tamales and sell them in the neighborhood. We were always thrilled when she brought tamales to our house to sell! She made wonderful tamales! If you haven’t eaten tamales, they are corn masa, like corn meal mush, with spicy meat inside, and they are made into long rolls, rolled up in corn shucks and boiled, They are delicious!!

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When I was a professor at Ohio Valley University in America, I had several students from Mexico. When they realized I had family in Oklahoma and that I spoke Spanish, they looked at me as from where they were from. They seemed to feel a kinship with me. They often hung out at my office or came to my house after church on Sundays with the other international students. The Mexican students made an agreement with me about the avocados at the grocery store. You see, for your guacamole to be good, you have to buy the avocados at just the right time. If they are hard when you pick them up, they are not ready to eat. If they are mushy, they are going bad, but if they are just slightly soft, they are ready to eat. The Mexican students asked me to call them whenever I found avocados that were ready to eat and tell them where they were, and so I asked them to do the same for me. Like so many other times in my life, we had a kind of little “Mexican Club” going on. Often on Sundays, I made refried beans and rice for all the international students among other dishes from other countries when the international students came to my house.

Since coming to Oklahoma this time, there are many more Mexicans and other Hispanics here than I knew about in the past. I am working on a Spanish ministry here. Before the pandemic, we were gathering in one another’s homes. They eat a lot of avocados even when they aren’t made into guacamole. They make a good kind of soup that is slightly spicy with a chicken base and hominy and green chili peppers in it. I have learned that usually, soups with green chili peppers are spicier than soups with red chili peppers. My friend from Chihuahua who taught me how to make Mexican food that you can make Mexican food any spiciness you want or don’t want. If you don’t want it spicy, use bell peppers, but these ladies I have been eating with from Oklahoma City love spicy food!! One evening everyone from the Spanish ministry gathered at a lady’s house named Maria who doesn’t speak any English. She only lives a few blocks from where the church meets. She made homemade tortillas and refried beans for the whole group, maybe thirty people or more. She also had a green chili sauce and a red chili sauce you could add to the beans and tortillas.

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The next day, I began vomiting in the morning, so I didn’t get to go to church that day. It was before they knew Covid-19 was in Oklahoma and just before the quarantine in 2020. I got really sick after that and could hardly breathe. I had never experienced whatever was happening to me, but because I couldn’t breathe, I thought perhaps it was pneumonia or bronchitis because I couldn’t even walk across the room without having a hard time breathing. I just wanted to stay in my recliner all the time because I couldn’t breathe. I thought about going to the doctor, but we were new in America, and didn’t have insurance, so I didn’t go thinking that if I got an expectorant from the drug store, took Tylenol for the fevers, and drank and rested a lot, I would just get better, but the illness drug on for weeks on end, and I couldn’t seem to get better. I was lucky not to have to go to work. The country went into quarantine, and I was relieved because no one expected me to go anywhere, and I couldn’t go anywhere. I began getting cramps in my legs that seemed to run up and down my legs, and I figured out they were blood clots. I figured they were because the cough medicine I took completely knocked me out and I just wasn’t moving. My daughter began thinking I was going to die, and I eventually felt forced into calling my doctor because I wasn’t going to just let myself die. My doctor was only doing online virtual appointments. My doctor thought I had Covid-19 or at least pneumonia. She sent me for a Covid-19 test, but by the time I went for the test, I was getting better. My doctor still wasn’t convinced it wasn’t Covid-19, and she treated me for pneumonia, and it took quite a while, but I finally got better. Since that time, I haven’t seen Maria, the lady whose house I at at just before all this happened.

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However, I have eaten several times with my very good friends Marina and Adiel from Mexico. She is from Monterrey, Mexico and is an Aztec Indian. He is from south of Mexico City and is of Spanish descent. They met and married in America. He has American citizenship. At Thanksgiving, Adiel roasted a turkey in some sort of underground cooker he had made in his yard, and they had us over for Thanksgiving dinner. Marina doesn’t bake, so I made pumpkin pie and took it. I also learned that she had made potatoes, but didn’t know how to make gravy, so I got broth from the turkey that Adiel made and made gravy for everyone with the broth. Marina often makes that spicy chicken soup with hominy in it. She also makes some really spicy tamales, much spicier than the lady in Texas made. We spent New Year’s Eve at Marina and Adiel’s house too, and Marina made homemade tortilla chips which is something else I make that is Mexican, and they are so much better than the ones you buy in the store! Marina also fried some flour tortillas until they were crunchy and put cinnamon and sugar all over them, and they taste great too!

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This blog could probably go on for a long time just like the blog about eating in America because my life isn’t finished, and I am now in America working on a Spanish ministry again. The first time I ate in Mexico was on that trip I took to Mexico City when I was in high school. It was actually quite a romantic trip, and there is much more to the story of that trip. This is not the end of my blogs about eating in other countries because the next country I ate food in was Japan when I was a university student. It was different from anything I had every eaten, and I will tell you about what we ate in Japan in my next blog about eating around the world.

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