Why did I have to fly all the way to Mexico City to find the world’s largest quesadilla? They actually look like machetes. And I have always wanted to have a machete. This is a 25 inch long tortilla, filled with potato, chorizo, poblano peppers, and panchita (beef stomach). The base is a stringy Oaxacan cheese, along with hongos (mushrooms), and huitlacoche (corn fungus). Other fillings are spinach (espinaca), flor de Calabaza (squash flowers), and the ubiquitous nopales,.
The second food item that piques my curiosity are chapulines, or fried and seasoned grasshoppers. Locals might call it Mexican popcorn, since it is a favorite salty snack that becomes addictive. I have eaten grasshoppers since high school, believe it or not. The old City of Paris department store in downtown San Francisco had fried grasshoppers and chocolate covered ants. We bought them as young teenagers when we visited the City with the scholastic honor society. The favored ones, much like in SE Asia, are the garlic chili or the chicatana salsa, made from flying ants. Places like Bangkok, Luang Prabang (Laos), and Siem Reap (Cambodia) love to serve the salty savory version so we will order more beer!!!
I tried the fried grasshoppers yesterday in the market. The ones in Bangkok are much better. I also tried numerous others, but seemed like they had little or no taste, sort of like Trump followers.
I don’t purposely seek out strange food. But when I see people lined up around a cart, my curiosity gets the best of me. When I speak to locals, they make it sound like the snack of choice, inexpensive, plentiful, and tasty.
So, I had a street quesadilla today (Sunday) with my bike guide. One was pork, I think, and the other was squash blossom. Needless to say, pork was ten times better. But the lady running the business has been there for 20 years, but can no longer afford her apartment. Her thriving business is in the alley from whence she lived. She must have a dozen family members helping at this weekend only business. They even make their tortillas there!
Surprisingly, the city is quite green with lots of trees, green parkways, and fabulous purple flowered jacaaranda trees, and they are in their 3 week bloom now. The air is clean, of course, it is Sunday. But the street economy is well and thriving, both for good and dry goods.
Speaking of the street economy and the essence of small business, Mr. Mike and I ventured over to the famous Mercado de la Merced. Said to be the largest retail and wholesale market in Mexico, it covers several blocks, and every nook and cranny in between. It makes famous Chatuchak Market in Bangkok look like a neighborhhod famers market. Among the plethora of things we saw for sale: electronics, live ducks and chickens, every variety of green and not so green vegetables, crazy amounts and types of fruit, fresh meat of all varieties, plumbing supplies, kitchen supplies, paper goods (like Costco, only cheaper), mountains of chilis, potatoes, ten varieties of lime, thy had it all.
But more amazing is this market is like a small city, complete with places to eat, pinball machines for breaks, a bank, security staff, and toilets for two pesos. Built in 1890, I can only tell you mildly, that it is a feast for the senses. Who eats all this food? I even found corn fungus, or huitlacoche, grasshoppers and ant larvae in bulk, toys and clothes for the kids, a version of Niketown, but no Starbucks. We had our first cold beer around 10am, as the day was warming.
Yes, other markets exist, but Merced is the cheapest, as well as safe. In fact, Mike and I were commenting on all of the great markets we have visited around the world. This seemed the safest, as everybody is either working hard or shopping even harder! Why did all of the locals tell us to stay away???
It is very warm here today, overcast, gray, but getting hot. Maybe it is afternoon siesta time. And let me add these people work hard, certainly a contrast to the stereotype we were led to believe by our politicians, one in particular. They are smart people, they think he is an idiot as well!!!