Chasing “authenticity”

We arrived in Mexico City early enough this morning to not only have a quick breakfast at the hotel lounge of refried black beans, corn and rice, ham and eggs, and salsa verde with a side of watermelon, papaya, and pineapple, and green juice, but also to have a quick taco at Super Tacos – A La Parrilla, which we randomly stopped by during our walk around the Reforma area to begin our full day of exploration through Distrito Federal. Super Tacos is exactly what it sounds like – the tacos are not small by any definition; they are made with face-sized, thick, grilled yellow corn tortillas and stuffed with your choice of meat, topped with thick gooey cheese, thinly sliced potatoes, pickled green peppers and onions, huge grilled scallions. We chose chorizo to fill one and thinly sliced skirt steak to fill the second, and our guy cooked everything to order. All the fillings with the exception of the meats were being stewed in meat juices and fats – definitely not vegetarian friendly, but hey, we didn’t come to Mexico to eat vegetarian food. We topped our massive tacos with a brightly hued orange salsa – smokey, a little sweet, and a bit spicy. We made a bit of a mess eating these, but as I was watching other people eat their super tacos while sitting on the unstable plastic stools at our street side stall, I noticed we weren’t alone: there was no clean way to eat these things, which I’m all for since I love getting into my food when the mood is right.

We then wandered through a market and paid about $3 USD for 500 grams of the sweetest and most flavorful jackfruit I’ve had since we were in Thailand for New Year’s Eve 2016. Each bite made me want more and more. It made me wish I had easier and cheaper access to this in New York, where usually for just about six to eight pieces, I’d have to pay about $4 in Chinatown, and only during the summer time. We got lured to a table in the market, seeing everyone drinking big glugs of what they called “sangria,” but it ended up being watermelon agua fresca, much to Chris’s disgust. He holds the opinion that watermelon, among all melons, is the most useless fruit ever known to humankind. I know no one else who thinks this.

So we had this seemingly “authentic” experience, which transitioned into an early evening when we ended up in La Condesa, which is known as the “international” area of town where Mexicans come to eat non-Mexican food. In other words, the area is full of English speakers, really expensive and Westernized spaces and real estate, and expensive prices for everything. After my original seemingly authentic taco joint was found to be closed, we chose to go to another I had bookmarked, which was a spot called El Tizoncito, which was purported to be the “original al pastor taco.” As soon as we arrived, though, we were both immediately let down and annoyed when we saw that pretty much every single patron was white and speaking English, mostly American English and a few in perhaps British English. Damnit – this is when Yelp has led me wrong. We didn’t come to Mexico to surround ourselves with a bunch of Americans and English. But I guess I should have known given that none of the reviews were in Spanish at all. Our moods were immediately ruined, and we decided that since we were already there to settle on just one al pastor taco each; priced at 17 pesos each (just shy of $1USD), they were the most expensive tacos we’d paid for on this trip, which was saying something.

We were eventually saved for our last meal when we decided to go to Casa de Tono, which two different Uber drivers recommended for being very local and authentic to Mexican tastes, and being especially famous for pozole, a traditional Mexican soup-stew that is made from hominy (nixtamalized corn). We ordered a small bowl with a mix of pork parts and head cheese, shredded cabbage, onions, radishes, and squeezed lime, as well as a chicarron (fried pork skin) quesadilla, and two intensely creamy horchatas topped with canela. The pozole, like the chicken soup we had at the Oaxacan market days before, was one of the highlights of what we’ve eaten on this trip, one of those dishes I’d wished I’d had more of in Mexican cuisine that I hadn’t been exposed to much, but had only heard of. Since my first trip to Mexico in 2010, I have had a love of Mexican soups, and the way that the end squeeze of lime complements all the other flavors of the soup has always surprised me and brought a smile to my face.

It felt like a quick and somewhat rushed trip, especially since we easily could have spent four days just in Mexico City, but it’s given Chris more motivation to find (or possibly make up..) work reasons to come back here. Mexico City is like one of those cities that you could always keep coming back to and never get bored of.

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