Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Tepoznieves

Our life here is a little odd right now.

On the one hand, things have settled into a general rhythm: During the day, Chris attends her conference and I explore the town; in the evenings we usually walk into town to find something to eat, find an Internet café, and then head back to our room where both of us do some reading before bed.

On the other hand, it kind of feels like a weird vacation – not at all like we’ve really “settled” in Mexico yet. We’re only here in Tepoztlan for a week; both Chris´s conference and my wanderings are a temporary state of being. Only a week ago we moved our stuff into storage, uprooting ourselves, and we’re still not quite rooted yet. That’s not always an easy state to be in.

That’s not to say we haven’t had any fun being uprooted. I, for example, enjoyed my mountain climb / archaeological quest so much that I did it again the next day – and then Chris and I climbed it together on Sunday.

And then, of course, there is the food.

The conference provides our breakfasts and lunches, but if you get hungry for a snack, you might pick up, say, a bag of chips at one of the many local convenience stores. Chris is partial to jalepeno chips. She picked some up that looked just like Ms. Vickie’s jalepeno chips back in the States. Unlike Ms. Vickie’s, however, these come with a little package of hot sauce in the bag – because you wouldn’t want to eat your potato chips without hot sauce, would you?

Perhaps you’d like something a bit more substantial, so you go to a restaurant. Begin with an appetizer. Yesterday we ordered guacamole con totopos (chips). As seems typical here, the chips were stuck into the guacamole for a fancier presentation than our guac-on-the-side style.

For a main dish, I ordered my personal favorite Mexican meal: pollo en mole rojo (chicken in red mole sauce). Mole is a combination of chocolate, chilies, and nuts, all pureed together into a delicious sauce that goes perfectly with chicken. Chocolate with chicken?! Brilliant!

Of course, you’ll need something to wash all this food down. Coronas are plentiful, though most at the conference – myself included – seem to prefer Victoria, a somewhat darker brew. If you’re looking for a soft drink, Coca-Cola is inescapable. Coke flows more freely than water here, no joke. More on that later. (By the way, the strange writing on the can isn´t some indigenous Mexican language - it´s Mandarin, part of Coke´s Olympic campaign that you can find in the States, too.)

But perhaps you’re not in the mood for the thickness of a cola. How about a nice apple soda? Try Lift (a Coke product, of course), which you can now get in two varieties, “Classic” or a “+Manzana” version with “more juice and 25% less sugar!” It basically tastes like carbonated apple juice.

Finally, dessert! Here in Tepoztlan there are half a dozen branches of the nationally famous “Tepoznieves” (nieves = snow). Tepoznieves is basically an ice cream or sherbet, except that it comes in like 500 flavors, many of which are unique to Mexico. Yesterday I had a flavor that was made from some kind of strange fruit I’d never heard of drenched in mezcal, a drink related to tequila. This time I chose vainilla (vanilla), coco (coconut), and pina (pineapple) – going for kind of a pina colada thing. The coconut actually had stringy coconut pieces in it, and the vanilla was a deep yellow with the richest vanilla flavor I’ve ever had. Needless to say, we´ve been to Tepoznieves every night.

For her Tepoznieves, Chris chose a couple of funny-named combination concoctions, one of which tasted like raspberry yogurt and another like cheesecake. Chris says the cheese-flavored Tepoznieves is good except when she finds one of the chunks of real cheese in it. Yep, cheese-flavored ice cream – we’re definitely in Mexico.

Of course, not all food is that different. Today we tired of Mexican food and went out for pizza. Ah, pizza… just like in the United States, it’s served with parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper flakes, and, um, Worcestershire sauce. Yep, Worcestershire sauce. Sigh. Bienvenidos a Mexico!

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