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Joy and our friend Madelene both commented on the disappearance of the once-ubiquitous fresh juice bars since their earliest trips to Mexico, and we fear juice’s place in the diet is being filled by refrescos, soda. I was depressed by the little dock restaurants in a tiny town we went to in Michoacan, all of which had virtually identical, factory-made signs declaring that you could buy Pepsi there (no Coke. Pepsi owned that region) plus a few, typical foods; the one where we had lunch had no bebidas except refrescos and bottled water. In San Miguel, there doesn’t seem to be a single restaurant that doesn’t serve fresh-squeezed limonada, and it seemed like cultural impoverishment to replace that with mass-produced sugar water.
I hope the stands make a comeback. While there are only a couple in San Miguel, the produce tienda around the corner from our house sells fresh-squeezed orange, grapefruit, and carrot juice every morning. (They’ve generally sold out by 1.) One of the family works away at an electric juicer all morning, filling a cardboard box with citrus and carrot peels and three enormous pitchers with juice. They pour it out into a smaller, marked pitcher to measure a liter or half-liter (12 pesos at the moment–$1 US), and pour it into a cup or, for a peso or two less, a bag for you. Joy says in the ’80s when she visited Nicaragua, where things like disposable straws were an unaffordable luxury, people bought juice en bolsa and just snipped a hole in a bottom corner to drink it. Here in middle-class San Miguel, they put a straw in before tying the top of the bag, and I walk down the street feeling, if not looking, like a local.
(#10 of 20 things I’ll miss about San Miguel)
This one calls for a photo, but I might not get back to the market to take one, so you’ll have to use your mind’s eye: imagine a market stall with half a dozen or more bins in a row, each full of a different variety of pinto bean. When Mexicans go into a US supermarket, they must be stunned to find that it carries one kind, and that the store employees don’t even know there could be other options. Maybe the markets catering to Mexican-Americans have more.
Mexico is a prime target market for big monoculture-promoters like Monsanto, ADM, and DuPont. We saw the patented-corn signs on fields everywhere in Michoacan. Since NAFTA, we in the US have also been flooding their market with our corn, which of course is highly subsidized by our government–can you imagine, Mexico importing corn? This is the place where corn was domesticated, where people turned corn from an inedible grass into one of the world’s staples. That creative collaboration between humans and plants is now used as a blanket justification for genetically engineering sterile plants (“This is just what people have always done since selective breeding began”) even when it is causing economic devastation.
I haven’t tried the different kinds because pintos take forever to cook and are bland, besides; if I have a craving for them, I order them in a restaurant. So I couldn’t tell you the differences among all these beans. But clearly, cooks here can still tell one variety from another, and I think that’s cool.
(#9 of 20 things I’ll miss about San Miguel. Yes, quite a lot of them are food-related. The next one will be too.)