Things I’ll miss when I leave San Miguel:
The fruits and vegetables. They’re just better here. We speculate that the produce isn’t bred for its ability to endure long trips or a perfect appearance, and so flavor can take precedence. The carrots are so sweet. Their ends soften quickly if you store them in plastic bags (paper bags are not a thing here, and we don’t have a crisper in our fridge), but oh, the taste. Also, their shape often has interesting bumps and turns; Munchkin was so amused by one curvy carrot last week that she asked me to put it into her lonchera (lunch bag) unsliced.
We had to take a photo of this grapefruit before we ate it.
You can buy fresh cut-up fruit on the street all over the center of town. The prices vary wildly from 30 pesos on the Jardin, the town square (40 on Good Friday–we were a captive market, not wanting to budge from the place where the procession was about to begin) to 15 a few blocks away, but always include a good three cups of cut-up mango, coconut, watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, and/or pineapple, in whatever combination you like. There are also veggies: jicamas, carrots, cucumbers, beets, garbanzo beans boiled in their shells. Some norteamericanos think street food is risky, but I figure if it’s just been peeled, it’s as safe as anything that comes out of a can, and a lot yummier. When I was taking classes in the morning, I’d often stop by one of the carts to pick up a fruit cup, eat half of it on the walk to get the munchkin, and share the rest with her as her after-school snack. Locals often like the fruit sprinkled with chili, salt, and/or the juice of the limes they call limones (they don’t use the big yellow lemons we grow in the US), but I ask for it “sin nada” and go happily down the street eating huge chunks of mango with a plastic fork.
Mexicans do love their junk food. The little abarrotes (groceries) that are on every block have a full assortment of chips and candy, and you see kids on their way home from school munching on deep-fried snacks, also sprinkled with chili. The little bags from these snacks, stained red from chili powder, litter doorways, windowsills, and the boxes holding utility meters (despite the trash cans right on the same block–the litter here is not something I’ll miss). But, unlike in the US where “fast” is pretty much synonymous with “junk” and the convenience stores don’t even carry snack-size milk cartons, here the fresh-fruit pushcarts mean there’s always one source of nutritious fast food, at least in the center of town.
What’s hard is finding organic produce. There is one small organic store in town, and if we lived in that neighborhood we’d buy all our produce there, but the little produce tienda around the corner from our house has no organics. I’ll be happy to get back to our farmers’ markets and our habit of buying mostly organic, local produce. But even when it’s locally grown, as we are lucky to be able to buy in California, we’re eating fruits and veggies that are meant to be shipped to the East Coast and around the world, and it shows in their (lack of) flavor. I wish I could bring some of these Mexican carrots back with me.