Adventures in Mega

There are two grocery stores within walking distance from my condo: Chedraui and Mega. Chedraui is crowded, maybe a little more down and dirty, but in a pinch it does the trick; Mega, on the other hand, is a modern supercenter, and the locals liken it to Wal-Mart.

I headed out to do some hardcore shopping on Tuesday — the island has amazing food options, but I’m a gringa on a budget (and a diet), so I needed to re-center myself after a weeklong bender, and re-enter my arsenal of recipes and acquaint myself with the pristine stove in the ‘ol condo.

But even in a place like Mega, I’d be one naive girl to expect to find the same food in a USA grocery store. But what was I do to with a hankering for hummus, of all things? I prefer to make my own using drained canned garbanzo beans, but the frijole aisle — yes, there is a bean aisle — was devoid of canned beans. I knew it — nothing in Mexico is ever that convenient, which makes me appreciate the little things, and the Mexican way of life, even more. While I’ve been cooking for years, I’m a self-confessed shortcut lover, so I’d never actually soaked my own beans — until this week. Wednesday morning, I cooked the beans down, used half for a pasta salad, and will save the rest for hummus.

And of course I attempted my own pico de gallo. Not bad.

There’s also not a lot of options when it comes to milk. There’s no cold white jugs frosting in open refrigerators; instead, there’s boxed Parmalot. Luckily, I found myself some rice milk to use in coffee and cereal. And yogurt here? Let’s just say you can forget the tang and health benefits; Mexican yogurt is two molecules away from ice cream.

But on the upside of Mexican life, you can find amazing ingredients not common back home. Whole squid, octopus, head-on prawns. Prickly pear leaves called nopales look amazing, not that I’d even know where to even begin with those; real key limes, which, as we speak, a frozen key lime pie is setting in the freezer; and all sorts of fruit. Did you know there’s no lemons in Mexico? And that oranges here are green? It’s true. The mangoes and pineapples are fantastic, though.

And can you believe that somewhere in Mexico, my enterprising distant cousins founded a sugar substitute company? It makes sense though, us Sween(e)ys are totally sweet.

Even more fascinating than trying to find one’s country comforts is Latin American advertising. So much drama, so much flair. Behold.


Julio is always watching!