Every year the town of Atlixco, which is only 20 minutes from Puebla, creates a “Villa Iluminada” by filling its streets with Christmas lights. The theme is always different; this year’s theme seemed to be, oddly enough, jobs and farms. It’s always a treat to take a couple of hours after work to wander around the town and sample all the street food!
When you first come to Puebla, you may find yourself confused as to when you can find your favorite street foods actually being sold, and why certain products at the store seem to be called the same thing even if they are completely different. If language is failing you, or the quesadilla lady is never there whenever you have a hankering, then here are a few tips:
- Quesadillas, tamales, and gorditas: Since these are all considered breakfast foods, you won’t find them after 11am or noon. Arrive later than that and you’ll discover that your favorite vendor is scraping off his/her grill and packing up the gas tank. Tamales are available as early as 4am outside the clubs in Cholula, or 7am in most areas, while quesadillas and gorditas pop up around 9am-ish.
Side Note: Your quesadilla will not necessarily come with cheese. The word itself refers to a folded tortilla with some sort of filling. See this discussion from the magazine Chilango.
2. Halls: “Why do people here always have sore throats? They eat Halls like there’s no tomorrow!,” you might be thinking. Or, as my mom said when I offered her one, “No, thanks, I’m fine. Is your throat hurting?” Actually, Halls are used as breath mints in Mexico, and you’ll find them in every flavor you can think of. I even once found limited-edition “Paloma” (tequila with grapefruit soda) flavor.
3. Jamón: Why, you wonder, does “jamón de pavo” exist? How can a lunchmeat be turkey and ham at the same time? The thing is, “jamón,” which you probably learned as “ham,” is just the generic word for “lunchmeat.” So you can buy “turkey ham,” “turkey breast ham,” “pork ham,” and so on.
4. Carne: Speaking of meat, “carne” is another word you should know how to use. It does refer to meat in general, and you can request “carne de puerco” (pork), “carne de res” (beef), etc. However, most people use it only for red meats. If you’re a vegetarian but all you tell someone is that you don’t eat “carne,” then you’ll be served a healthy portion of chicken!
5. Calabaza vs. Calabacita: “Squash” and “little squash” are not quite what they seem. “Calabaza” refers to large squashes in general, sometimes pumpkin, while “calabacita” is actually “zucchini.”
6. Galletas saladas y dulces: Yes, “galletas” refers to both cookies and crackers. If you’re looking for some Ritz, get “galletas saladas,” and if you want Chips Ahoy, then ask for just “galletas.”
I hope that helps to clear up some of your confusion about the food here!
If you want to know more about Mexican food, try taking Buzzfeed’s “Can You Guess the Dish from the Ingredients?” quiz.
If you’re fed up with all Mexican food, all the time, then here are some new restaurants for you to try!
- Yes, they have the traditional tacos árabes. But they also have tabbouleh, kepe, hummus, and stuffed grape leaves on their “Platillo Libanés.” It’s a bit pricey but worth it when you’re jonesing for something different. You can find these Lebanese delights at Tacos Dany, which is right by La Noria’s skating rink.
- A buffet I’ve never been to but which everyone says is excellent, if a bit expensive: Centro Mexicano Libanés on Hermanos Serdán.
- Until recently, I thought Korean food could only be found in the esoteric barrio coreano in Mexico City. But lo and behold, it turns out there’s an authentic Korean restaurant, Min Joo Ne, right here in La Paz. I thought the food was delicious.
- A far cry from the ubiquitous sushi places in Puebla, Stop By Ramen (on Zavaleta) serves– you guessed it– ramen. While the menu may seem a little pricey, their portions are generous. They offer a variety of ramen dishes with different toppings. The tricky part is that sometimes they run out of food, so you may find them closed when you were hoping for a nice bowl of noodles.
- Of course there is tons of American food in Puebla. KFC, McDonald’s, IHOP, Olive Garden, you name it. But I’m not talking about any of the fast food places. I’m talking about a restaurant that serves up the best food from my home state! If you’re craving good barbecue, Texas BBQ in La Paz has it! It’s the real deal.
(This is part of a new section of the site called “Teacher Tips,” for all you fellow English teachers out there!)
Last year I went to a “Congreso de Innovación Educativa,” and a lot of the ideas really piqued my interest. One of them was “gamification,” which is the idea of making a lesson, or even your entire class, into a game. Students can have characters and earn rewards for completing “challenges,” which can be anything from riddles to exams.
I’m just now trying to “gamify” my class a little more, and it’s been very time-consuming. For my first gamified topic, I chose Reported Speech because it is always so difficult for the students. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try a new approach.
If you’re not familiar with Reported Speech, it’s when we say things like, “Sammy told Julie to pick up some Chinese food after work. He also asked her if she was coming before or after dinner.” The thing that makes it so hard for students is that all the verb tenses have to change (in most cases); if Sammy says “Go to the store,” we use “He told her to go…” and if he says, “I forgot my homework,” we use “I had forgotten my homework.”
I decided to use the topic of zombies for my first attempt at gamification.
First, we started with the video “Zombies in Plain English,” which is on YouTube.
Then, we did a reading on the science of zombies apocalypses. I adapted an article from Cracked.com by changing some of the vocabulary so that it would be more suited to my students, who are at an intermediate level.
After that, I had the students read over my explanations of Reported Speech.
This included some practice based on the video “How Does the Walking Dead Zombie Virus Work?”
We did a quick review in the style of “Choose Your Own Adventure,” which I made in Powerpoint. A wrong answer got you “eaten” by the zombies.
Lastly, we finished with an exercise which I based on the CDC’s “Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic” (yes, the CDC really has a published comic about zombies).
During all the activities, I was keeping track of the number of correct answers that the students had, and in the end the students with the most points won prizes like “1 Free Homework Assignment” and “Come in 5 Minutes Late.”
As far as Gamification goes, the activities were pretty simple, and not too different from my normal lessons. But the students enjoyed it (only one complained “I don’t like zombies! When will we stop talking about zombies?”) and I did, too!
Being so close to Mexico City, Teotihuacán is a must-see for many visitors to Central Mexico. The large site and enormous pyramids provide a nice introduction to Mexico’s past. If you’re coming from Puebla, Teotihuacán is less than 2 hours away by car, or you can take a bus with Estrella Roja directly from the main bus station (the CAPU).
Make sure to bring lots of sunscreen, water, and snacks, since there’s no shade and it’ll take you a few hours to see the whole site!
I don’t know the answer, but Buzzfeed has prepared a handy quiz (“¿Puedes adivinar qué taco es con sólo verlo?”) about whether or not you can identify twelve types of tacos in Mexico.
I got two wrong answers, one because I identified the meat incorrectly and one because the name, “taco acorazado,” isn’t used here in Puebla. Street food names vary quite a bit from state to state and even town to town.