The other day I went to a friend’s birthday party at a fancy restaurant, and he ordered this dish from their “Festival de Bichos” (Bug Festival) menu:
Bugs are a traditional culinary specialty in Mexico, and pretty much year-round you can find street vendors selling “chapulines” (grasshoppers) in a range of sizes and toasted with salt, garlic, or chile powder (or all three). The first time I tried one of the microscopic baby crickets, whose tiny legs thankfully don’t poke into your tongue, I was grossed out. But over time their flavor (reminiscent of salty tomatoes) has grown on me, and now I love snacking on even the full-grown crickets with their scratchy legs and crunchy torsos.
However, when my friend ordered his extravagant bug dish, everyone at the table was a little put off by the sight of it. In the spirit of open-mindedness, he let us try everything that was in it: escamoles (ant eggs: a little like popcorn), gusanos de maguey (maguey worms: oily and flavorless; I had tried them smoked in Oaxaca and they tasted like grilled rubber), and chicatanas (giant flying ants: sharp and lemony). Once you got past the appearance of the dish, the overall taste was okay. I’d always wanted to try Mexico’s seasonal dishes with gusanos de maguey and escamoles, but they’re quite pricey (this rice dish was about $25 USD), so I was glad to have the opportunity to finally taste these famous insect delicacies without ordering an entire plate for myself.
I can’t say I’d be inclined to order any of it in the future, except of course some spicy grasshoppers and maybe some peppery ants on the side.
The blog kind of fell off the face of the earth for a while there, but now we’re back on the air! Don’t forget to let me know if you’re interested in teaching high school in Puebla (see post below this one).
Anyway, if you enjoy exercising and nature, try biking through Puebla’s myriad small towns! The scenery is always amazing and worth all the huffing and puffing (there are no flat rides to be had here)!
If you have a Bachelor’s degree or, better yet, a Master’s, and you like teaching high school, my school is looking for part-time English teachers! Please contact me via my email (on the Contact page) for more info if you’re interested, or go ahead and send along your resume!
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!