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)!
A nativity scene of clay figurines, often decorated with real moss.
Ollas, or clay pots, are what traditional piñatas are made of, though many are now made simply of newspaper paper mache. Did you know that a piñata has seven “arms” to represent the seven deadly sins?
P: Ponche, posadas, piquete, piñata, pastorela, paxtle
So many words with P! Ponche, as I mentioned in the last post, is a delicious, syrupy drink filled with chunks of fruit and sugar cane, all served hot. Posadas are traditional Christmas parties. Piquete is for that dash of tequila or other hard liquor that you add to your ponche. Piñata is, of course, the tissue-paper-covered creation that you beat with a stick until all the candy, mandarin oranges, jícamas, sugar cane pieces, and peanuts fall out (and then you scramble on the ground to get as many treats as possible). Pastorela is a performance, usually done by children at schools, of the Biblical nativity scene. And paxtle is Spanish moss, which you use to decorate your nativity scene.
Queso manchego to fill the chipotles before they’re dipped in egg and fried. My favorite Christmas food!
R: Reyes Magos, recalentado
The Three Kings, who leave gifts for children on January 6th. And the recalentado the day after Christmas and New Year’s, when you re-heat all the food and have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
Sparkling cider for New Year’s toasts!
Tamales are a year-round treat, and you’ll probably have them over the holidays, too.
12 grapes for the 12 months of the new year!
There wasn’t much else that started with W. And you’ll definitely find whiskey at both Christmas and New Year’s parties.
Ok, this doesn’t have much to do with Christmas, except that in Xochimilco (part of Mexico City) they sell noche buenas (poinsettas) during the holidays.
A traditional toy (yes, a yo-yo) that you might get from the Three Kings.
Because you write your letter to the Three Kings or Santa, and then you leave it in your shoe for them to find.
A special thanks to my friend Gerry for helping me to complete the list!
It can be a much-appreciated Christmas bonus at your job, or a sugar-laden bag of candy at a party. Either way, I’ll take it!
A traditional Christmas dish consisting of salted fish with olives and other condiments. People seem to either love or hate it, but I’ve never tried it.
C: Chipotles navideños
My favorite holiday food: giant chipotle peppers stuffed with cheese, dipped in egg, and fried. They’re the best the day after Christmas (or New Year’s), when you can use them for sandwich filling, like turkey and cranberry after Thanksgiving.
D: Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe
In the days leading up to Dec. 12th, you’ll see scores of hikers and cyclists moving in large caravans towards Mexico City. They’re all going to the Basílica de Guadalupe to see the Virgin on her day.
“Why elephant?,” you wonder. Because in most traditional nativity scenes, one of the three Kings arrives on an elephant! You can bet you’ll see him mounted on his elephant in at least one Zócalo (town or city square).
Christmas lanterns for decorating your nativity scene/street/etc.
You use this fruit to make ponche, a syrupy drink served hot with cinnamon sticks and sugar cane. (Tip: If you have a sweet tooth, pop the sugar cane pieces into your mouth and chew on them!)
H: Hacer una peregrinación
Making a pilgrammage, like those who go to see the Virgen de Guadalupe.
Incense, one of the items that the Three Kings brought. Again, if you go to a traditional Christmas party or visit any city square, you’ll find the Kings in sizes ranging from two inches to six feet tall, all lined up waiting to see baby Jesus in an elaborate nativity scene. You might even find a live King waiting to take a photo with your child.
Tiny jícamas are used as part of the filling for piñatas. Just don’t let them fall on your head when the piñata breaks!
Yes, kilos for the extra weight you’ll put on once you eat all the delicious holiday dishes available here!
L: Luces de bengala
Sparklers that you’ll use during your Christmas party as you sing to the Baby Jesus in your nativity scene.
The ubiquitous end-of-year mandarin orange– another piñata filling, but these won’t leave a big bump on your head.