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Friday, November 02, 2007

MEXICO “ MI CORAZON”: DOWN IN THE BASEMENT ON THE DAY OF THE DEAD













After a very enjoyable few days in Guadalajara, I have moved to the altogether more chilled town of Morelia in the state of Michoacan.

When I arrived, things were in full swing for the celebrations for The Day of The Dead, one of the biggest festivals in the town’s calendar. Streets are filled with Offrenda (altars to the deceased) Katrine (stylised skeletons) and flowers of orange and purple.

While all this was going on above ground, it seems only fitting that on The Day of The Dead, I should have my supper underground.

My chums, Cristina and Judy took me to supper at a kermesse. These are fairs, usually held to raise money for a church, where booths are set up selling local specialities. In the case of The Church of The Immaculate Conception, in Morelia, it became such a success, it is now a permanent feature in the basement of the church completed with the funds raised.

When we arrived, the hall was packed with families from grandparents to babies in arms all having a good old scoff.

It operates like a food court. Tickets are purchased from a cashier and then exchanged for food at any one of the twenty or so counters offering everything from Enchilladas to Tamales to drinks of Aqua Fresca in various flavours.

Taking the view that the longest lines must lead to the best food, we began with a Pomboza which is a sandwich stuffed with a hash, dipped in salsa and then grilled. It is a heart attack inducing plateful, but in the way of all good sarnies (see Hot Dogs, Po’Boys and Philly Cheese Steaks) it can be addictively good.

I also wanted to try an enchilada as the only examples I have ever encountered have been the scary, breeze block monstrosities in abominable Tex mex places.

Well, these were nothing like anything I have had before. Tortilla are dipped in a fiery salsa, quickly fried and filled with onions. Then they are topped with a mix of vegetables and hunks of meat, in this case chicken and the lot is topped with the ubiquitous dressings of salsa and queso. It is not an elegant plate to look at, but the taste is something else with the chilli of the chicken flesh working well with soft enchilada.

Similarly, a quesadilla fritas was like nothing I have tried before. Crunchy pockets of corn masa filled with soft, melting queso and topped with a dribble of crema.

No one would ever call this elegant food. It is meant to be tasty, which it is, fill people up (which it certainly does) and cost little (our food cost about £5 in total)

It is not all good either. A drink called Atole is, shall we say an acquired taste. If I was being kind I would say it tastes like flour mixed with condensed milk.

Also, dessert tamale coloured to look like the Mexican flag were dry and tasteless. But, on the whole, this was a great way to eat, to see locals doing what they do and to try some of the specialities from the region.

Dead good you could say. Perhaps not

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