Sunday, September 07, 2008

Mexico City: Family Meal

Queso de Tuna - Cactus Fruit Cheese.

There's been something missing from my trip to Mexico. All week, I've had a great time, met wonderful people and spent my evenings with good friends, but something has been missing - and it's been that "real" family experience.

Don't get me wrong, dining with friends has been wonderful and we've eaten together at some of the best restaurants in Mexico. Tonight's meal is something different.

Playing music in General Gutierrez's study.

Mezcal - where it all begins.

After our long day at Teotihuacan we're pretty tired and ready for a quiet night at home. Actually, I'm supposed to meet up with Adrianna and Hector but things are progressing at a slightly slower pace than anticipated. We've gathered at Sylvia's family's home for a casual dinner.

Unlike our restaurant adventures, this one is a decidedly relaxed affair. First, Joseph starts playing the guitar. Then General Gutierrez (Sylvia's dad is a retired army general) breaks out the tequila. Then the mezcal. Pablo grabs the beers. Peanuts land on the table and then out comes Oscar with the accordion.

It's gonna be a long night.

Oscar plays Amelie.

We sit around the table comparing tequilas, drinking beers and pounding the peanuts. It's a potent combination while Oscar is belting out Greek classics and the theme from Amelie. Pretty soon I start to notice that it's just us: the men. The women have retired to the kitchen and are busy preparing our meal. The moment that I realized this I found it slightly odd - odd because I'm from America and we're just weird like that.

Here, it seems perfectly normal that the women prepare the food and the men drink. Actually, it seems that it's been like that most everywhere in the world that I've traveled. I must be the weird one. With that in mind, I remember the phrase: When in Rome... and decide to go along with the flow. Besides, I've had enough tequila that brandishing a cook's knife could be a bad idea.

Maybe that's why the women cook while the men drink - they're smarter.

Oscar's homemade Chorizo.

Not long after, Sylvia comes out to show us the chorizo. This isn't some ancient Mexican ritual, it's just that Oscar makes the chorizo and wants us to see his work. It takes a couple weeks of drying to get the chorizo just right and these sausages look stellar. He hand grinds them and hand stuffs them into the casing. It's dry and slightly musty but it looks intensely delicious.

A few minutes later and out comes a bowl filled with Queso Oaxaqueno and the aforementioned chorizo. It's hot and served with warm, fresh tortillas. Just scoop it out and eat like a taco. Whatever they did to the chorizo (basically chopped it into the cheese), it's insanely delicious. I can't get enough. Just two simple ingredients balancing each other. Perfect. I want more but don't want to look like a glutton.

Chorizo con Queso

From there the food starts coming out. It's not a lavish affair. It's decidedly normal. Like eating at home. There's the cheese and sausage bowl, some green tamales and then leftover roasted chicken and the leftovers from our meal at El Rincon del Conejo. All served with tortillas and big bottles of Coca-Cola. Not to mention the continuing adventures with beer, tequila and mezcal.

In another moment, some pan dulces arrive. There's one flavored with anise that's nice. But the nata de coco is just too tasty for me. I must have more. Across the table, Reg has decided that the bread would be much better with butter and apricot marmalade. Apricot marmalade? In Mexico? We give it a try and it's not bad - pretty good actually, though I prefer just butter (as I always do).

Roasted Chicken

The food is good. Perhaps not outstanding, but good. But this isn't a meal about the food, it's about being together. Being with family, and Sylvia's family makes us all feel welcome so very far from home. Our meal is spent sitting around a table, enjoying a meal and sharing stories. There's more tequila and beer (but not too much).

After awhile, the jokes start. I've got the joke about the three religious men on top of a skyscraper. Oscar has his two religious men in an airplane. Later, I tell the more risque one about the Filipino in the Barrio. Senora Gutierrez goes to the kitchen when the General starts telling his risque jokes. It's a great time and the night will end too soon.

At close to midnight, it's time for us to head back to the center of the city and to our hotels. It's been a wonderful day and I look forward to going back again soon.

Leftovers from El Rincon del Conejo.

Pan Dulces

Tamales Verdes

Postres de Dulce de Leche y Figues.

Senora Gutierrez and The General.

Reg and Pablo.

Joseph and Sylvia.

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