For someone who hates spicy food, I actually really love Mexican food. I’m still a sook and don’t put any hot sauce or anything on my meals, but I do very much love the flavours and freshness of a properly prepared, legitimate Mexican meal. You can’t get many of those in Melbourne, where sugary fish bowl margaritas at Mexican-by-numbers restaurants seeming to be what most people think of when you mention Mexican food.
I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in Mexico through a work thing last year when I was still working in the travel industry. Mexico is a really freakin long way to go for only a weekend when you’re travelling from Melbourne – the flight from here to LA alone is around 14 hours! But we eventually landed in Cancun at around 6am, and after checking into our hotel, were granted a free day before the non-stop official obligations and conferences started later that evening. So a group of the girls I worked with hopped on a boat and headed off to Isla Mujeres, one of the most stunning places I’ve ever visited. You can see some of the photos I took that day right here, but this post is about the food. After a morning of traipsing around this precious little island, we naturally got pretty hungry. An A-frame sign advertising 3 tacos and a beer for 85 pesos seemed like a pretty decent lunch venue (for those of you playing along at home, 85 peso is around AUD$7.00 – that’s amazing for those of us who usually pay $7.00 for a beer, or around $5 per designer, hipster taco at home!).
In we piled, a pack of Aussie girls delirious after 26 hours on a chartered flight full of other travel bunnies, which was the equivalent to a flying party bus. We’d boarded the flight after working a full day, had a few (or more) drinks and chocolate chip cookies on the flight, no sleep, and nothing but a mango margarita on arrival for breakfast. We were handed menus by a bemused Mexican, who probably wasn’t sure whether to call his mates around for a laugh at us, or the cops to get rid of us at that stage. Shenanigans ensued, laughs (by both parties) were had, and food was somehow ordered.
Best tacos of my life.
The tortillas were soft and fresh and tasted like nothing I’ve ever had called a corn tortilla. The fillings were so ridiculously simple and at the same time so full of flavour. Everything seemed to just work magically. Including the brown slop on the side – re-fried beans. Make friends with this stuff when you’re in Mexico. It’s not like the crap you get out of a tin at home. This stuff is unbelievably good.
It’s a real pity that so many people conjure up images of cheap, shitty food and bad tequila experiences when you mention Mexican food, because it’s not all like that. It’s also funny that so much Mexican food you get in Australia is smothered with greasy melted cheese, because over a table full of tacos ordered by us 8 ladies, not one taco had cheese on it! I blame the Americans (sorry!) and their Tex-Mex for this generalisation. Real Mexican food is fresh and light, it shouldn’t make you feel sick and heavy and greasy and disgusting! If it does, you’re doing it wrong!
It was a big weekend and we didn’t really get a chance to stop and breathe after this meal and the quick visit to the beach that followed. But it’s stayed with me as one of my best food experiences while travelling, because it really changed the way I looked at Mexican food.
My challenge now is going to be to find it again when I go back in January with husband! I’m very much looking forward to my few days on this little island slice of heaven after 6 weeks of non-stop travel, and plan to eat my weight in tacos in that time!