For the past two years, I have warned about the dangers of the Marxican threat. Well, this year, I decided to give up the fight, and to succumb to the Marxican invasion.
Having a day off from work, I headed over to the City of New Rochelle, which has a large Mexican population, mainly from Jalisco and Michoacan states. Yeah, I know Cinco de Mayo is a Pueblan holiday, but I figured that, just as the owners of a bar in Seattle wouldn't bat an eye at people drinking Sam Adams Boston Lager to celebrate Patriot's Day even though it is New England's holiday, the Jalisco-born owner of a family hole-in-the-wall wouldn't mind a big gabacho eating in his place to celebrate a Pueblan holiday.
Accordingly, I traveled to the "Queen City on the Sound" to dine at the redoubtable Mr Taco, a tiny restaurant that I have been patronizing since the days I had a big blond 'fro. The restaurant has the been owned by the same family for the past twenty-plus years. The owners are a diminutive man with a bright smile (how does he stay so skinny working in this place? It must be the frenetic pace at which he plies the griddle and the stove-top full of simmering cauldrons) and his sweet-natured wife. The place has all the atmosphere of the waiting room of a municipal bus terminal, but the food is amazing. I ordered a taco de carnitas, a taco de chorizo and a taco de lengua. To accompany my meal, I had a bottle of Dos Equis- as the proprietress handed me the bottle, I cracked a joke: "El sabor del éxito." which earned me a chuckle.
Authentic Mexican food is a lot subtler than the Tex-Mex stuff served up in chain restaurants... there are no globs of sour cream or mounds of grated processed cheese food product. At a genuine Mexican restaurant, the meat is well-spiced but not too hot (the proprietors have a bottle of strong homemade hot sauce for those who wish to heat up their food- I joked to the proprietress that I needed the hot sauce because I wanted to cry lágrimas del fuego. The sauce isn't so bad that I cried tears of flame, but it might just get me in the end. Anyway, the food is well-prepared, the carnitas are crispy little chunks of pork, the chorizo is crumbled into well-browned bits redolent of spices. The tongue was long-simmered and mild. Each taco was topped with finely diced raw onion and a couple of torn leaves of cilantro. The plate was accompanied by half a lemon- a squeeze of lemon juice, a squirt of hot sauce, and I was experiencing total culinary bliss. I should have taken a picture of the plate, but I was pretty ravenous. There are a couple of pictures on "Yelp", if you need to see what Mr Taco's fare looks like.
After my lunch, I headed across the street to La Flor de Michoacan to get a couple of paletas- on this visit choosing an eggnog popsicle and a lime popsicle. Mexican popsicles are made with fresh ingredients- the lovely lime popsicle was a beautiful green slab of pulpy deliciousness, the eggnog popsicle had a nice hint of spice. If you have a paletería anywhere in your vicinity, by all means go there, and bring a cooler so you can stock up on popsicles to take home.
For all of my joking about the "Marxican threat", I have long had an appreciation of the various cultures of Mexico. When I was a high-school kid working in the local deli, I got to know a lot of Mexican guys who were working as gardeners. They'd come in after work to buy Bud tall boys, and often the only words of English they knew were "Keeng Size Booweiser!" They thought it was a hoot when the blond kid behind the counter could shoot the shit with them in Spanish. For all that Mexicans are demonized by the right-wing in this country, the Mexicans I have known have embodied the virtues that right-wingers claim are uniquely American- they tend to be religious, they value their families, and they have a remarkable work ethic. The main problems in Mexican culture can largely be laid at the feet of the United States- the post-NAFTA maquiladora boom went belly-up as factories moved to China, where labor costs were even cheaper and environmental regulations more lax. The average Mexican farmer was hit hard when cheap American corn hit the Mexican market, forcing many of the campesinos off the land. The drug trade which has devastated wide swathes of Mexican society is driven by demand in the United States. My feeling is that the average Mexican and the average American are suffering from the effects of the same policies which benefit a tiny minority of oligarchs. It's a pity the average American is swayed by anti-immigrant propaganda to realize what the San Patricios quickly figured out- the enemy is not the peasant of a different race, but the exploiters of all races. I value my Mexican neighbors and their contributions to American society, and I was happy to partake of their culture today.
Hey, how about a number from Frontera Bugalú? I had to pleasure of meeting these folks and I immediately took a liking to them (they reminded me of a bunch of groovy grad students), and they certainly can rock the house: