Below is some general info about food shopping in Mexico.
Please see our posts about regional local sources for more specific info.
Baja California Sur:
Cabo San Lucas
Mexico City - coming this winter.
A bit of context for you.
I have spent a lot of time with foodies, and I love many of them. I have eaten at some of the top restaurants in the US and Mexico. Both of my millennial kids are foodies, as a matter of fact.
Even so, I'm not a foodie. I give a bit of context at the end of this post so you can decide if what I have to say is right for you. Lucky for you and me, there are a plethora of foodie blogs out there if that is your passion.
General tips about local food in Mexico:
Try to learn some Spanish, it will help you to be able to ask the locals where to get eggs or local meat. They are generally very open with info, but don’t always speak English.
Mercado vs. Tianguis (Teeangeez)
A mercado is a built structure with walls and a roof. For example, the Mercados in the Zocalo are carrying on a tradition that dates back thousands of years in the same place. You can see fabulous dioramas depicting this in the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City.
Tianguis are pop up markets - you will see them on certain days taking over some streets with colorful tarps. In Mexico City they are highly organized associations with some political clout which has given even the global Walmart juggernaut a pause. It is very common for the tianguis have all kinds of merchandise, including grocery type food - veg, meat, fruit, flowers, dairy.
I often see tianguis referred to as street markets or mercados in sources written in English. Now you know the difference.
Even though a lot of USDA certified organic produce is grown in Mexico, from the consumer standpoint right now, organic is not a thing, really. There is a Mexican organic standard, but I don’t see it very often and almost never at the town markets.
What Sergio does is this - he racially profiles the vendors to judge who is most likely to have fresh, local and naturally grown produce. Please, nobody get offended, let me explain.
The vendors who are women about 4 feet tall, brown skinned, in their 40s - 80s with long black or gray plaits, often in wildly colorful lacey dresses with an apron - they have the veggie jackpot. They are more likely to have produce from their family’s garden, - including some bumpy fruit and veg that you may not have seen before.
The señor down the way in his Dodgers baseball cap unpacking crates of conventional tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and Washington State apples - well, he’s a nice guy but probably wasn’t out at 3 a.m. harvesting lechuga and nopales for the tianguis.
You can extrapolate this to some markets - my favorite 2 markets in Mexico City are in Xochimilco and the tianguis in Tepotzlan on Wedneday (before the tourists come on the weekend).
About my Foodie credentials (or lack thereof)
I will never forget the first time I had a true slow food lunch, in 1992. The dish was pasta with butter and truffles in a local restaurant in Sienna, Italy. We scooted in for the last table of the lunch seating. There were Italian families all around at the bigger tables, finishing up their Sunday lunch.
There was no Instagram, no robo-calling for a reservation 6 months out, no second seating, and no rush even though they closed right after we sat down.
I took my first bite. My eyes watered and I felt a jolt all the way to my base chakra, the flavor was so intense. (Now I sound like a foodie, don't I?)
Out of all the thousands of times I have eaten at restaurants, that one bite is the one that stands out. I thought that it must be one of the best restaurants in the world and we had somehow come across it.
It was literally a few years later that I realized it was simply a fresh local lunch, created that day, completely free of processed food, chemicals, or any ingredient with a shelf life, other than salt and oil. So that is what Sergio and I champion - those pockets where this kind of food and family business is still present, if not the norm.
There are bigger fish to fry on the global food scene than the latest "trend" in food. Most of us do not seem to see this yet, but we are moving into a time on the planet when we will look back on fascination with the most recent "trend" as a quaint indulgence.
Can we have a conversation about healthy farms and rehabilitating the ocean? Shall we hold governments more accountable and put the brakes on global corporations privatizing seeds, patenting indigenous plants, and convincing farmers to do what is not best for their land?
How about more articles about global nutrition for our kids, who in some countries are already struggling with obesity while in others they don't have enough to eat. How about a discussion about how climate change will affect small farmers, instead of how many stars some chef earned catering to the global elite?
I hope these might be the subjects of dinnertime conversation by foodies dining at the multi-star restaurants.
I am not against the "art" in culinary arts, not by a long shot, but I get bored when it becomes too precious. I love that movie #JulieandJulia because of how scrappy Julie was, cooking amazing food in a tiny kitchen. She is great inspiration for nomad lifestyle cooking.
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