Thursday, November 20, 2008

World Peace

For all the praise and celebrity draw that Cabo San Lucas receives, I have to admit, at first site, I’m a little under whelmed… Granted, I’m totally spoiled and have spent far more time in swanky beach locations than anyone should be allowed in a single lifetime– though I’m usually working… But, Cabo seems to be following a trend that I’ve witnessed far too often in less developed countries with nice, ocean views - where the local culture gets choked out by cruise ship ports, overdevelopment, high-end shopping malls and too many kitschy t-shirt shops and multi-floor bars. There’s even a Hooters here! Call me a snob, but when I’m looking for a taste of local culture – I’m not thinking buffalo wings and beer served by a bar maiden in orange spandex short-shorts and a belly ring. And I’ll never understand what’s so “delightful” about being tacky!

But I’m determined to find something I like about the place, because hey, at least I’m not freezing my ass off at a boatyard in Seattle anymore! I walk up the dingy dock; pass by the chain restaurants and t-shirt stores, and children and women selling chachkas, and to the main road. There’s a tourist information booth across the way and, so, like so many countries outside of North America, where traffic “rules” are merely suggestions, I step out into busy intersection, and weave my way around the cars as they weave their way around me. In my best (which is pretty terrible) Spanglish, I say hello to the gentleman behind the counter and ask where the locals grocery shop – a good place to pick up chilies and spices and those sorts of things. “Hola bonita”, he says. His eyes light up and a smile spreads across his face. Food, the international language of world peace. I swear, if more world leaders broke bread together, this world would be a much happier place… “You must really know what you’re looking for?”, he says, curiously and happy that I’m interested. I shake my head. “Halfway up the road there’s a store with piñatas hanging in the front, it looks like a candy store – but go to the back”, he says, “that’s where all the spices and chili’s are. Then go to Castro or Marcado Malino”, as he marks the path for me on a glossy tourist map advertising sport fishing and bars.

I set off the beaten path, up a side street. For about 30-seconds I wonder if I should be concerned for my safety – screw it. Why start now? I smile at the locals as I walk, relaxed and cool as a cucumber – though I know I stand out like a sore thumb with my bright red yacht polo and blue capris.

First stop, fish tacos at a cute little hole in the wall on a street corner. And for about $1, I get two corn tortillas with two pieces of hot, freshly fried fish on them. And that’s it.

But then, as a perplexed and perhaps let-down look spreads across my face for something so plain – the woman behind the counter begins to pull out bowls, one after the other – pickled cabbage, three different salsa’s, red onion, chipotle mayonnaise, avocados – and for my $1 dollar, I feast like a queen. It’s the best fish taco I’ve ever eaten.

Next, I come upon a bright yellow awning strung with piñatas and look in. The shop is tiny, maybe a few hundred square feet, and every square inch is packed with goods.

Open crates of dried chilies line the walls and center island – chipotle, passila, guajillo, ancho, mulatto – there must be 30 different varieties.

There are open bins too of grains, beans, maize and dog food (and some of it is a little mixed up together – but I’d stocked up on rice before we left San Diego anyway). I buy bags and bags of chilies – I’ll be able to make mole for several years now!

Then it’s on to the mercado where I find epazote, a fresh herb used in stews and bean dishes, cilantro, fresh jalapenos, garlic. As I walk down the street with my arms weighed down, a man sitting on his stoop says, “hey lady, what you selling?”. Unsure how to take the question, I pause for a moment. Well, I know I don’t look like a street walker so it mustn't be that – so I turn to him and say, “you speak English?”, “yeah, what do you have in all those bags? You must be selling something!”, “No, but can you tell me where I can get fresh tortillas?”. Just like the guy at the tourism booth, that big, broad food-lover smile spreads across his face, ”at the market”, he says, “look inside the coolers – they keep them in there to stay warm! A big puff of steam will come out when you open them!”. “Thanks!”, I say as I turn to head back to the market. I open the red cooler inside, and just like the man says, a big, puff of steam hits me in the face – along with the wonderful, warm aroma of fresh corn tortillas. I grab two bags and find another cooler of flour tortillas in the back – and grab two of those. As I pass the man on the street again, and thank him for his direction, he smiles at me and says, “so, are you married?”

As I wait on the dingy dock for the tender to come retrieve me – I can’t resist and I rip through the bag with the flour tortillas. I stick my nose in the bag, nothing compares to the smell of fresh tortillas. I pull one out, it’s warm and soft and as thin as crepe, and it tears in flakey layers like pastry. I’m in heaven. What’s not to love about Cabo San Lucas?

1 comment:

prcrstn8 said...

Holy crap, are you guys headed for the Panama Canal? You really ARE on an around-the-world cruise, aren't you? I never actually believed it until now. Holy crap holy crap holy crap...

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