I once was asked by a tourist here in my adopted central Mexican town, Guanajuato, if it was true the culinary delights here were nothing to write home about. I wanted to slap him silly but resisted the urge. Instead, I regaled him with the many wonderfully prepared regional foods as well as the places where he could get his meals prepared by world-class professional cooks.And, it is true. We really have some classy cooks in this little mountain town who were trained professionally all over the world.
Sometimes I wonder just what tourists think Mexico and Mexicans are really like. Are Mexicans nothing more than wild men who run around in tall, pointy sombreros with crisscrossed gun belts wrapped around their chests? Do they think the cooks run around back and butcher their chicken or beef orders for La Comida Fresca?.I am continually surprised at what I find as far as eateries go in this little town. Just the other day, we met friends for Sunday lunch. They had ferreted out a relatively new vegetarian restaurant.
Now mind you, seating in some of these restaurants can be in the living room of someone's home, so you shouldn't always expect top-notch décor or ambience. However, again I was surprised.This little place was indeed someone's home hidden away in a narrow little callejon (alley). So much of the town is a complex maze of callejones, some not much wider than your shoulders. We snaked our way up from the San Fernando Plaza to the restaurant/home of a lovely Mexican family. The wife seated us and cooked our meals while her two sons served the meals and cleared the table afterwards.
This place was comfortable but basic. They had small card tables with metal chairs. The wife had made cushions for the seats and backs of the chairs so the seating was comfortable. We had to choose between two specials they offered that day. She rattled off the choices in the clearest "non-Guanajuato" Spanish I have heard.
That was nice?I was able to understand it for a change.My wife and I had a large dinner-plate-sized salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, sprigs of something green I couldn't identify but were fantastic. The salad was covered with toasted sunflower and sesame seeds. She served us each a large bowl of freshly cooked rice, a bowl of the best broccoli soup I've ever had, and a plate of soy meatballs and fried eggplant. Now, I am not an eggplant eater but this was beyond good. I loved it.
The meatballs, though made of some sort of soy product, were absolutely delicious! She also served fresh Jamaica iced tea.The cute little boys brought the meal out to us on serving trays. They sat the trays right in front of us while bowing and scraping. I marveled at how this woman had trained these little kids to work in the family business and to act so politely. Maybe there's hope for the world after all.
We discovered that this lady learned to cook vegetarian, and I mean really good vegetarian, from her husband who had been employed in a Hare Krishna temple in Mexico City. Then, they came to Guanajuato to open this little café in their home. I just love that!.The entire meal, with drink, came to less than $3.50 USD each. It was a delightful experience and one of the many surprises this town throws at you when you least expect it.
The only problem is that this town is built like a maze not even a rat would be able to navigate. You would have no idea how to find this little place without being led by someone who knew how to find it.And what a shame that is. This little lady's vegetarian cooking would be a hit with the tourist crowd.
And that, dear tourist, would be something you could write home about!.
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By: Douglas Bower