Friday, September 19, 2014


Friends, family, and random strangers always have questions about our life on the boat in Mexico. Some are specific like, "what food items are hard to find in Mexico?" Others are so broad that they are almost impossible to answer, like "what is it like to live on a boat?" Uhmmm......  good?
Since various unexpected chores and responsibilities are keeping us in Seattle for awhile, this might be a good time to answer some of those questions. I'll start with an easy one.
What do you miss in Mexico? 
When people ask this question they usually mean food items. The answer to this has changed over the past year and a half. I don't know if American style foods are becoming more common or we are just more adept at finding them. Black olives were an issue for us a year ago. Stores carried them but at prices more than twice what you would pay in the States. Peanut butter was rare. Now they both are easily available and affordable. Castelvetrano olives, which I love, are not to be found. Dill pickles are hard to find and I just can't eat potato salad or tuna fish sandwiches without them. Cashews cost more than gold and I do miss them. Mostly, though, it depends on where you are. In an isolated fishing village you will be lucky to find mayonnaise, a fresh tomato, or a decent loaf of bread. In the cities, major supermarkets (including WalMart and Sam's Club) carry most everything you could want.
Cape Cod Potato Chips in a WalMart in Sonora
American style chocolate bars are prohibitively expensive but that's not something we care about. Mexico produces some really good wines but small shops, and sometimes even larger ones, usually don't have much of a selection. I've been in large grocery stores where the only wine choices were Riunite, Annie Green Springs and Padre Kino. Bottled water, Coca Cola and beer are sold everywhere.
Lemons are rare but limes abound and cost pennies. Yellow onions, which I prefer over red or white, are rarely offered. You learn to adapt.
Fruit is sold seasonally. So I gorge on mangoes in season. They are perfectly ripe, sweet, and dripping with juice. When the season is over you just have to wait for next year. A much better system, I think than to have fruit available year round but under-ripe and tasteless.
Surprisingly, tomatoes in Mexico's supermarkets are no different from what is available here in the States, hard as rocks and lacking flavor. They are often imported from the United States which seems just wrong somehow. The open air markets usually have excellent tomatoes and other fresh produce. Sometimes it's just a matter of searching out what you want.
The flip side: what do I miss from Mexico when I am in the States? First and foremost, orange juice. Restaurants there serve it fresh squeezed. If you order orange juice and they only have bottled oj they will tell you apologetically that it is not fresh, assuming that you may rather order something else. There was one time when that didn't hold true. It was a restaurant in a condo complex in Mazatlan, catering exclusively to gringos. I ordered orange juice with my breakfast and was served Tang with no warning or explanation. I've never complained about food or service in a restaurant in Mexico. It is almost always all good and when it's not I just mentally shrug my shoulders and figure it is all part of the experience. So I drank the Tang with a smile and told myself to remember not to eat there again.

Really good hand made tamales are sold on the streets for a dollar or two and I haven't found anything that good in the States.
I especially miss my favorite Mexican breakfast of chilaquiles with chicken and red sauce.
Also margaritas made with real juices rather than bottled mixer.
And, a special treat, fresh chicharrones - salty fried pork rinds.  Yum!!

Other than food items (and, of course, friends and family) the only thing I really miss is Barnes and Noble. English language book stores are few and far between, quite small and expensive. Kindle is a poor substitute for a real book in my opinion and sometimes I want to just wander around inside a book store and relax. A trip to the local Barnes and Noble is the first order of business every time we come home.
A store selling nothing but dried items, everything from spices to dog food.
Another shopping option - the weekly open air market
In future posts I'll try to cover medical and dental care, driving and transportation, and safety concerns. Feel free to comment or email if there is anything you are wondering about. I'll do my best to answer.

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