<![CDATA[morethantacos.travel - Blog]]>Thu, 13 Jan 2022 17:15:01 -0600Weebly<![CDATA[How Pig Cheese Shook My Faith in the Genius of Mexican Food]]>Fri, 17 Sep 2021 01:27:11 GMThttps://morethantacos.travel/blog/how-pig-cheese-shook-my-faith-in-the-genius-of-mexican-food
A cute piglet. Photo by Christopher Carson on Unsplash.
The first time I saw it, I didn’t believe it. The second time I saw it, I tried to deny it—but the cart really did say “Pig Cheese.”

Actually, it said Salchicha Ejuteca y Queso de Puerco.

I assumed Ejuteca referred to one of Oaxaca’s many outlying communities. I hadn’t known there was a town famed for its sausage-making chops, but it seemed plausible enough.
After all, Tlacolula is famous for its Sunday market, Mitla for the quality of its textiles, San Bartolo for its black pottery.
I could go on. But the idea of a town with superb sausage skills was well within the realm of reason.
Pig cheese, on the other hand, sounded like an abomination.
The result? My faith in the genius of Mexican food in all its regional splendor was shaken.

Walking my faith
My faith boils down to a simple rule:  if I don’t know what something is, I try it.
Many times I have sampled something I’d never heard of or that sounded bizarre or disgusting to my ignorant ears and found it was absolutely divine.
A few examples:
Tepache? I’d never heard of it. Turns out it’s made of fermented pineapple peels and is delicious.
Fried beef guts in a taco (tacos de tripas)? I balked before trying these, but, man am I glad I did. They’re super tasty. Especially if the the guts are fried nice and crispy and seasoned with lots of garlic.
Chicharrón? Growing up I thought the only use of pigskin was for making (North American) footballs. I never thought I’d be scarfing it down, but, man alive, pigskin is tasty.
Just the other day I had chicharron on my memela—a memla is more or less a Oaxacan version of a tostada—and was sad when the lady told me she didn’t have any left.
That I lamented a lack of pigskin exemplifies the transformative power of Mexican food.
I must admit that my faith waivered when I tried tacos de buche. Buche is pig stomach.
There was nothing wrong with the flavor, but the texture was a deal breaker.
The inside of the stomach is soft, the outside hard and rubbery.
I’m reaching for an analogy here, but it was like biting through calamari and then an orange peel. I wasn’t a fan.
This moment of doubt caused quite a bit of soul searching. I’d grown accustomed to trying and liking everything. Trying something and not liking it, that was new and confusing.
Eventually I was able to chalk tacos de buche up to “mysterious ways” and move on with my faith intact.
Or so I thought, until I came across pig cheese.

Allow me a minute to be a bit cheesy
Cheese of any type is a bit of a weird deal if you think about it. It is a solid made by partially digesting milk—a fatty emulsion intended to feed the infants of another species—with bacterial enzymes, resulting in the formation of chunks, called curds, and then squeezing the curds together to form a solid mass. The solid mass is then allowed to age for a period of time—years, in some cases.
Sometimes mold is introduced to give the cheese added flavor.
That’s a weird deal.
Where I am grew up, most cheese is made from cow’s milk. I have tried, though I do not particularly like, cheese made from the milk of sheep and goats.
Standing there in the street looking at the Etla Sausage and Pig Cheese cart, I couldn’t  imagine pig cheese being any better than goat cheese.
I was pretty sure it would be worse.

Twin Moral Failures
At this point, I must confess that I did not sample the pig cheese. I was hot and tired and had my heart set on tacos al pastor. So I turned my back on my rule of trying things and ate five beautiful tacos for dinner.

That night, lying in bed, as I ruminated on my failure to try pig cheese, another failure reared its ugly head: tacos de cabeza.
Head tacos.
Usually, but not always a cow’s head, and all of the head: snout, ears, cheeks, eye balls, brains, tongue and even the soft palate.
One online source I consulted included nervio, which I thought meant nerve, but maybe in context it’s spinal column? Brain stem? Dunno. Either way…yeesh.
I have eaten tacos de lengua. I like them. Cooked right, tongue is extremely tender and rich. I believe cheeks could be tasty. I would try beef cheeks without hesitation.
However, I have so far not been able to make myself eat tacos de cabeza. I have been shying away from this particular dish for years now.
Because our fears pursue us until we face them, a taco cart specializing in tacos de cabeza sets up very near my apartment almost every day.
I walk by it at least 3 times a week. And even though it smells good, I just can’t.
The filling—I can’t call it meat—looks like scrambled eggs, but of a nondescript beige color.
Like I said, it smells good, but I know brains and eyes are in there, and I just can’t.
I have tried to tell myself I am avoiding tacos de cabeza because of the risk of Mad Cow disease, but that’s not true. I might as well say I don’t want to compete ecologically with bovine zombies by not eating cow brains, but that’s just BS.
I admitted the inescapable truth around midnight: I am failing to live my faith.

I am also a moron
Before going to sleep, I vowed that the next time I encountered pig-cheese, I would try it. And the special sausage, no matter what was in it.
The next morning, to see what I’d committed myself to, I googled salchicha ejuteca.
Ejutla is 35 miles from Oaxaca and the only place this specific type of sausage is made. The recipe is closely guarded and is based on a European-style sausage that has been modified by Mexican tastes and ingredients.
Salchica ejuteca is cooked over a wood fire, and it is traditional to take it out of the casing and eat it atop a tostada.
Sounds, good. I can’t wait to try it.

When I googled queso de puerco, I discovered that I am a moron. Queso de puerco is not a dairy product made by laboriously milking pigs. It’s what is called in the US head cheese.
I have never eaten head cheese, which is made by boiling the head—minus the brains and eyes—in a pot of water. The feet are often added for the gelatin. After boiling, the whole mass is pressed together and allowed to set.
The act of pressing a mass of ingredients together was known as cheesing, and is the reason why head cheese—as well as dairy cheese—are both called cheeses. 

For me, the fact head cheese does not include the brain, eyes, or ears of the animal was revelatory. It was as if I had been blind and could now see. It was suddenly clear to me that pig cheese was a messenger sent to broaden my palate and deepen my faith in Mexican food.
In the light of this revealed wisdom, queso de puerco was the sword that would allow me to slay the dragon that was tacos de cabeza. It made perfect sense. My faith surged back, stronger than ever.
I regretted I hadn’t seen it that way at first, but in all honestly, I just needed a minute to wrap my head around the concept of pig cheese.
<![CDATA[My Secret Rule to Easily Find New Things to Love]]>Fri, 10 Sep 2021 00:54:34 GMThttps://morethantacos.travel/blog/my-secret-rule-to-easily-find-new-things-to-love
Tepache served in a gourd cup in the market in Tlacolula, Oaxaca. Photo by author.
I’d never heard of tepache when the lady at the taquería asked if I’d like a glass of it.
I said yes.
I said yes because I have a rule: When I’m in Mexico, I say yes to any food or drink I haven’t heard of before.
That is my secret way of finding new things to love.
It felt natural to follow the rule in this case, because everything else in the taquería was perfect.
Sunshine and a sea breeze from Santiago Bay danced through the open doors and windows.
The tacos in front of me looked heavenly. The aroma of fresh corn tortillas and perfectly seasoned carne asada were making my mouth water.
I could tell just by looking at the salsa that it was loaded with the perfect combination of spice and flavor.
In addition to all that, the table was laden with freshly diced onions, chopped cilantro, and a couple of bright green limes, precisely sliced and ready to squeeze.
Like I said, everything was perfect.
And even though experience has taught me that trusting in Mexican food to taste delicious never let me down, I wondered.
Had I just made my life better, or would ordering tepache prove to be a decision I would regret?

What am I about to drink?
As I watched the señora ladle the light brown, slightly murky beverage into a cup, I grabbed my phone and prayed Google knew what I was about to drink.
A hungry couple entered the taquería just then, giving me a few extra seconds. Here’s what I learned:
Tepache is a traditional drink that predates the arrival of the Spanish.
The name comes from the Nahuatl ‘tepiatli’, which means “drink made with maize,” as tepache was originally prepared from crushed and fermented corn.
In the 16th century, fruit juices such as guava, apple, orange, or—most popularly—pineapple began to be used.
The flavor is likened to a sweet beer due to the slight fermentation and the use of piloncillo (unrefined brown sugar).
That was as far as I got before my tepache arrived. But it was enough that I was very much looking forward to tasting it.

A Tepache Taste Test

I sipped gingerly and was rewarded greatly. The tepache was crisp and refreshing, which made it extremely welcome in the heat  and humidity of Manzanillo in July.
It tasted a bit like a lager, which I found surprising as I’d expected it to taste more like an apple cider.
There was a hint of the tangy bitterness of unflavored kombucha, but this was offset nicely by the light sweetness coming from the piloncillo.
Eating my tacos and drinking my tepache—a heavenly combination, I must say—I read that tepache typically contains 0.5 to 1.0% alcohol, and is commonly enjoyed by children as well as adults on hot days.
In the past, tepache was considered a sacred drink and was fermented to a higher percentage of alcohol than is common now. These days, when a higher-octane brew is desired, tepache is mixed with beer or distilled spirits.
As I washed down the last bite of my taco, I read that to this day, versions of tepache still made from corn exist.
The first of these, tejuino, is popular in the north and is often mixed with fruit juice or lemon ice.
Pozol, on the other hand, is common in the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.

Tepache Home Brew

I enjoyed my first tepache so much I decided to have another right away. The lady who ran the taqueria was pleased I liked it so well.
We introduced ourselves and got to talking.
Tirsa told me she makes the tepache sold in her taquería sells herself. “Every family has their own recipe,” she said. “It’s very common to make it at home.”
She added, “It’s a drink we make to celebrate life’s triumphs. In the past, it was used to celebrate victories in battle.” She laughed, “These days, people are more impressed that tepache is totally natural and contains many probiotics.”
While I sipped on my second glass, I looked up how to make it tepache. After looking at a few recipes, I felt like I had a grasp on the basic process.
Mexican recipes suggest fermenting tepache in a wooden vessel if possible.
This recipe has lots of helpful pictures.
You need
4-1/2 cups of water
1/2 cup of piloncillo (or brown sugar)
1 fresh pineapple
1 cinnamon stick
3 or 4 cloves
A pot or pitcher big enough to hold all that
1. Dissolve the piloncillo (or brown sugar) in the water. If using piloncillo, you might need to break it up with the spoon to dissolve it quickly.
2. Wash the pineapple with water and peel it. Save the fruit for another time. Use the peels and the diced core for tepache.
3. Combine the peels, core, clove and cinnamon in the vessel you will ferment the tepache in.
4. Add the water with the piloncillo or brown sugar dissolved in it. Stir.
5. Cover with a cheese cloth or towel that will allow the air to reach the tepache.
6. Let it sit at room temperature for 24 to 36 hours. White, frothy foam indicates the mixture is fermenting. You can drink it now or let it ferment longer—it’s a matter of taste. Fermentation time depends on temperature, how ripe the pineapple was, and so on.
7. When your tepache is as fermented as you want it to be, strain the solids, transfer the liquid to a clean pitcher and refrigerate.
8. Enjoy as it is, with fruit, mixed with spirits, or however you like.

Takeaways--tepache to go
Always be willing to try something new. You never know when and where you are going to find the next great thing in your life.
In my case, being open to a drink I’d never heard oiled me to discover tepache, which instantly became one of my favorite drinks.
In addition to being delicious, tepache is easy to make at home and contains beneficial probiotics.
But being open to novelty is about more than ferreting out tasty food and beverages. It’s how we add wonder to our lives.
It is how we move from surviving to thriving.



<![CDATA[What in the World is a Tinaco?]]>Wed, 01 Sep 2021 04:26:17 GMThttps://morethantacos.travel/blog/what-in-the-world-is-a-tinacoHunting an apartment in Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico
My terrace, complete with hammock and yoga mat and pallet furniture. Photo by author.
​No superhot landladies, no horrifying cesspits to generate hardcore traveler cred, no impromptu parties, no death-defying escapes.
Right up until the word tinaco was uttered, my apartment hunt in Oaxaca had been shockingly tame, even boring. Nothing I could stretch into an amusing lie, er…story had happened. 
I was nostalgic for the days when my rickety Spanish required that I resort to pantomime to communicate.
I was just…talking to people. I was talking Spanish, so it was cool, but still. I was standing around like a bearded potato wedge…talking.
I’d made appointments with people who showed up on time and acted normal. I looked at apartments. Most were okay, but none had everything I wanted: a terrace to do yoga on in the morning, a nearby laundromat, a taquería within easy walking distance.
So, when Jony, my potential landlord said I would need to keep an eye on the tinaco, a sharp thrill went through my body. I had no idea what tinaco meant. Animal, mineral, vegetable? Bloodthirsty saltwater mutant? 
Couldn’t tell you!
Neighborhood street scene. I love it here! Photo by author.
An arboreal cousin of the capybara?
Jony explained the tinaco was on the roof. This only raised my hopes that something cool was about to happen even higher.
Maybe the tinaco was an arboreal cousin of the capybara, but instead of being calm and sweet, it was vicious and unpredictable and possessed sharp claws, long, serrated fangs, and a particularly virulent form of rabies.
I was about to find out.
Jony and I climbed a narrow set of stairs to what is now my terrace and then proceeded up a ladder bolted to the side of the building to the roof.
A gentle breeze greeted us. I looked out over the flowering trees and colonial buildings of Oaxaca to the surrounding hills. I plucked a ripe avocado directly from the branches of the tree overhanging the roof.
“This is the tinaco,” Jony said. 
Turns out, a tinaco is a water tank located on a roof. 
If I didn’t make sure to keep the tinaco full by pumping water up from the cistern every couple of days, I wouldn’t be able to take showers, and my toilet wouldn’t flush.
Good to know, but not exciting. 
Tasty meats from Asador Pipe's right outside my door. Photo by author.
The word itself is cooler than what it means. Tinaco combines the Spanish word tina, meaning “tub” or “large container of water” with the Nahuatl suffix -ahco, which means “up” or in “the high part.”
I dig that kind of linguistic cross-pollination. 
And even though filling the tinaco every 48 hours wouldn’t be an adrenaline rush, I took the place. 
The terrace is sweet, there is a laundromat next door, and I don’t even have to leave the compound to eat awesome grilled meat. I’ve been here 10 days now and the place is a solid win.
Even if I’ll probably never get attacked by a slavering arboreal rodent or execute a death-defying escape from a superhot landlady with rabies.

Follow More Than Tacos on IG for cool Oaxaca photos. ZERO rabid rodents, guaranteed!
<![CDATA[Grasshoppers and Chocolate: Week #1 in Oaxaca]]>Thu, 26 Aug 2021 17:50:08 GMThttps://morethantacos.travel/blog/grasshoppers-and-chocolate-week-1-in-oaxaca
The keys to my new place. The keychain hails from Tequila, Jalisco. Photo by author.
    It’s amazing how things fall into place here.
    I commented on that to a new friend and she smiled and said, “That’s Oaxaca.”
    She didn’t say anything further, but the look on her face spoke volumes about her love for this place. How it brims with a reliable magic that is always appreciated, never taken for granted.
    It’s not perfect, her expression said, but it’s wonderful.
    For my part, I feel way beyond lucky to live here.
The covered terrace outside my bedroom. Photo by author.
    One thing that has fallen into place in the last ten days is my new apartment.
    It’s got a sweet rooftop terrace and an avocado tree in the yard.
    If I need to do laundry, there is a lavandería a few steps away.
   If, come winter, I want to go to the beach, there is a transportes company right next door with vans leaving for destinations all over the state.
    If I’m hungry, there is an asadero in the same compound. I don’t even have to go out onto the street and I can be eating delicious marinated pork grilled to perfection. Or steak, or chicken. Don Luis also makes a tasty tlayuda, among other options.
    (A tlayuda is sort of like Oaxaca´s version of a quesadilla. I’m still wrapping my head around Oaxacan cuisine, not to mention trying to eat all of it, so I’ll get into tlayudas in a later post.)
    If I want tacos…I mean, when I want tacos, I head up the street toward the Zócalo (central plaza) to a great little taco cart for tacos al pastor (marinated, rotisserie grilled pork). It's half a block past the comedor that serves tasty comida típica (everyday food).
    If, instead, I hook a left and walk one block, I can grab tacos de surtido (mixed pork cuts).
    In other words, I’ve got everything I need close to home. Which is a real blessing, because the idea is to keep my butt in my chair writing stories.
    However, when my butt gets sore or I get stuck on a story, I wander the city. It’s beautiful and full of wonderful people, so I always return refreshed and inspired.
    On a recent walk, I picked up a bag of chapulines (grasshoppers).
Chapulines montage by author. All photos from Wikipedia.
    Chapulines are a common food item here in Oaxaca, even a delicacy. Before being sold, they are toasted on a comal (smooth, flat griddle) and seasoned. The three flavors I’ve seen are chili, garlic and natural (salt and lime).
    According to Wikipedia, they have a higher protein content than beef, which is about 55% protein. Chapulines, in comparison, range from 62 to 75% protein and cost about half as much.
    The lady selling the chapulines let me sample all three flavors. I almost went with the garlic, but in the end I took home the chili flavored. That aluminum scoop you see in the top left photo holds about a double handful. One of those dumped into a plastic bag set me back a buck.
    I could have got a kilo for $12 USD, but I wasn't that hungry.
    I headed for home, thinking I’d eat my hoppers on a tostada with refried beans and avocado.
   When I got though, I decided I’d try them with some of the Oaxacan chocolate I’d also purchased. That worked out well. So well, in fact, that I ate all the chocolate and most of the grasshoppers and put off the tostadas til the next day.
Chocolate and chapulines. Photo by author.
    I’m not a food critic, but to me, chapulines taste like whatever they’re seasoned with. The exoskeleton imparts a slight crunch, and the insides of the bugs are soft. The antennae don’t seem to make it through the toasting process, and only very rarely did a leg get stuck in my teeth. I definitely enjoy them, and will be eating more chapulines.
    In fact, a tour guide I met while sampling mezcal the other day told me that here in the city chapulines are featured as ingredients in pizza, ice cream, tacos, tamales, and mezcal. So I’m planning on a day of eating almost nothing but chapulines.
    If there’s a Mexican market in your town, you could pick up a bag and try them yourself. If you do, let me know what you think in the comments or on Instagram @more_than_tacos_oaxaca
Chapulines tostadas. Photo by author.
   PS--Funnily enough, Mexico isn’t the first place I’ve eaten grasshoppers. That honor goes to Uganda, where I spent 6 months working on a chimp project after graduating from UC Davis.
   One morning much like any other I woke to find camp abuzz. The grasshoppers had arrived, from wherever they came from, and the Ugandans were excited. They rushed to gather baskets and sacks and head out to the savannah.
    The grasshoppers were clinging to the tops of the tall grass, waiting for sun to dry their wings, which were wet with dew, so they could fly.
    An hour later, the sacks and baskets full, the Ugandans returned to camp and an impromptu feast of grasshoppers sautéed with tomato, garlic, and onion broke out.
    As with the chapulines, the seasonings dominated the taste of the Ugandan hoppers. I'm starting to suspect that isn't an accident.
     Drop a note in the comments or hit me up on Instagram--more_than_tacos-oaxaca.
<![CDATA[Well, That Didn't Work! On to Plan C...]]>Wed, 18 Aug 2021 18:57:26 GMThttps://morethantacos.travel/blog/well-that-didnt-work-on-to-plan-cOr: Why I’m changing my name to Goldilocks
Palm tree and Templo Santo Domingo. Photo by author.
If you’ve been following along the last few weeks, you know I started this Mexico jaunt in Colima,  a small state on the Pacific Coast. After a decade living in Alaska, it was just too hot, which came as a surprise to nobody except, perhaps, yours truly.
So, after 10 sweltering days in Colima and neighboring Nayarit, I made the trek to a friend's house in Mexico City, which, at over 7,000 ft elevation, was blissfully cool.
Again surprising nobody except myself, I decided after a week that a city of 20 million people was just too big. So, despite all its cultural and historical attractions, not to mention some great friends and a restaurant in a neighborhood market that I came to love, I put Mexico City in my rearview mirror.
Unintentionally showing off my inability to learn from recent history, I decided to head back to the beach.
Yes, despite nearly drowning in a puddle of my own sweat only a week prior, I couldn’t resist trying the coast one more time. I hopped a flight to Puerto Escondido, a surf town about 600 miles south of Colima. And guess what?
It was too hot!
It was also beautiful, of course.
A beach in Puerto Escondido I forgot the name of. Photo by author.
Puerto Escondido was breezier and less humid, so actually more pleasant than Colima and Nayarit had been. But, it was still too hot. It was also overrun with surfers from all over the world. (Imagine that, surfers in an internationally famous surf town!)
I’ve nothing against surfing, mind you, but it’s not my thing. I’d like to learn how, one day.
I just want to surf somewhere magic where the air isn’t too hot, the water isn’t too cold, and I can ride to the beach on my pet unicorn, Cuddles.
But, since sitting around waiting for Cuddles to show up didn’t sound like a good plan, even to me, I got a little bit smart and bought a bus ticket to the city of Oaxaca.
Like Mexico City, Oaxaca is in the mountains—it sits in a valley at about 5,000 feet. The days are warm, and the nights are cool. Oaxaca’s population, though, is far less than Mexico City’s, and it is full of gorgeous colonial buildings and street art.
Street art in Barrio de Peñasco, Oaxaca. Photo by author.
​I visited Oaxaca 10 years ago and loved it. So much so that it was my original destination this time around, before the possibility of house-sitting in Colima instead of paying rent distracted me.
All of which means that in addition to hauling my luggage through Puerto Escondido, I was carrying some high hopes to the bus terminal. I’d chosen the night bus so I wouldn’t have to pay for a bed that night.
It was 8:45 PM and at least 90 degrees outside when I boarded the bus and was enveloped in the luxurious coolness of the air conditioning. I found my seat, got comfortable, and popped some antihistamines to knock me out for the 10-hour journey.
As I drifted off to sleep, some naysaying part of my brain offered up the aphorism, “You can never step in the same river twice.”
I told myself to shut up and closed my eyes.
* * *
I woke when the bus downshifted. I looked out the window and saw we had nearly arrived at the station.
The morning air was delightfully cool—neither too hot nor too cold—when I disembarked. Even through the fog of antihistamines and 10 hours of bus travel, everything looked perfect. And it just got better as my taxi moved away from the bus station and toward my hostel where breakfast awaited.
Street scene in Barrio de Peñasco. Photo by author.
That was five days ago. Spending the intervening 120 hours in Oaxaca have me thinking about John Denver’s lyric in Rocky Mountain High–the one about being born in the summer of his 27th year and coming home to a place he’d never been before.
Of course, I’ve been to Oaxaca once before, I’m 45, and I can’t sing, but you get the picture.
Oaxaca is better than just right. It is magical, and I love it.
<![CDATA[All I Want for Christmas Is...My 2 Front Tires?]]>Wed, 11 Aug 2021 07:00:00 GMThttps://morethantacos.travel/blog/all-i-want-for-christmas-ismy-2-front-tires
Image via lopezdoriga.com
Learning a language is fun because the complexities of languages are essentially limitless.
Learning a language can be frustrating for the same reason.
Recently, learning Spanish was amusing.
For the last week, I’ve been staying in Mexico City with my friend Moni. Learning to live in a culture I thought I knew more about than I do has been a humbling experience.
I haven’t committed any egregious errors that I know of (yet), but I’ve snuck in a faux pas or two.
As a result, I’ve taken to asking a lot of questions to check my assumptions about whatever is happening at the moment. In other words: I’m asking stupid questions constantly.
The funny part is, I don’t always get those right.
The other night, Moni and I were at the neighborhood tire shop—the vulcanizadora—because her car’s front tires kept losing air. We were standing on the sidewalk chatting. I was watching a light rain fall on some beautiful flowering tree, or maybe there was a vine growing up the tree—don’t even start on me about botany with all the language learning going on—while the tire guy was breaking the lug nuts loose on the tire.
I figured he was going to check for leaks with soapy water like we would in the States. But I thought I’d check, because it’s a habit now.
Here’s what I said, translated from Spanish:
He’s looking for fruit punch?
Moni laughed. “Not in the tire. We don’t keep it there, and anyway, it is not Christmas.”
Turns out, I should have said ponchadura, not ponche, to refer to the hole in the tire.
Ponche (recipe here) is a warm drink made with cinnamon and a variety of fruits such as apples, raisins, pineapple, and others I’ve never heard of. It is served in the days leading up to Christmas.
Not only that, it’s usually served in cups, not tires.
Image via mamalatinatips.com
In writing news, I’ve been sending out stories and adding to my rejection log. One of these days I’ll get published in a real, live literary journal, but in the meantime, I’ll keep celebrating every 25 rejections, because that means I’m in the game.
Maybe I’ll get a publication credit for Christmas…but if I don’t, I’ll drown my sorrows by drinking as much ponche as I can.
<![CDATA[A Small Fish in an Enormous Pond]]>Wed, 04 Aug 2021 07:00:00 GMThttps://morethantacos.travel/blog/a-small-fish-in-an-enormous-pondThe wandering continues...I fled the coast for the high-altitude metropolis of Mexico City.
Screen cap from Google Maps by author.
When they reach the Pacific Ocean, red salmon smolts are no bigger than your pinkie finger.
Mexico City is home to approximately 22 million people. That’s more than 8 times the population of Chicago, the biggest city I’ve ever lived in.
I'm confident I know how those little fish feel.
The cat is hard to see, but he's there. Photo by author.
We arrived last night, late.
For much of the trip, lightning crashed from cloud to cloud behind the volcanic mountains ranging north of the highway, the strikes so close together it was like watching a wildfire rage across the heavens.
La guerra de los dioses, one of my new friends said. The war of the gods.
Today, when I woke, I climbed to the roof to look around. Peace had broken out. Cotton-ball clubs filled the deep-blue sky. A soft breeze danced by. Sunlight caressed the brightly painted houses.
On the neighboring roof, a friendly cat stretched in the sun.
This isn't my house, but I really like the pic of a hotel I stayed at. Photo by author.
​My new neighborhood is known as Casas Alemán. German Houses.
tiendita down the street sells snacks and candy.
A block away there’s a fruit stand full of mangos, the miniature bananas I love so much, and tons more fresh produce.
Another block away there’s a collection of market stalls selling everything under the sun.
I found a small, cheerful-looking restaurant to eat lunch: nopal leaves stuffed with homestyle cheese served with beans and rice and piping-hot tortillas made by hand and cooked on the spot.
Speaking as a small fish, I’m happy to call Casas Alemán my home pond.
<![CDATA[What in the World Is Tepache?]]>Wed, 28 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMThttps://morethantacos.travel/blog/what-in-the-world-is-tepache
What is tepache? Photo by author.
I wrote last week's post in Mexican airspace at 30,000 feet. Since then, I've landed in Manzanillo, Colima. Located about halfway down Mexico's Pacific coast, Manzanillo is home to Mexico's biggest port.
The city also hosts the airport closest to where I was supposed to house-sit.
Note the past tense.

That gig went sideways, and it is officially gone like yesterday.
So, I've been hanging out in a hotel room and roaming around town and controlling what I can control, which is spending tons of time writing and submitting short stories and eating lots of tacos.
On one of my taco-eating trips, the lady who ran the taquería asked if I'd like some tepache. I'd never heard of it, so of course I said yes.
While she was ladling a glass from the Thermos, I grabbed my phone to Google what I was about to drink.
Click this free link to read more about tepache. (Hint: pineapple rinds are involved).
<![CDATA[A Wing and a Prayer]]>Wed, 21 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMThttps://morethantacos.travel/blog/a-wing-and-a-prayer
A shrine to la Virgen de Guadalupe, Manzanillo. Photo by author.
I'm typing this at 30,000 feet on an Alaska Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Manzanillo.
I've got a house-sitting gig lined up in Colima, and I'm going to hunker down and write until my fingers are sore.
That is the entirety of my plan.
Beyond that, I'm following a mantra I picked up from Dascha Paylor: Commit and figure it out.
I've got a couple of writing projects on the front burners and a million more on the back burners, and there just isn't enough time in the day to work a regular job anymore.
So I'm taking a flying leap of faith and I'll let you know where I land when I get there.