Ready to eat! Morelian Every Day Cuisine

Just one minute from our front door is a ‘Cocina Economica’ (literally ‘Economical Kitchen). Similar places are called ‘Cocina Casera’ and ‘Comida Corrida.’ At this one, for 30 pesos (a bit over $2.00) you get soup, main course with rice and beans, and a beverage (a watery but tasty juice). The main course, called ‘el guisado,’ can be chile rellenos, either red or green. I’ve had both and they’ve wonderful!. They are dipped in batter and deep fried. ‘Relleno’ means they are stuffed, in this case with a slice of cheese. They also serve chicken, beef or pork in various formulations, and sometimes leafy greens. All these dishes are out for you to inspect, so even if your Spanish is limited, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you are getting. The beef is served ‘encellobado’ meaning with onions, or in a ‘caldo,’ a broth (beef in this case). Pollo (chicken) and cerdo (pork) are also served in a broth or stew of some sort.

Most ‘guisados’ are served with rice and beans. The rice at our local place has a few chopped vegetables and is cooked in broth. It is better here than in most such places. As for the beans here and most places, I find them too soupy.

The soup is chicken based, entirely free of fat, with some vegetables and pasta if you want it. It’s always good.

There are many Cocinas Economicas in town, and most of them charge 40 pesos or so. I had a fabulous chicken mole at some granny’s hole in the wall for 40, plus 20 for a beer, so it was twice the cost of our local spot. Mole sauces are very common and there are many variations on the theme. Mole only comes with chicken as far as I know.

What else, in no particular order:

Tacos are everywhere and universally wonderful. I’ve only had them two or three times when Peg bought 8 of them at 5 pesos each. This was from a spot just down the street. The beef is shredded ( never ground) with lots of cumino and I don’t know what else in it. I’ve seen them selling real small ones for 2.

In some places they cook the meat on a vertical spit like the Greeks and Turks. They slice it as it cooks and wrap it in two tortillas. Always 2. Peg has has lengua tacos. Tongue. I don’t kiss her lips for a long time afterwards. Tongue tacos should be included in Leviticus where whatever you don’t like can be condemned.

Tacos dorados, golden tacos, are tightly wound with bits of beef or whatever, and deep fried.

I seldom see burritos.

Tortas, everywhere. Tortas are sandwhiches. Always on fresh, locally made bread. I had one called una Torta Espanola. Ham and other meats, various cheeses, sauce. Tortas are always moist and filling. They start around 15, up to 28 pesos.

Milanese Breaded fillet of beef, pork or chicken in the style of Milan. No different from what you’d get just about anywhere but always good and inexpensive! Very thin. Might be served as a torta.

Gazpacho. There are little shops selling it everywhere. I was curious because gazpacho is a soup and why would people walk around eating soup? In Spain it’s a soup, but here it’s finely chopped fruit served with slightly spicy chile powder and grated cheese. Fabuloso!

Breakfast: Eggs al gusto (as you like them) and pancakes, just like the pancakes we know in the US. Most people eat tacos, enchiladas and other everyday items, often at sidewalk stands with a few bar stools attached to the cooking/serving unit. They start as early as 8 a.m.

Savory Crepes: There are savory crepes with ham, cheese, vegetables, and sweet crepes, hold overs from the days the country was run by the French. Maximillian lived here.

Fish and shrimp. Lots of it. Peg had a decent sized shrimp cocktail for lunch today for 25. I had a fish soup with a sizable piece of fish in it for 30. Very mild flavor. The fish looked like it dove in there. No points for presentation.

Hot sauces are served with most everything. They are mostly home made, both green and red. Commercial sauces might have an emulsifier in them so they don’t look the same. Some sauces are hot and some are very hot. If you get soup you will get finely chopped chilies and onions. The chilis are spicy and crunchy

Chicharrones (fried pig skins) are on every street corner. Sometimes they are huge, maybe 3′ x 3.’ Of course you buy bits and they put a red sauce on it.

Fresh potato chips join the list of the ubiquitous. A small bag costs 10. They are good but not much better than what you can get in a bag for less. Served with a red sauce. There are also long thin sticks right next to the potato chips, also served with a red sauce.

Tortilla chips Nary a one.

There are many local specialties but what I’ve mentioned are what you can get anywhere any day of the week.

Morelia, Mexico Part II

Last night, we went to a performance that is part of a three-day modern choreography workshop going on here.  Young choreographers from all over Mexico have brought their students to present certain dances.  There are 6 1-hour performances over three days, in two theatres.  Last night, we went to a sort of “black-box” theatre – audience on all four sides.  Two VERY interesting pieces, one good performance but too long, and one only fair.  The presentations are free, of course.  I actually had sort of a Spanish conversation with the couple behind us in line.  Her daughter is a dance major who is working for the presenting organization as part of her practical experience.
We ae in the middle of a three-day Modern Choreography workshop here.  Two 1-hour performances a night for three nights.  We missed the first one last night, but went to the second one, which was four dances.  Very modern, but not “pop” – no rap music type choreography.  The choreography is by teachers in dance schools across Mexico, who have brought their students to the workshop.  By far, the audience members looked to be between 18 and 20 years old.  Interestingly enough, at least 60% were guys.  Quite different that I would expect in the States, although perhaps I’m thinking more about classic ballet.  I can’t remember going to a modern dance workshop in the States.  I didn’t go to any dance performances when we were in Gainesville.  Maybe there are more guys there than I would expect.

Morelia, Mexico 2009 Part I

Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico April 17, 2009

Morelia Charming and Entertaining

(We spent two months in Morelia in 2009 waiting for our Peace Corps stint to begin in August.  Definitely cheaper to get medical care there.  We needed some things attended to b before the PC would fly us to Panama).

Morelia is a charming city.  It has an attractive, sizable downtown area filled with World Heritage buildings, friendly and courteous people, fine cuisine and many free, high quality cultural events. Like Merida, Peubla and San Cristobol de las Casas, it’s more beautiful, richer in culture, better organized and cleaner than you would expect.   Everything comes together in a way that leaves you tranquil and culturally elevated.

Morelia is in the province of Michoacan, with a population of about 685,000.  It sits at an altitude of 1920 meters (6300 feet) with an average daytime temperature of no more than 85F. Rain is infrequent; the skies are always blue.  The downtown area has over 1000 colonial buildings and churches that are World Heritage designated.  Cost of living compared to the US is about one half. Medical care is excellent and as affordable as is most everything else.

There are some concerns, of course. Recently a mayor who fired his police chief for corruption was assassinated, and there have been some attacks on police or army installations by drug traffickers. However, most of the violence in this province as elsewhere in Mexico is between competing drug trafficking gangs. Most of that occurs in non-public settings so safety is not effected. My other main concern is air quality. Pollution from cars and buses on main thoroughfares can be quite offensive. The constant breeze means the problem ends up somewhere else.

We arrived on in Mexico on March 24, 2009.   At the bus station in Morelia you pay 35 pesos (currently at $13 pesos per $US- they use the $ symbol here too, in fact the word dollar comes from Spanish) at a desk inside the station for the taxi ride to town. There is no dispute about how much the ride costs, and there is no extra charge for an extra passenger or luggage, getting visitors off to a good start.

Peg found our place using the wireless internet in the $20US a night hotel in downtown Morelia.  In less than two days we moved into an apartment run by the Baden-Powel Institute.  BPI has about 7 apartments rented to students studying Spanish.  There were plenty of spare apartments so they rented us one.   We negotiated a discount from the weekly rate but still a lot more than we would pay for an apartment elsewhere in the city.   Since we are going to be here a relatively short while, and since the rent includes all utilities, a cell phone, weekly maid service, a water purifier, cable TV with lots of subtitled movies and other English language programs, wireless internet and a very convenient location in the historic center, it makes sense to pay a bit extra.  So far it’s worked out very well, although our first apartment was a bit noisy being right on the street.  Now we are on the second floor, it quiet, less dusty and we are not bothered by automobile fumes.

Since we arrived we’ve seen 1) a two-day outdoor weekend international folk dance festival with participants from 7 or 8 Latin American countries, 2) an outdoor production bu a modern dance troupe 3) an excellent outdoor production of Jesus Christ Superstar, and, 4) the first three of four evening performances of the 19th Annual International Guitar Festival and competition. Total cost to us: $0.

There is also live music at many of the bars. One night we saw a very good belly dance performance by 3 women at a restaurant; one of them also did a few flamenco dances. Our total bill for a very good meal, 2 beers each included, was $42US. That’s for four people, not two.