Thursday, November 20, 2008

Adventures in Mexican Food

One of the most surprising things about our new city is that 33% of the population is Hispanic, compared to a statewide stat of  7.4%. We have a rich diversity of cultures, including an entire Hispanic section of town.  The main commercial district is along Atlanta Highway: car dealers, garages, services, retail shops and "supermercardos" - supermarkets. 

Sure, every big grocery store nowadays has "Mexican" food, mainly Americanized tortillas, refried beans and salsa. Down here, a mainstream store might have a few imported brands. At Publix, I bought some Cuban coffee that was kick-ass. 

In search of the authentic, we took a ride down the Atlanta Highway and found a small but charming supermercardo. On offer were fresh, dried and canned chili peppers, cactus paddles, cassava root, dried beans and rice and other mysterious fruits and vegetables I haven't yet identified. All the signs are in Spanish. (duh!) The meat counter is great. We bought chorizo sausage for $2 a pound. Fresh, whole fish cost just over $2 a pound, too. One section is devoted entirely to a chopped up barbecued pig, including a billowing pile of crispy pork rinds. 

We've been there twice, once to buy fixings for a burrito meal of tortillas, refrieds, hamburger, salsa and fresh chilies. The second time we bought a flat fish (mojarra) a cassava root and a pound of chorizo. 

I had a little trouble preparing the cassava. It's a long, thin brown-skinned tuber coated in wax. It's also as hard as those giant turnips you need a meat cleaver to chop. I managed to skin it in little flakes with a paring knife and then I nuked it for a minute to soften it enough to chop. Then I boiled and mashed. Note: remove the fibrous middle before cooking. It was reminiscent of the middle of a pineapple and about as much fun to eat. The fluffy part tasted great, though--kind of like mashed potato-turnip. 

The fish we fried in bread crumbs after cutting off the head. It was tasty but a bit bony. We'll probably stick to fillets next time. The chorizo will make several meals. Tomorrow morning I'm going to include it in a scrambled egg dish with raisins. 

I'm also going to buy a Spanish dictionary. 

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