I keep thinking of the plazas- or zócalos- in Mexico.
The plaza de armas in my hometown Morelia; with Magnolia trees and roses, pink cantera stone fountains, our exquisite cathedral, and surrounding archways with cafés full of all the regional political, universities, art and music gossip imaginable.
The Port of Veracruz’s tiled square, with its rare moments of silence and long hours of vibrancy filled with music, dance and food.
Oaxaca’s majestic zócalo is filled people from every region of the state, mixed in are international visitors. In the rainy season women float by with flat baskets carrying gardenias, as in a dream.
Each plaza in each town or city is like a stage set with different casts, lighting, sounds and sets.
After learning local cuisines all day, those plaza benches are a place to reaffirm, reassess what these regional foods are all about–“take the pulse of the culture,” my father would call it.
You find yourself surrounded by the people who make these cuisines what they are. Without the Mexican people– the humble, average people– there is no Mexican food.
No matter where you are in the world, Mexican eateries cannot taste even slightly like Mexico without its people in the back or front of store or in the mind of the cook(s).
Even in home cooking, when preparing something as “simple” as a pot of beans, one’s mother, grandmother, grandfather, godmother, neighbor, friend, teacher, mentor – a real person- will be perched on your shoulder, accompanying you as you prepare what you have learned by osmosis or intentionally, tutting, encouraging, correcting, scolding.
One of the pleasures of learning through our trips is having these plazas to reflect and ponder and savor what you are absorbing daily.
Join us soon on a Culinary Adventure: Ricardo, Ana Elena, and yours truly are happy to share our country’s many foods and many cultures and bring you in touch with our people in each region- not as a tourist but as a guest!
information at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (760) 577-2810
This article is well worth popping into a translating application. Mr Bourdain truly understood and respected our people, our culture. Que en paz descanse. May he rest in peace.