Leaving Mexico to Eat “Real” Mexican Food

Stephen F. Dennstedt

The title of this post sounds idiotic at first blush but hear me out. I was born and raised in San Diego, California which is right on the border with Tijuana, Mexico and Baja California. I grew up with Mexican food—northern Mexican food. TexMex and southern Mexican food don’t really satisfy my finicky palate. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE all Mexican food but northern cuisine is my favorite.

When I left the USA in early 2012 to trek and photograph southern Mexico, Cuba, Central America and South America I thought I would be eating crispy tacos, enchiladas, burritos, rice & beans and chips & salsa to my heart’s content. That was not to be the case. I couldn’t find a crispy taco to save my soul, rice & beans were rare and chips & salsa nonexistent. I occasionally found a decent Margarita but usually just drank beer.

The cuisine of each country proved unique and even regions within a country had their cultural specialties. That’s part of what makes travel so darn fun and interesting—cultural diversity. But being the ignorant Gringo I was I assumed Mexico would be consistent in their food offerings. Silly me. I spent a lot of time on the Yucatan Peninsula and their food bears no resemblance to food served throughout the rest of Mexico. There are some commonalities of course, mainly corn tortillas, but in most ways it is quite different. So after five years on the road I was craving the Mexican food I grew up with.

Fast forward to March 22nd (this year). I landed back in San Diego after my five-year absence, my son picked me up at the airport, and then we made a beeline to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Old Town San Diego. I was in hog heaven as they say. Any other cravings while travelling? Funny you should ask. Here is a list of my biggest cravings: Mexican food, a great hamburger, a good thick crust pizza, a choice medium rare steak and Vietnamese Phō. Strangely enough I had no trouble finding excellent (and cheap) Chinese food during my travels through Latin America. I love sampling new regional food but sometimes you crave the comfort food of your childhood.

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2 responses to “Leaving Mexico to Eat “Real” Mexican Food

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