A New Orleanian in Mexico City
"Leaving New Orleans frightened me considerably. Outside of the city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins."
-John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
Every time I'm about to leave New Orleans, and I'm on the way to the airport at dawn or embarking on a road trip and the swampy trees start to recede, I start thinking to myself, "Do I really want to leave? What am I going to miss this week?" Because it's a given, that no matter when you leave NOLA for a few days, you always end up missing something.
But I love to travel, and sometimes you just have to get away. It's a good way to cleanse the soul. Strip everything down. Make you appreciate all the little things – like not having to brush your teeth with bottled water because you're afraid to ingest icky microbes (though New Orleans knows all about that sort of thing what with hurricanes and frequent boil alerts).
So this week's blog is brought to you by way of Mexico City, where I am learning and writing about Mexican street food for New Orleans restaurant Booty's Street Food. I'm currently drinking a Oaxacan Chocolate Latte (which is pretty bangin') at a cafe with free Wi-Fi, which hasn't exactly been the easiest thing in the world for me to find, mainly because every time I ask someone where a cafe with Internet is, they usually don't understand me, or they talk so fast that I can't understand them. Basically, my Hispanic grandmother (whose first language is Spanish), would not be very proud of me if she knew how little I could communicate with the people who don't know a lick of English.
Basically, I've been saying "lo siento" (I'm sorry) quite a bit.
But I digress.
I have actually run into a few New Orleans-esque things here in the Distrito Federal, the very first thing being a dude wearing a Saints cap at the "Feria De Las Culturas Amigas". It's a fair set up in the Zocalo (think Jackson Square, only gigantic), with tents from different countries reflecting the culture of all the regions. As soon as I saw the guy with the Saints hat in the crowd, I flagged him down and was like "OMG you're a Saints fan!" – but he looked really confused. Turns out he was only wearing it because the Saints are a popular sports team in America and he'd never heard of Jimmy Graham, which I immediately rectified. I've actually come to find that it's a pretty common thing down here – for people to wear NFL gear because it looks cool – much like Americans like to wear shirts from soccer clubs around the world without actually knowing anything about the team. But I have to give the Mexican with the Saints hat a little credit, because I've mainly seen people wearing Pittsburgh Steelers stuff, of all things. Gross.
Also representing New Orleans in Mexico City?
A New Orleans Saints cupcake that I found at the "Estados Unidos" tent. Of the things representing the USA, the NFL and baked goods seemed to be pretty popular. Also, hot dogs and iced tea.
And while the UK got Harry Potter …
France got the Eiffel Tower …
and Belgium got beer …
We get …
wait for it …
I think I might try to sneak a copy of The Great Gatsby over there tomorrow … or at least Game of Thrones.
Other things that felt familiar to a New Orleanian were the tiny dried and spicy crawfish at the Mercado de San Juan.
The young man also offered other bugs such as grasshoppers and worms, but the crawfish were by far the most tasty.
And in the posh area of Condessa (think Garden District, or perhaps Marigny), a "Sazerac" can be found on the menu of Salingers, a great tapas restaurant – which from what I could gather, seemed to be a sort of sister restaurant to Booty's, as they offered different kinds of small plates from around the world.
The Sazerac didn't taste like anything I've ever had in New Orleans, but it was still good. I enjoyed it. Also, 100 pesos equals out to about $7.50, so the price wasn't bad either for an upscale establishment.
Above all else, the people here in Mexico City are very nice and hospitable, and whenever they ask where I'm from, they always seem to get excited about New Orleans. It’s a stark contrast to when I was younger and traveled to different countries and would inevitably tell people I was from Ohio – very different reaction. It went from blank stares and blinking to huge smiles and instant recognition. The very first thing that comes to their mind about NOLA is the music. They all know that we're famous for jazz, but I'm trying my best to also push bounce, by recommending that they listen to Big Freedia and to pay no attention to Miley Cyrus's twerking.
So until next time! I'll be here in Mexico City, Distrito Federal, until next Sunday, so if you'd like to see some amazing food, you can follow me on Instagram @anniedeladolce.
Where you'll find things like this:
Ceviche Tostada with Octopus and Shrimp. I got this little piece of heaven from a street vendor.
And fresh fruit topped with cherry mousse, chocolate sauce made from cacao and wine, and an edible flower. Holy shit, was that amazing, and I got it at a produce stand at the Mercado de San Juan.
Mexico City is awesome, y'all – but it will be great to get back to New Orleans.