It’s interesting to look back at the last year and see how things have shaped you in preparation for what’s happening now. My current situation is living in the rancho, and there are A LOT of differences from modern life in the US. I spent a big part of last year being vegan, and learning about all the natural lifestyles. I changed my eating habits, the products I use, and what I spend money on. But being all natural in the US and being all natural in Mexico are two different things. I remember reading a book called Eat Dirt by Dr. Axe. The premise of the book is how in the western modern world we have become so sterile, clean, and perfect that it is actually negatively affecting our micro-biome and therefore the effectiveness of our immune system crippling the health of our bodies. Compared to the earlier days in the US when there were lots of farmers, when pesticides weren’t used, when you would eat a piece of fruit straight off a tree, when kids would play out in the dirt, and when there wasn’t a need to use hand sanitizer for everything. I remember playing in the dirt, and if you watch enough episode’s of Netflix’s Chef’s Table you’ll realize just how many of those world renowned chefs have dirt as their ingredients to bring the consumer a sense of nostalgia from their childhood.
Being in Mexico now is a reality check on just how much my comfort-zone is being challenged and how much I actually might need to unlearn modernity and my willingness to “eat dirt”. For one, the first thing you notice is the amount of flies inside the house. On any given day there is maybe about a dozen or more flies flying through the kitchen. So much so that my dad has now made it a past-time to kill flies with the swatter. Every day he spends about 15 minutes just killing flies. My tia told him “Aqui si matas una mosca, llegan 100 al velorio”. Tia got jokes! Because truly the flies never end.
Just yesterday, my abuela sent me to the carnicero to buy meat for lunch. For one, the shop is in an open space, so the occasional flies will fly around. Secondly, they slice the meat on the counter, then place it on the scale, all before they put it on a plastic bag for you to take home- how clean are those surfaces? They probably have some dirt. Lastly, the butcher handles the money and then goes back to cutting the meat for the next customer- no gloves, not butcher paper. I had to remind myself, I was the odd man out here- since everyone around me doesn't seem to mind. That is why my abuela has me wash the meat before we cook it.
Additionally, I’ve had to come to terms with not refrigerating food. The eggs aren’t refrigerated, but that is understandable since they come from the backyard. The one that has been challenging for me is reheating the food from the day before that’s been sitting in the counter. I had to reheat the caldo de pollo, which had been sitting out in the counter for the last 24 hours. Here I thought we were saving it or the dog. I made sure it boiled for a while, served it, and said a prayer- “Dear God, Please help this soup be good to my stomach. Amen.” I proceeded to eating the soup and enjoying it, because it was still bomb and surprisingly enough I didn’t get sick. It still doesn’t stop me from saying a prayer every time we reheat food that has been sitting out, just in case. If it doesn’t smell bad we cook it, because we don’t waste food here. If it’s questionable, we feed it to the dog or the pigs.
Even when we are out and about, we just have to put faith in how amazing the food tastes rather than questioning if the cook washed his hands with soap. The food industry is not what it is in the US. Growing up we had a running joke about street food in Mexico that “La mugre es lo que le da el sabor” referencing the vendors unclean hands might be what makes the street food taste so good. But in all reality eating that street food is probably what gave me a strong stomach that helps me enjoy food in exotic places. So instead of questioning their methods I started questioning all of the things that the modern world has told me otherwise. No wonder people in Mexico think we are so delicate when we come for a visit.