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Saturday, January 14, 2012

1/14/2012 - CAUTION: food content

I'm not sure why I persist in thinking of this as a cruising blog. We all know what it's really about, don't we? That's right, it's mostly about FOOD. The saying that every boater gets sick of hearing is "the definition of cruising is doing boat maintenance in exotic ports". Well, for us anyway, that's just a small part of it. We were sitting around the palapa Wednesday afternoon, shooting the breeze, drinking a beer and waiting for the music to start. A fellow cruiser there said that he never stays anywhere for more then a week. He figures that gives him plenty of time to get the boat cleaned up and see everything he needed to in each port. I was aghast! A WEEK??? We've been in Mazatlán for 3 weeks and feel like we've barely scratched the surface. We're still learning our way around. We haven't even begun to take any tours or anything. A WEEK??? If we ate out 3 times a day we wouldn't have time to sample the food offerings here in just one week. A week! Please!

I've heard some people over the years say that they don't really care about food. If they could get everything they needed for survival in a pill, they'd gladly give up eating altogether. Granted, I haven't run in to many of these folks, but a few. I can't imagine what would send someone to this sad state. The food they do eat must be so bland and unappetizing that they just assume that's what food is like. Or maybe they can't taste food due to some taste bud malfunction. That, I do understand.

Lulu had been suffering from a cold for the better part of a week and I had been sailing by unscathed. Thought I was going to get off scot free. Yeah, that's what I thought. What a putz! Just about the time her's wound down, mine kicked in. It didn't start out too bad, though, and I had high hopes for a cold of short duration in which I didn't lose my taste buds. Y'see, pretty much every time I have a cold, there is a period of at least a couple of days in which my nose is so screwed up that I have absolutely no sense of taste, what with the sense of taste and the sense of smell being so intertwined. I dread those periods. But, things seemed to be going pretty good during the first day or two of the cold. Then, on day 3, whammo!

We heard an announcement on the VHF radio that the vegetable guy was at the marina and so was the shrimp guy. The shrimp guy? Hadn't heard about him before. See what we would have missed if we'd only stayed a week? But I digress. Lulu decided we needed some shrimp so off she went to see the guy. She returned with a bag holding half a kilo of beautiful "medium" shrimp. I put medium in quotes because, in the States, these would surely have sold as "large". The large ones he had worthy of skewering and BBQing. Maybe next time. Anyway, she tried to think of what to do with them and ultimately decided that a stir fry over rice was the way to go.

I knew I was in trouble when I couldn't smell her cooking. C'mon, she's stir frying onions, garlic, ginger, peppers and shrimp and I can't smell it? Something's definitely wrong. But, I held out hope anyway. Finally, she brought it to the table.

Still full of hope, I loaded my plate and tucked in. Let me just say that I'm really glad she put some hot peppers in so I could get at least some sensation from the food. Couldn't taste a thing. What a waste!

I truly hate colds and have battled them for many many years. They don't hit me nearly as hard or as often now as they did when I was younger but they still annoy me just the same. Being a big believer in the magic of drugs, I've always sought out a sure-fire remedy. Of course, we all know there isn't one but I tried nevertheless. The best I could do was NyQuil. "The night-time sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever, so- you-can-rest medicine." The vile-tasting concoction at least allowed me to get through the night in some degree of comfort. Well, we haven't been able to find Nyquil in Mexico. Wouldn't matter much since even the Nyquil in the States hasn't been the same since they removed the pseudoephedrine and replaced it with some innocuous crap that doesn't work. However, I've always been in inveterate reader of labels. I hate to pay $5.00 for brand name aspirin when a review of the label shows that the store brand has exactly the same formula for $3.00. So, I know what was in the old Nyquil. It had acetaminophen for pain and fever, dextromethorfan for your cough, pseudoephedrine for your runny nose and blocked-up sinuses, alcohol to help you sleep, and some sort of nasty anise-flavoring to keep you from drinking the stuff for pleasure. There was also "wild cherry" flavoring but it was only just slightly better then the original green stuff. Now, with the exception of the nasty flavoring, I have all these ingredients. So, first for Lulu's cold and later for mine, I whipped up a bit of SRYquil to see us through.

I use aspirin in stead of acetaminophen because we don't think that acetaminophen does much and it's been strongly contraindicated when used in conjunction with alcohol. For the dextromerthrorfan, I use Robitussin DM which also gives me that yummy wild cherry flavor. I used up the very last of my stash of real pseudoephedrine on this cld. Difficult to get in the States and, so far, impossible to get down here. Thanks a bunch, meth cookers! I'll have to see if I can find something that works almost as well for future batches.

Lulu had been having really miserable nights with her cold. She was the first recipient of my concoction. She declared it quite palatable and a damn sight better tasting than Nyquil. It also did its job in giving her a good night's rest. A couple of nights of it and she was pretty much over the worst of her cold. Then it was my turn. Sure enough, it didn't taste too bad. Sort of like wild cherry tequila. And, just like her, it got me through the two nights that I had to use it quite comfortably. I'm happy to say that my cold was pretty short-lived and my loss of taste only lasted one day.

Once my buds were back in shape, I was fortunate that we still had some leftover shrimp stir-fry that I actually got to taste. It tasted as good as it looked.

Last night, having eaten on the boat 2 nights in a row, I was feeling guilty about depriving the local restauranteurs of our pesos so, along with our friends Dave and Marj, off we went to spread the wealth around.

The first day we were here, we heard Mike from s/v Tortue, who we knew from our summer in Puerto Escondido, give a review of a seafood place he and Melissa had visited the night before. It was called "Los 30". He gave it a glowing review and Mike is something if a foodie so we believed him. Since it was pretty much right on the bus route, that's where we headed. I suspect the name has something to do with the number of tables since they're all numbered and there were probably about 30 of them.

When we arrived, there were people at one of the tables. While we were there, they left and another couple came in. That was it. But, that sort of bodes well. It means that they must cater mostly to Mexicans, who tend to eat later than we do. There were no other gringos there, but Carlos, our waiter, spoke excellent English.

The menu was entirely seafood with a strong leaning towards shrimp. Dave ordered filet a la Zaragozada (or something like that) which turned out to be a fried fish filet topped with lots of grilled onions and peppers. Marj, being still sort of full from lunch, just had a tostada suprema (again, "or something like that") which was covered in various seafood bits. Lulu had one of her old favorites, camarones en crema con champiñones (shrimp in a cream sauce with mushrooms). And I, I took the road less traveled. I opted for the molcajete caliente. My first experience with a dish called "molcajete" was at a Mexican restaurant in Salem, Oregon. It was a rich seafood stew served in a molcajete (the "pestle" part of a mortar and pestle, usually made of volcanic rock), covered with melted cheese and burning hot. It was so good and that one restaurant in Salem was the only place I ever found it until we got to Mexico.

This molcajete was a little bit different. Yes, it was seafood and vegetables and cheese and broth. And yes, it was served in a hot molcajete. But, instead of eating it with a spoon directly out of the molcajete, you ladled it out onto a plate and ate it that way. The molcajete kept what was left behind piping hot.

You know how the platter is sizzling when you order fajitas? Well, that's what the molcajete was doing when Carlos served it. The broth was still boiling in it and those sticks of cheese were melting down the sides. That orange puddle in the lower left hand corner? That's some broth that boiled over at the table. This stuff was HOT!!! But, man, was it good. Lots of shrimp, cheese, grilled onions and peppers, fresh tomatoes and a toothsome broth. It was delicious and festive. Dave said "That's what I'm getting next time." It was money well spent. And speaking of money, what do you suppose this meal set us back? Let's see, we had two full meals with lots of fresh shrimp and two beers each. The bill came to $259 pesos. That's a whopping $19.00 (USD), folks! For both of us! WITH drinks! And this was not a street stand, but a bonafide restaurant. You got to love it.

After all that food, we probably need to get out and do another walk on the beach.

Oh, and here's another recipe to try. Lulu made this one evening when we didn't really want a full meal and the temperature was cool enough that soup sounded really good. This is not a Lulu original recipe. It came off the net, from where I can't remember, but it was some guy's girlfriend's recipe. Something to do with a Superbowl soup competition.

Creamy Bacon Mushroom Soup

10 bacon strips, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 T olive oil
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 qt. heavy whipping cream (we used evaporated milk since that's what we had on hand)
1 (14.5 oz) can of chicken broth
5 oz shredded Swiss cheese (we used Chihuahua cheese since...)
3 T cornstarch
3 T cold water
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t coarse salt
2 t red pepper flakes (Lulu's own addition to the original recipe)

1. Preparation with a slight variation since the original didn't use the bacon grease:

2. Cook the bacon. Remove the bacon from the pan but keep the grease.

3. If you have less than 1 T of bacon grease, add olive oil to bring the level to 1 T.

4. Sauté together: mushrooms, onion and garlic until mushrooms begin to soften.

5. Stir in heavy whipping cream and chicken broth

6. Stir in cheese in several batches until smooth

7. Combine cornstarch, cold water, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Stir until smooth.

8. Stir cornstarch mixture into soup

9. Bring to a gentle boil. Simmer 2 minutes until thickened.

10. Serve in individual bowls, garnished with bacon bits.

¡Buen provecho!


Tate said...

We're def going to hit up that recipe.

You give me hope of finding good food elsewhere Steve. Dani and I have been life long residents of Louisiana and I have to say we both have felt "disappointed" when we travel in the food we find elsewhere. Its a great blessing and curse to be raised in a place renowned for its food.

If you and Lulu ever take a vacation on this side of the states I'd def suggest New Orleans in the colder months. It will delight your taste buds.

We should start up a recipe share or something. I had meant to post my actual gumbo recipe a while back, maybe I'll start posting them complete for all to enjoy.

Jay and Judy's blog said...

Steve,as the old saying goes "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." If you take a very small dose of liquid "ECHINACEA" every other day, you won't have to worry about getting colds and such. Its taste is definitely not good, but it beats the hell out of getting SICK!

Anonymous said...

I have also heard about people taking that Echinacea each day with great results, but I have a hard time taking anything each day, Hell I can hardly remember to take my daily cialis to be ready anytime. I like your concoction. Raoul