Saturday, December 07, 2013

I don't understand you, but we have great food

In the grand history of the Americas, nothing is more emblematic than the Yucatan Peninsula.  See "Yucatan" means "I don't understand."  As in some Spaniard got off his boat, and asked the first Mayan he saw "what is this place called?"  And this poor, confused fellow replied "I have no earthly idea wtf you are saying to me, habibi."  Thus the naming of the Penisula de I Don't Understand You.

I bring this all up because I went to meet a friend of a friend Boz yesterday for lunch at a restaurant called Las Polas.  Boz is a fascinating fellow who does political, security and risk analysis in Latin America and other fun parts.

Anyway, we met for lunch at Las Polas and I got introduced to the deliciousness of Yucatan cuisine.  I got  a few different panuchos, which are small flat tostadas.  I got three different panuchos to eat.  The first was pollo pibil.  Pibil is the Yucatan's most famous dish, usually cochinita pibil (baby piggy pibil).  Pibil is a style of preparation of the meat that involves marinating the meat in strong, acidic citrus juice, and spicing it with annatto seed then slow cooking it wrapped in banana leaf.  After it is cooked, the meat is often shredded. The pollo pibil panucho was succulent and delicious.  I put raw red onions swimming in green habanero salsa and pure habenero salsa on top.  It oozed flavor, and dripped yumminess onto my fingers and plate.

The other panucho was pescado de tikin-xic, also a dish cooked with annatto.  Similar topping of red onions and habanero, similar yum.  The last panucho was small pieces of grilled steak with a bit of the pure habanero on top.  All was exquisite.

Boz opted for the cochinita pibil torta (sandwich), which looked delicious as well.

Through lunch, we had a great chat on investment and security, and how companies that are already invested in Mexico are expanding their operations because it remains increasingly profitable and getting increasingly more stable, or that the costs of security are within the factor room for the investment.

Also about the promotion of tourism and projection of safety in the Yucatan (Cancun) and Baja at the expense of the rest of the country.  I still think Mexico needs to pull a Colombia-style campaign and deal with the security issue in a more irreverent fashion like the The only risk is wanting to stay campaign.  I think the Mexico Taxi Project is a great start.

But back to the food...this is all fodder for my forthcoming piece on the need for Mexico to do so much more gastrodiplomacy to its gringo neighbors to the north.  Mexico has already engaged in a bit of culinary diplomacy to get its cuisine recognized by UNESCO as an intangible heritage.  Yet it remains so deliciously important that Mexico do more to promote its authentic cuisine north of the border, and not let the Tex-Mex stuff that passes as Mexican cuisine remain the standard for the cuisine that bears its name.  

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