Mercados de Mexico, the Mega to the Mini…
One of our first stops in San Miguel was to stock up at the Mega, a gigantic supermarket where you can buy anything from “breads to treads.” They sell imported foods from all over the world, prepared moles, fresh baked breads, a chicken chopped while you wait, or new tires for your car. You name it, they have it. You can even have your car washed while you wait! We spent two full hours here, mezmerized on every aisle.
If you prefer a more local, intimate shopping experience, this can be had on any corner. Just two blocks up from our house is this cornucopia of fresh produce. I thought the Korean Markets of New York made good use of space, but this tiny mini-market offers floor to ceiling fruits and vegetables.
But as for me, I am still partial to the Mercado Ignacio Ramirez, where you can buy all kinds of local produce, from cactus pears to roasting ears, right alongside the leather saddle shop. My favorite food stall is the one right across from the flower market. I love to sit on the rickety little stool and watch as this same man, year after year, cranks down on the arm of the juicer, one halved orange at a time, until he has filled my “gran vasa de jugo naranja naturale, por favor!” If I catch it at just the right time, he also has a hot platter of “milanesa de res,” round steak pounded thin and pan fried. This makes for one of my favorite, albeit a bit unconventional breakfasts!
But the best look into the dichotomy of San Miguel life is the Tianguis Orgánico, or Saturday morning organic market. This weekly outdoor market is not only a photographer’s dream, but also epitomizes the “expat community” of San Miguel. It seems to bring out the yuppies and the wealthies who would otherwise have their maids doing their grocery shopping, were it not for the weekly “see and be seen” socializing opportunity as they jockey for position in front of the baskets of organic feel-goodness, all in the name of supporting the local farmer.
Conversations can be overheard across baskets of squash blossoms alongside boxes of worm compost, “Oh, I must get some of these orange donuts for my gardener!” It is a fascinating microcosm for people-watching as crowds of women in their white linen capri pants and wide-brimmed sun hats, sporting too much plastic surgery and turquoise jewelry, line up for baby greens with nasturtiums, something the locals across the table must offer in utter amazement.
And then there is Don and me……we don’t really fit into either group. As much as I enjoy the activity and seeing the local farmers flourish, it makes the socialist in me squirm to observe the dividing line of skin color across the tables of arugula and heirloom tomatoes.
All guilt aside, though, I do love sitting at the shaded picnic tables, watching the action, listening to the music, and eating the glorious food — Hot gorditas on the grill, choose your fillings. Homemade tamales of every variety, smothered in fresh guacomole and salsa. And fresh “aguas,” or waters made from fruits…papaya, mango, or my favorite, “Jamaica tea” made from dried hibiscus flowers.
All in all, a fascinating way to spend a Saturday morning!