I Moved To Oaxaca

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Yesterday after work I had a real hankering for meat, and the fried eggs and reheated tamal I ate for lunch did not fill the bill, so after the movie and a trip through Gigante, G and I went downtown looking for the next-best thing, tacos. Pig head, cow head, tripe ... ah, yes! plain ol' res. Three beef tacos and half a Fanta later I was satisfied -- but only for the moment, because G mentioned carnitas.

Oaxaca has a lot of mighty fine food, especially the local Vitamin T: tacos, tamales, tlayudas. However, it does not have, in addition to the bevy of Asian cuisines we urban Californians take for granted, any burritos, fish tacos, or carnitas. Yeah, yeah, it's possible to find a fish taco -- I hear you can get 'em down in Huatulco -- and every so often a carnitas sign pops out, but the folks here like their pork sliced thin and covered with chili. Aka cecina enchilada.

We'd had some rockin' good carnitas out at El Tule with Ian and Caroline, so we decided that as part of our Sunday Morning Drive we'd go to El Tule and get a carnitas lunch. El Tule's out Hwy 175, as are a couple of sites that our little Oaxaca guidebook treats as afterthoughts. But still, we decided to see Dainzu. It's not far.

Well! I hope you click on the link because it's a pretty little place and, other than the caretaker and the parking lot attendant, G and I were the only ones there. So after a thorough exploration we headed off to our carnitas lunch. And with G heading back to the States in a few days, we decided to pick up a few gifts there, too. It's small, and has a pretty church, a pretty pedestrian walkway, garden ... it's a nice little place to visit on a Sunday, and if you're in Oaxaca I recommend it. Lots of folks were strolling around today, sampling mezcal, eating helados and raspados and other summer-day snacks. And a fair number of small ladies were selling the local red pottery (I finally succumbed). We parked Little Jumbo, turned the corner onto the pedestrian walkway, and ... where the carnitas fonda had stood was a bare patch of dirt. No tarp, no grill, no plastic chairs and tables and cold beers. Most importantly, no carnitas. G asked a neighboring vendor, who said, yeah, they were unique in Tule and, yeah, they're gone. Damn! So we got tlayudas with chorizo and a couple of tuna helados and while it was good, it still wasn't the big old meal of meat I was craving. So acting on a memory, we drove back into town and down the Periferico toward Gringolandia, where Greg remembered seeing the word "carnitas" attached to one of the funny signs along the road. Turns out he was right! At the sign of an alarmed Porky Pig in a fiery cauldron, we did indeed see:

Los Michoacanos Carnitas

We parked, walked up, and asked, ah, can we get some carnitas to go? Sure can, how much you want? Quarter kilo enough? Here, try some while the muchacho bags up your order! Oh, my, yes! Carnitas, tortillas, pickled carrots, guacamole, salsa, a bag of chipotle peppers, we had everything we needed for some bang-up tacos. Except ... we got back in the car and drove a little past Gringolandia, to the drive-thru miscellanea in the shape of a giant Tecate six-pack. As we rolled up, G asked, what's Spanish for six-pack? I said, I don't know but the Spanglish word is six-pack, and since the guy in the Big Six understood Spanglish, pretty soon we were whizzing back to Moderate Shangri-la with a complete taco party.


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