When in Rome
We are pretty conservative with our cruising kitty. Most areas of our budget are fairly fixed, but the food budget is one that we have the largest control over. To that end we figure that by eating as much like a Mexican as possible, we will not only learn a lot about the culture and cuisine, but we will also save a few bucks. There are Wal-Marts and Costcos around and when we first arrived in Cabo I thought we needed to go to these stores, but along the way, we have shaped our diet around the little Mexican corner market where food is inexpensive, closer to the boat, fresh and plentiful.
After three months out of the states, I am just now feeling the last of my Trader Joe’s withdrawals. I no longer pine for the smoked trout or walk around the local store again and again hoping to see some honey roasted sliced almonds. So, here are a few of the fun things that we have incorporated into our diet.
Dried Beef (Machaca): This stuff is amazing. It looks a bit like brown/grey insulation. It’s very finely shredded and almost has the consistency of cotton candy. When Cameron first came home from the meat market with this I thought… “yea right…this is going to rot in the fridge” But NO! It is amazing stuff. We used it in soups a lot as well as beans, scrambled eggs and more. It has tons of flavor. Evidently it has a long shelf life…if you don’t eat it first.
Piloncillo or Panela: These are really cool little hunks of raw, unprocessed cane sugar. They have tons of flavor and evidently (according to the “The Society for Sugar Research and Promotions”) are healthier than refined sugar… We use these in place of sugar whenever we can.
Jamaica: Juice is big in Mexico. Thankfully it’s WAY cheaper than in the U.S. Our favorite is Jamaica (pronounced with an “H”) which is really a tea made from the petals of the hibiscus flower. You can buy the dried petals in bags or find them in bins from almost any corner market. We boil the dried petals in water, strain, dilute and slightly sweeten (with Piloncillo) then cool and enjoy. Its inexpensive and fills the “I’m sick of water” gap.
Fresh Tortillas: Every little market has a beat up cooler sitting here or there with or without a sign to indicate what is inside. If you crack the lid, warm humid air will waft out along with the smell of fresh made corn tortillas. If I’m not careful, the girls will eat half the stack before we are back to the boat!
Treats: On passage it’s always nice to have a little sweet treat. We’ve found a few local favorites; coconut rounds and fruit roll’s (guava and mango are tasty). I am developing a taste for their “picoso” sweets; that enticing combination of sweet and burn-your-buds-off spicy. Anything flavored with chamoy (pickled fruit spiced with chiles) is a must try.
Of course then there are the usual things. We have been living on beans from our pressure cooker, rice (Mexican style), chorizo, queso fresco and salsa fresca. We found some sumptuous smoked pork chops which will be a staple from now on. Whole chickens are always a must if you can find them – you may have to go down the road to the lady who sells artwork on her front porch, head to her backyard and she will kill you a chicken…but watch out for her evil dog….
We are back in Bahia Tenacatita which we have now decide is paradise on earth. After a great week in Barra de Navidad working on the marina/hotel wifi and kids playing in the pool, we stopped just a few hours north in Cuestacomate (Secret Anchorage). It was very low key with great snorkeling and successful spear fishing which filled the boat larder. After a few nights we headed back up to Bahia Tenacatita for better protection from swells and more of a cruising community.
We anchored off La Manzanilla, the little town just inside the bay for a lunch time stop in order to get some provisions. The resident attraction in town is over 400 Crocodiles all hanging out in an estuary that is more or less enclosed by a chain linked fence. We paid our 25 pesos and took a walk around the estuary on the boardwalk. We saw our fare share of crocs and we also got to hold one. There were a few exciting moments…
Most anchorages are fairly transient places unless it’s right off a city, but Tenacatita is unique. Only a small palapa restaurant adorns the beach but that doesn’t stop a small group of boaters from calling it their winter home. It’s a fun group of people complete with a Mayor, daily bocci on the beach and lots of planned activities. Cameron got roped into some community service – helping clear a pathway through the mangroves to the next little town up. Luckily he came back with all of his fingers and toes.
Since we arrived back we have been joined by some of our favorite boats. SV Agamere and SV Wild Rumpus have pulled in on their way south as they explore the coast. We also finally got to spend some time with SV Shawnigan who we have been trying to meet up with for a long while. So, kid boat activities have abounded and our girls are in heaven. A tie-dye class, playing in the waves, snorkeling adventures, baby turtle releasing, dinghy sailing races are only some of the pastimes. But, don’t forget a little boat school in the mornings!
Very soon we will be off north to La Cruz in Banderas Bay. A host of family and friends are flying in to have some fun times, a belated Christmas celebration and a few sunset cruises on Banyan. We will miss Tenacatita, but I have a feeling we will be back here sooner or later…