Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Beep Beep, Tamales, Elote, Verduras, Que-so

The sounds of the colonias. Informing the inhabitants what is coming down the road. Hurry, grab your coins and run out to the street and try to figure out where the sound is coming from, and which direction it's moving to.

The Beep Beep bicycle horn signals hot tortillas, packed in a cooler on the back of the bike. There are plenty of young men riding around beeping the horn, all morning and into the afternoon. Just in case you can't get to the mercado to buy from the factory. I used to get so mad at that sound, not realizing what it meant - why would someone ride around just beeping an annoying horn? Even though I rarely buy my tortillas from them, I now appreciate the service they are providing and I guess the sound just blends into the other sounds here...I hardly notice it any more.

Tamales. Tamales. Over and over. In the morning a man goes by, in the evening it's a woman. Different families selling tamales. We buy from the woman - we love her baked tamales and she knows it, so when she has that kind, she comes around. We have since sent her around the corner to our neighbors - they were in search of good tamales and now they've found the source as well. The tamale lady was missing for a good month, and I had given up on her showing up again. But last night there she was - she'd been on vacation but now she's back and we will once again have tamales at least once a week. Yum!

The tamale is a work of art. Cooked in either a banana leaf or corn husk, which is not just slapped around the masa mixture, it cradles the masa. Tamales are a lot of work, and the end result is a neat little package in natural wrapping, tied up with a cord made from plant material. It's like opening a gift, untying the cord, peeling away the layers of wrapping to reveal the tamale inside.

Eh-LOT-Eh. Elote. Corn on the cob, skewered on a stick. Rolled in mayonaise and drizzled with chili pepper and lime juice. Not a tender sweet corn, but a chewy white starchy corn. Add the condiments and you have a snack.

Verduras, Naranjas, Mango. The fruit truck, blasting its message so fast that I could never make out a single word until Miguel told me what they were saying. I used to think it was some sort of community announcement, never realizing it meant a truck loaded with fresh fruit and vegetables at great prices. Just stop the truck and check out what is on the back. The other day I bought a bag of ripe mango - 5 for 10 pesos. The truck was surrounded by people wanting the mango, as it is just again coming into season.

Que-so O-ha-ca-ca (Oaxaca). A song anyone staying in the colonias has heard. A man dressed in white with a wooden tray on his head, loaded with cheese. The man walks up and down all the streets singing his song well into the evening. He's not young, but he can sing, and he can walk. Every day.

Other vendors come through the colonias on a less regular basis. Some selling bread and sweet pastries, some selling furniture on a truck, some carrying small tables on their backs, some carrying ceramics. Sometimes the juice man is around. Every morning except Sunday there is a woman walking through the colonia carrying a large pot with the food of the day - volancos, salbutes, negritas, empanadas. She stops and gives you what you want, putting the condiments on top (pickled onions, marinated cabbage). Great food for breakfast at a great price.

I look at all the people offering these food services, and other than the young men on the bikes with tortillas, the people are all middle-aged or older. What will happen once these people can no longer walk the streets? They are a part of the Mexican culture, but one I fear will be lost with the younger generation who will find easier ways to make a living.

Just like prepared food in the supermarket has replaced the art of cooking for many people, this art of preparing food and taking it around may also be replaced. By what, I wonder?


Bennie said...

Great, now you've made me hungry for Tamale's. It's funny how your feelings of these sounds have changed through the years.

Life's a Beach! said...

I'd love to have a tamale! Lots of markets carry them around Christmas here. And the cheese man. R told me about the man's pronunciation of Oaxaca as Wu-ca-ca and he thought it might be a statement about the taste of the cheese? Ha! Or is that the correct pronunciation? The propane truck used to have that circus type music. The first time I heard it, I thought a parade was on its way up the street. I love all the sounds. Pes-ca-do!

K.W. Michigan said...

OK I'm now hungry for some darn good homemade Mexican food!

Anonymous said...

"Que-so O-ha-ca-ca"....that has to be my favorite! Bruce loves the cheese so we always buy some.