Last Sunday I walked around the main plaza in Merida looking at all the outdoor vendors and food stalls. There are endless varieties of yummy things to try. I’ll hold off on the typical Yucatecan and Mexican food since I’m still in the process of figuring out all the local specialties and Mayan names for things. Today I’ll just concentrate on the snack items I see most people enjoying here in Merida. There is a lot of corn based products in Yucatan. They eat more corn tortillas than flour tortillas, of course there is all that elote used for posole, and the boiled corn/elote you find everywhere you go. I even found an ice cream vendor that sells elote flavored ice cream. The boiled corn is doused with crema, covered with cheese, and then chile is applied to make it spicy. The corn isn’t very starchy or sweet or too chewy, making it a perfect conduit for any and all condiments and extra stuff you want to pile on.
Marquesitas are new to me but you can find them everywhere in Merida, around the main plaza, by your local supermarket, bus stops, at parks, etc. They are made from a very thin crepe batter and filled with shredded cheese, nutella, or cajeta quemada (Mexican goat’s milk caramel, like dulce de leche). I read somewhere that it was invented by an ice cream vendor who experimented with his ice cream cone batter/dough during a particularly cold winter to boost his poor sales. I’ve never seen marquesitas anywhere else and read that it’s a Yucatecan snack, but my conversation partner told me today that now it’s popular all over Mexico. In Merida at least, the most popular cheese used for marquesitas is queso de bola, from the Netherlands (I think it’s Edam). It takes just a few minutes for a marquesita vendor to cook one up for you and it costs about $1. I’ve only tried the cheese marquesita so far; it’s just like eating a very thin, slightly sweet ice cream cone with semi-hard shredded cheese (the cheese does not melt).
Of course there are tons of fried everything- potatoes and salchichas (sausages/hot dogs) served with ketchup and/or hot sauce, and there are doughnuts, churros, and lots of sugary cookies and cakes. And this is coca cola country. It’s not uncommon to see people drinking a bottle of coke with their breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. They tell me that Mexico ranks as the second most obese country in the world (America being the fattest) and Yucatan has the highest population of obese people in Mexico. Mexicans, especially Yucatecans love sweets, there is a lot of meat in their diet, and Coke is dirt cheap here. A 20 oz bottle of coke is 8 or 9 pesos ~$0.70. They even have their own local version of coke called Cristal Negra (think Dr Pepper Vs. Coca Cola, Cristal Negra is Mexican Dr Pepper), which is tooth-achingly sweet. It’s no wonder obesity and diabetes are on the rise here.
But on the other hand, you can get a giant bag full of fresh fruit as snack as well. I noticed that it wasn’t as popular as the fried sausages but it’s available, with a squeeze of lime and a generous sprinkling of chile powder. In Puebla I used to see people with bags of freshly cut jicama with lime juice and chile powder but I haven’t seen them here yet. I’m really lucky that Doña Gloria gives me lots of fresh fruit every morning and usually she sends me to school with a banana or an apple- this morning I left the house without my apple and she chased me down the street to give it to me. I’m all for trying everything once but I think I’ll probably pass on the fried sausages…