A dish called Sonora
Wednesday February 15, 2012
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Over four days in Sonora, Mexico, I lost my heart three square meals a day.
At first, attempting to curb my normal enthusiasm for new cuisine, I tried to resist the allure of the local gastronomy, approaching each bite with a coolness normally reserved for a first date. But with each passing morsel, I felt my guard slip further. So by the end of our first day together, I was unable to contain my love of all tastes Sonoran.
Sure, I’d flirted with Mexican cuisine before: a burrito here and there, a taco or two, the odd quesadilla, and arguably the most un-Mexican of Mexican dishes – nachos. But for the most part, Mexican food remained a mystery: a cuisine well known, but largely unrealized.
It wasn’t until I landed in Sonora, and lifted the veil of that first tortilla, that I began to understand what Mexican food was really about. Yes, there are beans, there is cheese, and there are more forms of corn than you could poke a Taquito at. But there is much, much more.
Upon introduction, at the El Agave Café, I gush over the green and red salsa, which with the creamy guacamole, comes as a precursor to nearly every meal. Served with a smooth bottle of Pacifica (beer), this is followed by a fiery tortilla soup (a red chili and cheese broth), smoking-hot enchiladas (flatbread rolled around a filling and covered with a hot pepper sauce) and a sweet coconut flan. Not a bad first date.
Then, less than 24 hours later, we find ourselves sitting down for breakfast, where traditional refried beans, Huevos Mexicanos (eggs scrambled with salsa) and chilaquiles (Mexican bubble and squeak) accompany fresh fruit juices. So much for taking it slowly.Later that day, on a walk through the town of Alamos, I am introduced to the local markets. Here, churros, coyotas (cookies filled with brown sugar) and sweet pastries – some served from the back of a pick-up truck – vie for the business of cashed-up, sugar-hungry children. I opt for the potato chips, doused in fresh lime juice and chili sauce.
Over the next 48 hours, I am seduced by everything from a light green chili soup to tostadas (a Mexican open-faced ‘sandwich’), from chile relleno (stuffed peppers) to chimichangas (a deep fried burrito). But my favourite dish, the one for which I fall hardest, is the tamales (a corn-based dough, steamed in banana leaves).
And then, with a heavy heart, and full stomach, my journey through Sonora is suddenly over.
But as I overlook the Gulf of California from the village of San Carlos, with tasty tamarind margarita in hand, I realize that this is a love affair that will linger on.
For more information on Sonora, and Mexico, visit: www.visitmexico.com.