Lily and the boys and I ate at Moe's today after we went to the museum. Lily and I were starving, it was almost two o'clock and my smoothie had long since disappeared.
Moe's is a, well, what is it?
A sort-of Mexicanish place. A chain. You order your burrito or salad or nachos and go down the line and tell them if you want chicken or steak or tofu and either pinto or black beans, grilled onions, peppers, tomatoes, all the way up to jalapenos and cilantro and guacamole.
I got a Joey, Jr. which is a "small" burrito with chicken and pinto beans and spicy guac and jalapenos and tomatoes and cilantro. I got my choices of salsa at the salsa bar and we all started to eat and this is what I realized:
American food has no flavor.
It just doesn't.
Compared to what I was eating in Mexico this food tasted like wallpaper paste.
And I kept eating it because somewhere inside my head there was a voice that said, "If you keep eating, eventually you will taste something like food."
And you know what? That's why Americans are so fucking fat.
Well, one of the reasons, at least.
The only damn thing in that meal that had any flavor at all was the chips and their flavor was fat and salt. But it was flavor!
Our junk food is so packed with sugar and salt and fat that we can actually taste it which is one of the many reasons we eat it.
Cozumel is a small island and everything that you find there has to be shipped in by huge container boats that look like this:
And yet, no matter where you eat on the island, whether upscale restaurant which caters to tourists and American ex-pats or sidewalk hole-in-the-walls or beach bar on the side of the island which has no electricity, you're going to get food that tastes of...food.
The flavors are strong and real. The meat doesn't taste as if it came out of a factory but something that actually lived and ate and pooped on the ground it was raised on, the seafood tastes like it came out of a salty ocean, not from a fish-farm somewhere in Thailand. The tortillas are made wherever you're eating them and the chips you get with all of your meals are made from those very tortillas. The pico de gallo you get with those chips came from the kitchen staff's hands that morning, not a jar. And the tomatoes and peppers it's made from are probably not GMO and they probably don't look as good as the ones we buy in the store which are flavorless and have the texture of something that is not actually food-like. I noticed that the egg yolks of my breakfast eggs were as yellow gold as my own chicken's eggs. The guacamole is not a green slimy paste but merely chunked up avocados mixed with a few chopped tomatoes and garlic and lime juice.
Remember when I said that the lime soup Mr. Moon and I were eating when we talked to the cruise ship guy who told us about eating three entire lobster dinners aboard the ship, probably had more flavor in one spoonful than all of those lobster dinners combined?
It's the fucking truth. And that bowl of lime soup was as satisfying to the tongue and to the body as anything you would need. When we ate those fried shrimp tortas at the little lunch counter that day, I could hardly finish one and it was not the gargantuan size that one would be served here which I could probably have eaten entirely and still felt vaguely unsatisfied, even if my belly felt as if I had swallowed a brick.
And sure, my food in Mexico came flavored with peppers and I put more peppers on them but the other spices on the food were not overwhelmed. There was cheese, yes, but I didn't have to eat a pound of it to taste anything but the oil it was made from. I think of my Huevos Veracruz which I loved so much for breakfast, a plate full of refried black beans (which I am sure were made right there) full of flavor and fiber, two eggs overtop, over-easy with a bit of cheese melted on them. I would ladle the pico on it, a little macha sauce, and spend twenty minutes, enjoying every bite which would hold me through most of the rest of the day. The fruit plates I would get, always different depending on which fruits were available and ripest. Some days there was mango, some days there was not. Cantaloupes and watermelon, pineapple. Every bite delicious and full of juice and flavor.
No, the pork was not as tender as American pork but it was a thousand times more flavorful. Same with the beef, the chicken. These were animals who used their muscles instead of being caged up in spaces so small that they never could, fed growth hormones and who-knows-what to bulk and fatten them up in the shortest time. And no, they did not have as much fat on them and yes, they were incredibly delicious. Every bite, EVERY BITE, registered as food. Which meant that we didn't have to eat nearly as much of it.
We walked through the mercado, the old market downtown, and saw pieces of animal, hanging from hooks, bins of fishes, their eyes as clear as glass, fruit piled with brown spots on it, looking as if it had been plucked from trees, not grown in greenhouses.
And here's another thing- I ate peppers that burnt the crap out of every part of my digestive system when I was there. I drank molasses-brown rum like it was going extinct, I had lime and garlic and tomatoes as my main vegetable, fried chips twice a day, and I had absolutely no heartburn.
Here I am, home in American and eating pretty healthy, as you know I try to do, and yet, I've had heartburn every day. Except for the day I ate the ceviche with that I made myself with peppers and lime juice and tomatoes and onions and garlic. Raw shrimp and scallops, "cooked" in lime juice.
We are not eating food which our bodies recognize as such here. That's all there is to it.
And even if we grow our own, catch our own, hunt our own, we have to fill in with that which is available.
It's something to think about.
I've made a spaghetti sauce tonight with organic grass-fed beef, onions, squash and peppers from the garden, garlic, and olives, canned tomatoes and a jar of spaghetti sauce. I will make a salad with greens and cucumber. I think it will be good. I have basil from the garden to chop up into the sauce right before I serve it. I am hoping that my mind and tongue know it is food and tell me when I have eaten enough of it.
And I am thinking that we have gotten things truly screwed up here.
But that I will do my best with what is available.
I may be working in the garden tomorrow.