Young and Hungry

What I Ate on My Summer Vacation: Guacamole

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Before Y&H does anything else on his first day back, I'd like to give a big round of applause to Derek Brown, Orr Shtuhl, Tammy Tuck and Bruce Falconer for their informative, funny, and hang0ver-free Two Week Bender. C'mon, folks, give it up for these two-fisted all-stars! (I say that, even though I think Mr. Brown needs to enroll in Dick Cheney's Remedial Torture Techniques class before suggesting that a simple Indian rug burn would be punishment enough for the next person who puts whipped cream on a daiquiri.)

As for me, I spent that past two weeks roaming the Yucatan, where I managed to successfully avoid Montezuma's notorious vengeance, despite wolfing down just about every food I encountered, from smoked sausage in Temozon to homemade popsicles in Izamal to roadside chickens in Piste to the best damn Mayan barbecue grouper on Isla Mujeres.

Over the next week or so, I plan to combine two old tropes — the What I Did on My Summer Vacation essay with the endless, Groundhog Day-esque carousel of vacation slides that used to turn your parents comatose every summer — to give you a taste of what I tasted while traveling in Mexico. I realize you can learn only so much in two weeks' time in a country, so I won't draw too many conclusions based on too few meals, but still, I hope to at least give you small glimpses into my thoughts on the food I sampled.

Take, for example, guacamole. My wife, Carrie, and I sampled the stuff on numerous occasions, and almost without fail, the guac in Mexico was far different than the bowls we get here in the D.C. area. For one thing, our Mexican guacamole wasn't pulverized into a mush of avocado baby food; with only one exception, the guac we sampled on the Yucatan was carefully diced, so that the  squares of avocado were more visually compatible with their fellow ingredients, the diced onions and tomatoes. (See picture above.)

But much more surprising was the fact that our Mexican guac had almost zero spice to it. None of our bowls included chopped-up chilis, a fact that I might have chalked up to our gringo status if we were supping in, say, Cancun. But we found heat-resistant guac in Cozumel, in Izamal, and in Isla Mujeres. The acid and salt levels were far lower than what I've eaten in the states, too.

I don't know exactly what to make of these observations. But I know what I did to my guac in Mexico: I squeezed a lot of lime into them. I also  shook my fist at them. In my fist was a salt shaker.

  • xcanuck

    So what are you saying, Tim? Do you prefer the spicier, yet inauthentic version? I know I couldn't imagine making guac that didn't include some freshly roasted and ground cumin, lime juice, and a healthy dose of finely chopped jalepenos. It begs the question "is authenticity all it's cracked up to be?".

    Oh, and welcome back to the humidity and chaos I know you must've missed SO much!

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/youngandhungry Tim Carman

    Hey Xcanuck,

    Thanks for the welcome greetings!

    I was trying hard to avoid any discussion about authenticity, because it seems so arbitrary. The Aztecs allegedly were the first to create something resembling guac, but who knows how they actually prepared it. I'm not convinced what I had on the Yucatan is authentic, anymore than I think what we get here in the States is "inauthentic." I do know this: I like chilis, lime, garlic, cilantro, and onions in my guac.

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