Thanks to the technological miracle of blog post scheduling software, only the most observant readers may have noticed that while certain contributors to the Bites conversation have been attempting to change their complexion through freaky, unconventional means, I actually spent the past week trying to acquire some color the old-fashioned carcinogenic way in Cozumel. Ever the slave to frequent reapplication of high SPF products while floating in the shady portion of the pool, I'm more of a braiser than a broiler when it comes to tanning. I'd put the result at medium-rare at best.
We chose the all-inclusive option for our resort, figuring that the secluded location would make it less likely that we'd want to run into town for multiple dinners anyway. Combined with the Swine Flu Hysteria Discount® we got through our travel agent, the trip was almost cheaper than staying home.
Annnnnd...you get what you pay for. Not that the magic wristband didn't come in handy at the bar area. We came armed with a stack of $1 bills for tipping that would have made Pac Man Jones proud. Paying an extra buck a round to the local bartender sure beats contributing a twenty to FatCarlos'nSenorMcGillicuttyFrogTimeWarnerInc's coffers for a yard of premixed frozen libido booster anyway. Plus, we rinsed our toothbrushes with free Dos Equis because we were concerned about the potability of the tap water in the hotel room.
Similar to cruise ship fare, all-inclusive tourists can expect flashy European names for simple resort-kitchen meals. What the menu promises as "Warm Mousseline of Sole," you would probably describe as "Fish with Tartar Sauce." The staff did attempt to make up for the undistinguished flavors with the plating of the dishes. We learned to keep our sunglasses on while dining lest we impale an eyeball on a deep-fried plantain skin antenna sticking out of the top of just about every seafood presentation. Hey, we'd been drinking free margaritas.
More successful were the simpler meals. We loved that even if you ordered the same appetizer on consecutive days, the ingredients and flavors could be completely different depending on whose day off it was in the Hava Bar grill. A dish as simple as chicken wings shone in comparison to most American versions, mainly because it genuinely tasted like chicken. The tiny joints of poultry were not hormone-injected or brined in preservatives. They had just enough meat on them to hold up a chicken that actually might walk around the barnyard a little bit before its appointment with the stump. We gave thanks for his ultimate sacrifice, because those were some darned tasty wings.
If you've ever eaten in rural Mexico, you would recognize the flavor of the french fries that accompanied a grilled fish sandwich at a seaside cafe. Dios mio, these things tasted like potatoes! After years of tolerating the fiberglass coating of Ore-Ida crispers, I'm not certain I can go back to my old ways again. It might be time to invest in one of these. Even the Heinz ketchup packets tasted slightly sweeter and complemented the Mexican fries better. Maybe there is something to this ketchup vs. catsup debate.
I'll leave you with the meal of the trip. Surprisingly it was a breakfast item. As an adventurous eater, I'm usually not afraid to try something unfamiliar off of a foreign menu. That's providing I can identify what most of the ingredients are or at least what phylum of the taxonomic kingdom they hail from. How the ingredients are combined from culture to culture? There's the genius.
So that's why I chose huevos motuleños off the breakfast menu. Crispy tortillas? Check. A schmeer of black bean paste? I can live with that as long as I wait a half hour before entering the hot tub. Add an over-easy egg, some salsa picante, cubed ham and several kinds of white Mexican cheeses and now you're talking! Cover the whole dish with beets and green peas and..huh? Oh, excuse me...¿Qué?
Damned if it didn't work. Guess what we'll be making in the Chamberlain household to accompany our normal NPR Saturday morning this week.
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