Eating on the Cheap in Mexico

by Felisa Rosa Rogers

The mayonnaise is yellowing in the afternoon heat. The open tub sits atop the food cart, with no ice in sight. I do the math — it’s 3:30 PM, and the elote cart has probably been open for business since noon, which means that the mayo has been exposed to the open air for three or four hours, maybe longer.

Quires mayonesa?” the girl asks, holding up my corn on-a-stick.

I hesitate. An elote is a boiled ear of corn, crammed onto a stick, and slathered with condiments. My favorite combo is the fixings: lime juice and mayo, dusted with cheese and chile powder. After 30 years of eating elotes, somehow this is the first time I’ve noticed that the mayonnaise sits unrefrigerated, no doubt fostering a colony of bacteria the size of Mazatlan. I scrutinize the elote girl. She looks plump, healthy, and reasonably guileless. The other part of my brain, the irrational, dominant part, starts whispering about the delights of mayonnaise. Besides, it says, you have a stomach of steel and a reputation to protect. Has all that time stateside made you soft?

Read more at Special thanks to Wick Sakit for the photos, which perfectly capture the street food experience.


4 Responses to “Eating on the Cheap in Mexico”

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  1. -El Codo- says:

    Andele Churpa! I quail however at the thought of ever again snacking on seafood from an ambulatoria. The few times I have ever had an ill experience grunting in the street have been when appetite overruled common sense with regard to ceviche or camarones. The effects came shortly thereafter and were dramatic.

    My friends Brenda and Jesus were surprised when I explained that mayonesa is made from raw eggs, and that the favorite food for bacteria culture in laboratories is…………….raw egg!

    Speaking of eggs, raw ones at that, is the reason I prefer my stored eggs to be refrigerated is that many years ago in Nayarit, I misplaced some eggs in a beach front palapa. It was summer. One hot, humid, moonless night, I awoke to a horrid sound. I refused to get out of my hammock until dawn. By that time the third chick had hatched and when I found the half dozen eggs long-ago forgotten, two more had emitted fuzzy yellow bodies. The afternoon sun had heated up the layer of stones at the base of the hut to make an incubator. I lost two of the little ones to unknown predators, and I found myself feeding the ravenous little monsters bag after bag of long grain rice. When I pulled up stakes, I gave the pullets to an appreciative young man. I real panic occurred when a pullet would spot a moth or butterfly. It would run like crazy in circles if necessary flapping a foot in the air trying to grab it. Maybe it would be easier just chilling the eggs a little.

  2. churpa says:

    Ha. I’ve always wondered if that was even possible. Now I know. Great story Codo.

  3. -El Codo- says:

    I sure like the idea that chickens actually prefer alacranes if they happen to come across one. I wouldn’t have the heart to “harvest” a chicken, but I’ll settle for some fresh eggs. Of course I always have to be a sucker and give them names. Rice, then granos de elote when they grow up of course, a chicken never had it so good.

  4. churpa says:

    My parents tried to raise chickens once and got into a three day fight when it came time to “harvest” them–my dad chickened out, so to speak.