Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Mexico — To Eat or Be Eaten

Down here, south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where there are iguanas on the rooftops and butterflies in the house, where flowers and rubber trees grow from rock walls and rain gutters and cobblestone streets, where that chirping call you hear from the trees at night is not birds but geckos, where moths are the size of your hand and walls transitory, time takes on a drowsy quality and you get into the rhythm of the tropics and the realities that entails. Some of those realities, like the lush beauty and balmy waters, are lovely. Some, like the mosquitos, are not.

Baja from 30,000 feet

Baja from 30,000 feet

The last time I contemplated myself as meal on this blog was a post I did from Lake Tahoe reflecting on the Donner party. But after our first night of our now annual fall trip to Casa Tres Coronitas in which I received some 15 to 20 bites inside the mosquito netting that surrounded our bed (while my daughter, outside the netting, got that many on her face alone), I find myself considering it again.

Down here, it’s eat or be eaten. Actually, it’s eat and be eaten. Last time we were here, my children watched with a combination of fascination and horror as a small Mexican fish hawk landed in the tree outside our room and proceeded to rip apart a gorgeous little yellow tropical bird.

I wonder what it is that makes some people more appealing to mosquitos than others. Is it that they are emitting more carbon dioxide than their neighbor, or that their blood is sweeter? Are some people Kobe beef to mosquitos, while others are plain old midwest variety steer? My one daughter received what looks to be well over 70 bites, while the other got only a handful.

The first margarita

The first margarita

It’s been a rainy year in this part of Pacific Mexico. A couple weeks before we arrived, a hurricane blew through. From the airplane flying in, we could see muddy rivers swollen well beyond their banks. It seems there are more mosquitos than last year. Though ubiquitous, I find the mosquitos here more innocuous than those at home. For one thing, they’re smaller and their buzz higher pitched. They seem less intent on hovering around my ear and ruining my sleep — they move in quickly, bite me and then go away, and it itches a bit but then the bites too go away. I almost feel as if I should let them bite me, offer myself up to them — I, after all, am the visitor coming into their world. Or maybe just to think about it that way, since what choice do I really have anyway?

*    *    *

The eating part, on the other hand, falls under the umbrella of the pleasurable. Our house cook, Marilu, welcomed us with some of the most delicious chiles rellenos ever. They’ve become our go-to meal for the first night here, the perfect comforting anecdote to a day of stressful travel and poor eating, a pairing along with one of house man Euphracio’s tart and strong margaritas that is far beyond anything some smarmy L.A. chef and mixologist might’ve come up with.

A late breakfast is an exercise in abundance — a spread of tropical fruits, eggs, salsa and tortillas. If we are in luck or have made a special request, we might get huevos rancheros. Lunch is utterly unnecessary, at some point a beer and perhaps a siesta sufficing to get us through to margarita hour and ceviche. If we’re in town, we might grab a taco from a taco stand where locals are eating. In Mexico, if you’re not of faint stomach, it’s often best to eat where the locals do.

Breakfast at Casa Tres Coronitas

Breakfast at Casa Tres Coronitas

By the second day, although my wife was suffering gravely from the opening onslaught, we had pretty much figured out an array of strategies for keeping the mosquitos at bay (meaning a few bites per night versus several dozen), and found Euphracio’s margaritas to be a powerful countering influence to the itch.

As Euphracio sets the tables and Marilu and her daughter Cece busy themselves in the kitchen preparing what I hope will be huevos rancheros, I stand out on the patio and admire the Bahia de Banderas, wrapping blue around us in every direction. A cluster of fishing boats gathers offshore, and we wonder what they are catching. Closer to home, I know the rocks just off the beach hold their own culinary treasures — sea urchins, which one day soon I will don a mask and free dive for. Perhaps I’ll make a ceviche or a pasta with the orange roe inside. Or, maybe I’ll just settle in a corner of the kitchen with a spoon and eat it all myself. When it comes to uni, I can be selfish that way.

The kids at dinner

The kids at dinner

I catch the butterflies trapped in the living room, and then release them from my hands as if by magic to the delight of my daughters. And it could just be magic, because Mexico is magical that way.

Breakfast arrives, Day 2, and no huevos rancheros. Maybe I just need to ask…

*    *    *

Huevos rancheros
serves 4

8 fresh eggs
4 medium flour tortillas
1 can refried beans
1 cup rancheros sauce (below)
1 cup grated Monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
salt & pepper to taste

Rancheros sauce

1 large tomato
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 tbsp. grapeseed or other vegetable oil
salt to taste

Make rancheros sauce: Heat oil in pan over medium heat and saute onions until golden. Place in blender with tomato and puree to a smooth sauce. Return to pan over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place refried beans in a pan and add 1/2 to 1 cup of water to create a thick, saucy consistency, and place over medium heat, cooking until beans begin to thicken (about 5 minutes). Brush another large pan lightly with oil and heat to medium. Grill the tortillas until soft and pliable, and remove from pan and lightly wrap in a stack in a kitchen towel. Fry the eggs to each diner’s preference (over-medium is standard). Toss together chopped onion and cilantro.

Place a tortilla on each of four plates. Top with refried beans, and then two eggs on each. Drizzle rancheros sauce over the eggs, and then sprinkle that first with Monterey jack cheese and then onion/cilantro mixture. Serve warm.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vivica
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 03:38:20

    Ahh so jealous, maybe not so much about the mosquitos, but the rest of it!
    Give my love to Eufracio and Marilu please.
    BTW Steve asked for huevos rancheros every morning…..

    Reply

  2. rachelocal
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 23:40:49

    Looks like you’re relaxing, despite the mosquitoes!

    Reply

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