American Vegan Adventures Cooking in Mexico
I’ve been cooking vegan in Mexico for 3 weeks now, and it has been an adventure!
I love Mexico, although some things disturb me – such as the American presence, including my own, and the poverty and destruction due to that presence. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.
Right now lets just talk about food.
My focus has been on maintaining a nutrient dense whole food plant based diet using the ingredients we can find in Puerto Vallarta plus our local grocery stores.
Because of that, our diet has become Mexican influenced, although far from authentically Mexican.
My goal right now isn’t to learn Mexican cooking. For one thing, I’m not fond of hot chilis and tomatoes. Although they have inevitably crept in – you can’t avoid them in restaurants, and I add a dab of green chili sauce to just about everything I make.
I do know that there’s a lot more to real Mexican food, and I promise myself I’ll get to that.
My friend Kathryn and I started off cooking with 2 hot plates, a tiny toaster oven, a toaster, a rinky dink blender (not any more – I killed it already), 1 small pot, 1 medium pot, 1 okay and 1 useless fry pan, plus a small assortment of inadequate cooking implements.
We had to buy: grater, citrus squeezer, veggie peeler, chopping knife, small chopping board, saute pan, large fry pan with lid, dish cloth, sponge.
I somehow managed to pack 2 dish towels, but I bitterly regret not packing my knives, spice grinder, stick blender and some plastic chopping mats. I miss my food processor but have found I can live without one quite well, although it is a time saver.
I would LOVE a decent blender but I don’t want to buy one for a 2 month stay as they cost a small fortune here even in American dollars.
Our biggest challenge has been finding at least some of the staple foods in our diet at prices we can afford.
Kathryn and her husband are ovo-lacto vegetarians. One of their big challenges has been finding unsweetened yogurt, and they were astounded that eggs are never refrigerated here. Organic milk and unsalted butter are rare.
I’ve found tofu, bean thread noodles, almond butter, almond milk, soy milk, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, tahini, olive oil, brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, chickpeas, dried fruit, coconut milk, bean thread noodles – at 7+ different stores mostly in PV, with long bumpy bus rides to and fro.
So far we’ve been to Walmart (once was enough), 2 bulk food stores (what a godsend), a tiny organic food store (yes!!), 3 Mexican supermarket chains, and various small Mexican grocery stores. The only place we haven’t gone is Costco, even though I’m a member. It’s too far away from where we’re staying, and we can’t haul those huge quantities on the bus.
I’m still on the hunt for nutritional yeast, Braggs Liquid Aminos, coconut oil (that I can afford), flat rice noodles, millet flour, vegan yogurt, and cashews.
But the produce, o.m.g the produce! Abundant, beautiful, and cheap. We eat lots of avocados, papayas, pineapples, oranges, bananas, cilantro, cucumber, spinach, broccoli, chayotes (pear squash), zucchinis, cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots, jicama, nopali (prickly pear cactus), limes, garlic, onion.
Just down the stairs and the street from our cliff side low budget rental, we can always find beans, rice, dried chilis, cilantro, avocados, oranges, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, occasionally other fruit & veg, plus fresh corn tortillas hot from the tortilla making machine (bliss!). If we weren’t such picky eaters, we could live on those foods.
In the food safety department, all produce, except that which we peel, has to be soaked for 15 minutes in an iodine and water solution. The iodine drops are called Microdyn, they’re cheap, and are sold everywhere.
We buy 5 gallon jugs of drinking water from a convenience store down the street and pay a guy 20 pesos to carry it up our 75 steps. We cook with the local water since it involves boiling, and we eat out about once a week in Puerto Vallarta restaurants, avoiding all street food vendors.
So far we haven’t gotten sick with Montezuma’s Revenge, a.k.a dysentery. Touch wood (not termite ridden).
We are eating extremely well here in Boca de Tomatlan, all things considered, but it’s a good thing we love rice and beans.
Meanwhile, outside the sun is shining, the air is warm, the ocean breezes are balmy, the beach is right there, we hear the surf and birds constantly – and the loud Mexican music from the restaurants on the beach. Puerta Vallarta with all it’s fun and food is a 30 minute bus ride along the coast.
And my Spanish is improving. The first phrase I learned was ‘quanto questo’ (how much). If only I understood the answers! Working on that. And all the food names.
Voy a nadar ahora (going swimming now)
Cocinar feliz! (happy cooking).
Hasta la vista!(see you later)
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian