The Guacamole salad, Mexico

Hands up who doesn’t love guacamole? The creamy avocado, the crunch of red onion, the sweetness of chopped tomatoes, a squeeze of tart lime, and the fragrant balancing act of the coriander? Exactly. To not like guacamole would probably be travesty.

  This is my fourth time in Mexico, and for the first time ever, im struggling as a vegan. Normally, it’s all about corn tamales filled with veggies and smothered in a habanero sauce (the hotter the better). That, or tacos piled high with frijoles, strips of avocado, and doused in jalapeños. Yeh yeh, it’s ALL about spicy food 🙂

This trip a few people have tried to sneak cheese into my food despite a “sin queso” plea accompanied by a winning smile. This winning smile has got me approximately nowhere. Also managed to buy a bottle of soya milk in the supermarket that was apparently only masquerading as soya milk. “Contains 2 percent cows milk” the ingredients said in tiny tiny lettering below the rest of the ingredients. Why? What anti-vegan jokester is enjoying their elaborate practical joke from their millionaires milk mansion?

  Fast forward to El Tabano, an open-kitchen food joint on the beach road in Tulum. Tulum’s a strange place. With the central town, (home to more backpackers types), to the low-slung beachfront all-inclusives (for the most part sympathetic with their surroundings), it’s divided into local v tourist. The food by te beach tends to be super over priced and a bit same-y, but this Guacamole Salad meant that El Tabano deserved a mention.

It’s not really that much different from guac, but the avocado is beaten so that its creamier, there are olives, which give it that umami, cheesy taste, and there are young sprouting leaves and big chunks of tomato in it.

  When the sun’s beating down and you’ve got a chilled margarita in hand, this is the sort of light, filling salad that vegan avocado lovers crave. And El Tabano have nailed it. 

Cross country by train…and, vegan food?

Please don’t get out your tiny violin and play for me, but it can be hard being a travel writer. I want so much to write what is already written about the train ride between New Orleans and LA here, in my blog, but I’d also like to possiy monetise the trip  in order to have the opportunity to go on another one in the near future. So I’m compromising slightly and writing about the highlights, with a vegan slant.

1. Being on a train lets you see everything and nothing. Clunking through the desert means that for a moment in time, you become part of the landscape as much as the cacti, scrublands, and odd railway siding.

2. The sunset limited (for that is the name of the train we were on) had showers. Nothing beats having a shower in the morning, feeling all spruce, and sprinting up to the observation car to watch the sun, hanging like a grapefruit, blossom it’s pink-orange light around the train in the Texan desert.

3. Watching the communities who had sprung up along the railroad. Travelling across the southern states really makes you realise how desperately poor so much of the U.S. is. Trailer parks with smashed out windows, and well kept but minuscule houses which almost always had children running around outside of them were a common theme. Otherwise, row upon row of trailers with steps up to the door and a beaten up car were the most ubiquitous living arrangement I saw across New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana.

4. The changing landscape. This goes without saying, but from the lush, green, alligator filled bayous of Louisiana to the dusty deserts of New Mexico, watching the landscape change from mangrove to mesa was awesome.

5. The company. With the exception of the boring people who are taking the train because they can’t fit in plane seats, people who take the train in America seem to be far more interesting than those who haven’t. They have a knowledge of their world and country too, and a respect for the wealth of landscape or poverty of the towns that the train is passing through. The dining car is great at this – they make you sit with other couples so you share stories along the way.

6. The vegan food was not awesome, nor was the menu. With every meal, including, apparently breakfast (my grapefruit came with an enormous lettuce leaf) a side salad was served, and you could select whatever else you wanted off the menu including all non-alcoholic drinks for free. Options included steak, tilapia, and meatballs. For vegans, I had to order my own special meal which was always a rank, sticky, creamy “udon”, also inexplicably served with a lettuce leaf. If you ate eggs you could opt for the corn and black bean burger which was really good. That came with a generous helping of kettle chips, and a smile from Karol, the dining car attendant. It also came with many miniature bottles of wine, in an attempt to wash down the horrific taste of “udon”.

    

 

How to eat and order a taco in Mexico

Tacos should be:

1. Cheap (8 pesos per stacked taco is recommended to be about the maximum)

2. Mild (but with the choice to add a variety of salsas ranging from picante to fiery, burning picante)

3. Plentiful (you shouldn’t be afraid to order more tacos if you feel like you need them)

4. Potentially vegetarian (my two favourite varieties are tacos spread with frijoles and layered with salad, and fried mushrooms layered with avocado, onion and coriander)

5. Not necessarily mouthfuls (maize tortillas are soft, flappy, and made to be bitten into, not the crunchy style tacos we get in the UK

6. Fine to eat messily (dive in. I have never succesfully eaten tacos without dribbling some kind of liquid out of the taco

7. not be ‘fine dining’ (there are a number of tourist restauarnts in Mexico that sell plates of four tacos for over $180 pesos. I don’t know what they’re putting in these tacos, but there’s noway that taco is ‘authentic if it’s costing you the price of a night in a cheap hotel)

8. Enjoyed.