Every Gang in San Miguel has a focus such as wearing one color or following Betty Friedan. The Foodie Gang has a focus – food – its consumption, study, preparation, and news. But not just any food but Mexican Food. Foodie Gangs exist all over the world but to be part of San Miguel Foodie Gang you must take an intensive three day workshop on Mexican Food.
Day One Foodie Gang Retreat – Recanting and Mexicanizing
The day starts with each member recanting having ever eaten at Taco Bell or Del Taco or any Mexican Chain Back Home.
This is the beginning of the Reject American Fast Food mantra that starts a Foodie rethinking food.
Then they are told about the Goddess of Mexican Food who lives among them – Diana Kennedy. In a special ceremony they are given their own copy of the Good Book
They look through the book and stumble on all the new words.
After a good read, each new recruit is called to the front and given their own food speciality – a burrito, a tamale, epazote, pozole and a coach to learn the correct way to pronounce it. For homework they are told to go out into San Miguel and buy the item and bring it to class.
Day Two Foodie Gang Retreat – Show and Tell and Eat
With their new speciality on a plate, each recruit stands, shows their new speciality and tells where they bought it. If anyone says Mega or Gigante then the ridicule begins and the lesson on authenticity starts.
The recruits are shown this slide as an authentic place to buy tamales
There are gasps in the room. Several recruits stand and flee the room, knowing in their heart they aren’t Foodies because they thought these stands were places where you discarded tamales not bought them.
Those who remain are herded into Air conditioned buses and told they will be eating their speciality at the Tuesday Market with an Imodium chaser. The Tuesday market will be unlike anything they have ever experienced in their life.
As they leave the parking lot and head towards the Tuesday Market, there is clearly, terror, in the eyes of a Foodie Recruit as they sit for the first time in a plastic chair under a blue tarpaulin with their coach and are handed their speciality on a plastic plate. No matter what is served this is what see
They are instructed to eat with their eyes closed. They finish by remembering an episode of Fear Factor. Quickly they are herded back on the buses and taken back to the seminar center to rest, collect their thoughts and to journalize the experience. Several members of the Spiritual Gang are on hand to counsel the recruits whose world was put off balance by the experience.
Day Three Foodie Gang Retreat
This day of the journey from Taco Bell to Tamale Stand is a day of journaling, cooking from the Good Book and learning what makes for an authentic restaurant and how much to pay for a meal.
Here is a sample journal entry found in one student’s notebook
Hamburger stand in the main plaza
We were having a very hard time finding a restaurant for dinner that fit within our budget, so we were relieved when we found a young man grilling hamburgers at a stand on the main plaza. Once we bit into our hamburgers, our relief turned to amazement at how good they were. It was possibly the best burger I’ve ever eaten in my life; don’t miss it. I believe he only opens in the evenings, which is convenient because other budget eateries around town seem to close by about 6pm.
Hamburger with the works. If you like bacon, make sure to add a strip or two.
Theme: Street Vendor Price: less than US$10 Comparison: least expensive Address: On the main plaza
What makes an Authentic Restaurant
Features of an Authentic Restaurant
- participation in the food preparing
- no separation of cooking area and eating area
- no chairs but picnic table like seating arrangement
- no menu
- no english spoken
- rough wooden walls to allow insects to escape
- no Americans or Canadians in the restaurant
- earthen floors
- pet dogs
Here is another authentic restaurant
The dish: Tacos
Where to find the best: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Word on the street: The taco is made for snackers on the move, the invention, supposedly, of itinerant Mexican cowboys who relished the convenience of an edible plate. Given its modest origins, it’s no surprise that when connoisseurs nominate their favorite taco spots, they’re more likely to name street corners than proper restaurants. This is especially true in San Miguel de Allende, an artsy colonial city about four hours north of the capital. At night, when the expats and tourists are headed home from their fancy dinners, street vendors are just warming up their griddles. The best taco peddler sets up on the corner of Calle de Mesones and Pepe Llanos, just a short walk from the main square (look for the floodlights illuminating a mass of happy people gathered around a cart). Order up a few tacos al pastor, and watch as one of the cooks carves off some hunks from a block of red-tinged pork cooking on a vertical spit, presses them into a double layer of delicate corn tortillas—each no larger than a CD—and splashes it with an exhilaratingly tart and salty pineapple salsa. Just a few bites obliterate each taco, leaving behind a slick of sauce and grease on your hands and lips. Pity the sleeping gringos.
How to decode the above review.
- connoisseurs = foodie
- the food has to be one ‘real’ locals would eat “itinerant Mexican cowboys
- that you won’t find good tacos in restaurants but only on street corners
- people who eat at these places are all happy
- that Expats and tourist would never eat these tacos but only fancy dinners
- use of the word Gringo to describe anyone less sophisticated than you
How Much to Pay for a Meal
Any Foodie worth his or her weight in Tacos knows that if you can use a credit card to pay for a meal that it can’t be good value. The word VISA on a door to a Foodie is the same as Do Not Enter.
The price of meal becomes a flash point to a Foodie. There is a price threshold beyond which a Foodie will not go and when that price is breached the restaurant is no longer authentic.
The restaurant that breaches the price threshold will never receive a good Foodie Review and the word Fancy or too American will be use to indicate that is is now on the No Eat List.
So what is the price threshold? Only a Foodie can answer that.