It was cooler outside than we expected when we finally stepped out the front door of our Airbnb. I liked my outfit and wanted to show it off so I decided to let Rachel wear my jacket and I stuck with short sleeves.
We were headed for soup. A hot, steaming bowl of soup. That would have led to me shedding any additional sleeve length I would have worn anyways, I justified to myself.
Earlier that day, we had explored the eastern section of Centro Historico in Querétaro, including the impressive 74-arch long aqueduct that once delivered water to the population of the city. On our way back to the Airbnb, we passed a pozoleria – a place that specialized in a dish that we had wanted but never made an effort to find. Life finds a way.
After reading some reviews and glancing over months-old pictures of the menu, we decided to give it a shot. Rachel was feeling a sick and I, an accommodating partner, was willing to try something potentially delicious that would also help with her stuffiness. Woe is me, right?
We arrived at the pozoleria, found a table right inside the front door and took a seat. The table was slightly larger than a bistro table with a glazed, earthen platter of herbs in one bowl and chili flakes in another. I took in the smoky, herbal scent of the condiments.
Our server presented menus and we, having already picked out our choices ahead of time, ordered.
“Una pozole blanco, por favor,” Rachel ordered.
Cerdo o pollo, the server asked.
Pollo con orden de aguacate, y un Yoli
Ah, agua fresca de Jamaica.
The server jotted down the order and turned to me.
“Pozole rojo por favor con cerdo y una agua fresca de Jamaica tambien.” I diffidently translated my order to her.
She returned soon with our drinks and another platter of condiments. This one had a heaping array of tortilla and chicharrón on one side and lime wedges, diced onions, and a few slices of avocado on the other. An atomic red cup of picante sauce stared at me from the middle. Yeah, I’ll take you on soon enough.
The server brought us both larger than expected bowls. In mine, red flakes glittered through the equally red broth. The matte-clay colored bowl added to the monochromatic look through the semi-transparent broth. Shredded pork and hominy gave texture to the soup.
Rachel looked at me with wide, satisfied eyes. She had tried hers and smiled her approval to me. I followed suit and responded in kind. It wasn’t just good, it was exactly what we needed. For me, a hot dish to warm me from the inside out. For her, a homey meal to feel better.
“What did you get in yours?” she asked me. Cerdo, I replied. I was confident, but not positive, so I did a quick search online to find out if I was correct in both its spelling and what type of animal it was.
I held up a confirming picture of a pig and exclaimed that was what was in my bowl.
Rachel gave me an inquisitive look. “I wish I wasn’t too selfish…”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“It would be so simple for me to just stop eating animals, but I don’t. It would just take a little bit of effort, but I could do it. Switch to vegetarian.”
I agreed. “It’s hard, especially what we’re doing currently. Exploring new places, we often look for the quote-unquote authentic and traditional. That typically means meat.” Whenever you look at a list of must-try foods in Mexico, it’s dominated by some form of red meat or chicken.
“Do you think we’ve come closer to our goal of at least eating less meat?” I asked referring to a nearly two-year span that we ate predominantly vegetarian. Travels during this time jumped all over the level of difficulty. Thailand was super easy because everything is essentially a rice or noodle with veggies and you pick what protein you want (tofu or extra veggies always being an option.) Iceland was harder because not much grows there so it’s all imported. The easy exception was fish which we cheated with a few times. Gas stations were the surprising dining establishment of choice there and always offered heaping platters of veggie burgers and fries.
Rachel took a moment to think about the question. “No,” she answered. “Our portions have become smaller in size, but we’re still eating meat with most of our meals.”
We took a moment before dipping another piece of chicharrón into our soup, letting the conversation die out to be rekindled another day.
This conversation pops up for us from time to time. As I mentioned above, we switched to a vegetarian diet for nearly two years. Despite a few cheat-days sprinkled throughout, we turned to a lot of salads, pastas, buddha bowls, and tofu. Our goal wasn’t necessarily to permanently switch to vegetarians, but to drastically reduce our meat consumption.
There are a number of reasons we find ourselves thinking this way. Of course we don’t like the site of factory farming – adorable animals crammed together, getting unnaturally fat, and led to slaughter. We also understand the incredible environmental toll that the meat industry takes on the world – one burger takes 2400 liters (~634gallons) of water to make. With humans all over the world desperate for water, that’s a lot of potential lives we sear on the grill and dollop with corn-syrup based ketchup. Cattle ranching is also a leading cause of deforestation around the world (~60-70% of the Amazon has been deforested for cattle.)
Previously, we found the diet switch to be more mind than body. Our initial change to vegetarian was supposed to see if we could do it for a week. That ended up turning into a month, then who could do it longer, then nearly two years.
Now, being almost two years since my diagnosis with type-1 diabetes, I have to be conscious of every bite of my diet. What is my carbohydrate intake, can I get calories with less insulin use, etc. Meat provides high protein, no carb calories, which makes it enticing, but I still feel like I can reduce my consumption.
What are your thoughts on vegetarianism or meat consumption? Have you tried to remain open-minded to all lifestyles?
2 thoughts on “Conversations Over A Bowl of Pozole”
Your question has stayed with me, so a change may be in my future. My main meal is Zatarain’s Black Beans & Rice mixed with ground beef or ground sausage or ground turkey. What substitute could I use for the meat–tofu? Any other ideas?
You have a great start with rice and beans. Together, they make a complete protein (a big reason they’re the staple diet of so many successful civilizations throughout history). Mushrooms can replace the meatiness of beef and tomatoes and caramelization can replace the umami flavor.