Sunday, November 19, 2017

meet the meat

One of the regular dinners served up by bloggers in Mexico is the recurring theme of the availability of merchandise that was once impossible to find south of Laredo.

I lived in Laredo in the early 1970s when I first ventured across the Rio Bravo. Those were the days when automobile clubs advised drivers to carry plenty of spare parts. That now sounds quaint since Mexico is one of the world's major manufacturer of parts automotive.

Crossing the border in the 1970s was like entering the foreign country that Mexico was. Decades of protectionist legislation on both sides of the border made finding familiar brands in Mexico almost impossible.

Major changes came in the form of NAFTA in the 1990s. Lists of protective tariffs on both sides of the border were eliminated in transitional stages. When I returned to Mexico in 2007, it was a far different place than my introduction through the winshield of my 1967 red Olds Cutlass Supreme convertible.

Megastores in Manzanillo carried food and clothing that I could have purchased in my hometown of Salem. And, when I moved in 2009, the changes kept rolling in.

Back in the 1970s, I had to find a suitable substitute or learn how to do without. Usually, the latter. By the 2000s, substitutes were readily available.

And now? Thanks to one of our very clever entrepreneurs (Alex Corona, the owner of Super Hawaii), I can buy almost any food I can imagine. Alex trucks supplies from Costco to his store in San Patricio. And he has additional suppliers who can pull rabbits out of their top hats.

Wheat Thins! His suppliers can get Wheat Thins for him.

All of that comes at a price premium, of course. Specialty goods in small quantities are expensive. And a strong US dollar against the peso makes those luxuries even more expensive.

For me, the indulgences are worth the price.

When I was in Puerto Vallarta earlier in the month, I stopped at Costco. One meat I have missed in Mexico is ham. Thick ham. For soups or sandwiches or breakfast meals.

With all of the good pork in Mexico, I am surprised that no one seems to prepare hams -- other than as lunch meat. I have tried smoked pork chops, but the consistency of the meat is just not correct.

At one time, Costco sold ham steaks -- two steaks to a package. For whatever reason, the company stopped selling them a couple of years ago.

That is why I thought I was in hog heaven when I discovered a new product. Ham ends packaged in just the right size for a single guy.

I test drove the package I bought this morning. I prepared an egg and vegetable dish -- onion, garlic, red and yellow bell peppers, serrano and habanero peppers, cherry tomatoes. Ham seemed to be a perfect complement. And it was. The ham was tender and perfectly salted.

What is even better is that Alex saw the same hams and has stocked them at Hawaii. It appears ham is back on the list of ingredients for my meals.

And the availability of food should continue just as long as Donald Trump does not foul up NAFTA. Of course, Mexican voters could throw a spanner into the free trade works by electing the Trump-like populist who now leads the presidential polls in Mexico.

Ham may be the least of my worries then.

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