Getting My Groceries in a Small Mexican Town

Rosana Hart
 


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This morning, I left the house my husband Kelly and I are renting around ten, and went downhill to get some groceries. I was on a mission this morning. I'd heard that there was a lady who sold chicken, and I'd been told more or less where she was located. We've been living in Bernal, Queretaro, a town of about 5,000 people, for three months now, and so far I had only bought chicken in the larger town of Ezequial Montes not far away. But I really love shopping on foot even if it means lugging my purchases uphill to our house.

I went to the street where I thought the chicken might be sold. Ten in the morning is still early for a lot of shops here to open, and many of them don't open at all during the week, as it is on the weekend when tourists come from Mexico City and elsewhere. The only shop open where I expected to find chicken was a small miscellany shop, of the type so common all over Mexico, with public baths behind it. I had seen a line of people waiting to bathe there another morning, but today nobody was around. In response to my calls, a boy of about eight came out. He had some trouble understanding my thick foreign accent, but eventually assured me that nobody sold chicken in the neighborhood.

Undaunted, I went to Miscelanea Silvia, my best source for yogurt and information. I was in luck. Silvia had several flavors of yogurt this morning. I bought a couple of one-liter containers and some fresh rolls, and then I asked her about the chicken. Of course, she knew exactly where it was, directly across the street from where I had been looking. (Next door to the Cooperativa on Calle Independencia, if you are ever looking for raw chicken in Bernal, Mexico. )

The chicken lady had a small booth just inside the front door of her house, otherwise unmarked. She had a few wings in a case and a bunch of whole chickens in a big bin. I decided to get a whole chicken, as my plan was to boil it up, freeze some of the meat, and make a soup with the rest. She held one up for my inspection, I nodded, and she whacked it into about a dozen pieces. I wanted to know how fresh it was, but couldn't think exactly how to say that in Spanish, so I asked her when the animal had died.

"This morning, " she smiled. “It's still warm. " She explained that they raise the chickens behind their house and have fresh chicken for sale every morning. She showed me a package of Milanesa - chicken breast pounded very flat and breaded, ready to fry a few minutes. That's made fresh daily too. I assured her I'd be back to try it soon, and with a few more friendly words, I left, my chicken securely double-wrapped in plastic. That had been 51 pesos, just under $5.00 US. When I get to know her better, I will ask what kind of feed the chickens eat, and whether they get any hormones.

It was in this neighborhood that I'd found a sewing notions shop, so I went down to see if it was open. It was, and I got the bit of ribbon I wanted for some mending.

Next, it was back past Silvia's and a few doors down to the produce place that has the best selection in town. I was struck by a gorgeous huge bunch of radishes, and asked if I could buy half of it. Sure, the fast-talking young man said, along with a joking comment I didn't catch. My bunch of radishes turned out to be about two dozen large ones. I got a selection of other produce. As usual, when leaving a shop in Mexico, I said “Adios. " A chorus of goodbyes came from the fellow and the other customers. As I started my trek back up the hill, I passed a very old man slowly going along the sidewalk carrying a small container of the homemade cheese they make here, and then I said hello to a woman of about 40 standing in her doorway. She had an astonishing haircolor, mostly her natural black color, streaked with a bright red-orange.

I hadn't gotten everything I was after but my shopping bags were full and heavy. Guess I'll have to go back out this afternoon! Each time I go shopping in a Mexican town is an enjoyable adventure.

Rosana Hart lives part-time in a small town in Mexico, where she writes and improves her Spanish. Her website http://www.mexico-with-heart.com includes information about Mexico along with a blog and other tales of her roamings around Mexico with her husband Kelly, in their small motorhome Cando.

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