The Many Flavors of Mexico

21 of March

I know I’m extremely belated, but happy St. Patrick’s day everyone! An outcry of media from the States condoning the drinking of hard alcohols and stuffing oneself with cured beef and that floppy green stuff echoed hollowly in my ears this year, since Mexico doesn’t celebrate the holiday. Sure, there was a nice effort put forth by Mum and Papa, who organized cute, suspiciously Pinterest-like crafts, a lesson on rainbows, and the all-day excuse we green-less kids had to pinch each other- but other than that, it seemed to me as if we were the only ones celebrating. Which is no problem, because to be honest, I get very disappointed each year when I find out those gold-colored nuggets people hide around are just rocks. Aside from our familial observance of the Irish/commericialized American holiday (no Shamrock cookies or mardi-gra green necklaces were involved), the last week has been pleasantly busy, as usual.

Around Sunday- maybe it was Monday- all eight of us Jacksons finally agreed on a meal: we were all compelled to a night of Chinese food. We get sushi once a week from our favorite saki bar just four blocks from the house, but that type of Asian cuisine wouldn’t satisfy and a proper Chinese restaurant hadn’t been discovered for the seven months we’d lived here. It made me realize, for the first time, all the trivial things we have lived without:

1. Chinese food

2. Esthetics

3. A vacuum

4. Monopoly

(First world problems, that’s what this list is, and although I’m from a first world country, I would choose a hostel over a mansion any day. For me, my family, and expats as a group of people, it’s about the riches inside of things, not the materialistic, physical riches.) Which leads me to the Chinese restaurant Mum found us for supper. Like most of the shops off of Quinta, the front door to the restaurant was in most ways very similar to a garage door, opening upward so the box-like building is three-sided.The walls were a delicious, worn-out yellow- starkness would have been overbearing- coupled with cerulean blue Chinese characters above the door way, faded to obsoleteness. Old Oriental calendars were strung from nails in the concrete, creating a visual pathway leading to a family resting on a black couch, obviously the owners of the place. As we stepped onto the white-tiled floors, indicating the end of the street and start of the restaurant, the family jumped to their feet and welcomed us in. The service was excellent, the food came to our table without any delay (even with our large order), and then there was the food itself. Steaming chop suey, perfectly julienned; crunchy, sizzling spring rolls; savory fried rice topped with warm broccoli, cauliflower, carrots; oodles of noodles, and large bowls of hot and sour soup, a true culinary perfection with the way the spices gave way to a mild aftertaste as they slid down my throat. Above all, the aura was genuine, but I give two thumbs up as well because they were able to cater to and work around our vegan diet. Everything about the Wangs and Shanghai  Restaurant was candid, sincere, and well-executed. But despite all the incredible food and intricate venue, my favorite part of the night was watching as Mrs. Wang’s little seven year old girl stood on her tiptoes to see the drink orders her mother was taking down. It reminded me of home, of love, and of growing up. As we finished our meal, we sat back and chatted with the Wangs, who had come to Playa from Belice. Mum couldn’t stop raving about how it was the best Chinese food she’d ever had. My heart turned over and sighed contentedly, a welcome change from the fitful tossing that usually goes on. Saludos and happy… eating!

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