So I’ve spent essentially a month in Mexico, and not at fancy resorts on the Riviera Maya, but inland, in rural areas and non-touristy cities, where there’s not really a lot of dining options.
Beyond that, though, since I’m an Entovegan the idea is to eat insects and then follow a vegan diet. I’ll just put this out there as succinctly as possible – many people here have zero idea what “vegano” is, and when it’s explained, they look at me like I’m from another planet haha.
Now I know what the vegans of the 1990’s felt like, way before it was understood or trendy, or even worse, back when it was looked at as a symbol you belonged to a “tree-hugger” cult.
Anyway, to make this fun rather than a negative rant (because it’s a daily challenge to check my attitude at the cantina door lol), here’s a list of 10 things Vegans don’t eat, followed by a list of things commonly consumed in Mexican food.
Here are the list of ten things vegans don’t eat, according to some site called Shine.
- Fish and shellfish
- Dairy products
- White sugar
- Most beer
- Some breads
- Salad dressing
The big issue on that list for me in Mexico is – well, there are two. One is dairy – no meat, cheese, yogurt, cream, butter, etc. And the other one is beer.
I mean, come on, cheese covered chicharones on tortillas with cerveza is like PB&J sandwiches for NBA players! Never too much of a good thing.
Here’s a list of favorite Mexican foods according to a list I found on theSpruce.com:
Mexican Rice (Spanish Rice)
[So far so good, I can do rice and veggies! Hold the pork and bring me some lemon wedges, I’ll eat this one all day.]
- Chile Rellenos
These green chiles are stuffed with cheese, dipped in an egg-batter and fried until golden brown. [Welp, there it goes already. Not touching these even if I wasn’t entovegan, spicy foods are not my forte.]
Originating from Spain, it’s creamy custard and caramel sauce will have you asking for seconds. [Milk. Cream. Gelatin? Nope.]
- Tres Leches Cake
This milky, custard like cake is dense and soaked in a milk syrup to give it a creamy consistency. [Oh man. This is torture.]
You can add in chicken, beef or pork if you like a meatier enchilada. [Yes, I’m sure you can. Or instead, add in a meaty helping of tofu, if you’re a vegan. Except good luck finding tofu in rural Mexico!]
- Corn Tortillas
[Tortillas! Something I can eat. Pure corn tortillas, tastes a bit like eating wet cardboard. But with some lemon and salt, well, that’s actually any-vegan approved. Or, use them to wrap up the healthy Nopal cactus topped with some salsa, and it’s actually pretty tasty!]
- Shrimp Ceviche
Enjoy it with fresh veggies or tortilla chips. [Don’t mind if I do, and shrimp are Entovegan approved! However…good luck finding shrimp ceviche in the areas where I’ve been. At the beach, sure. But not inland in rural areas. Oh man, just typing this thinking about shrimp ceviche with avocado… #hungry!]
- Chile Verde
This stew made with green chiles and chicken or pork is a delicious and hearty meal that will keep you satisfied. [Stew = probably not happening. Soup, though, sure. Mmmm, yeah, dish me up some vegan approved ramen instead…]
Succulent pork, cooked in it’s own fat until crispy on the edges. Carnitas make a perfect filling for tacos, burritos, enchiladas and more. [Oh do tell me more about the succulent pork cooked in it’s own fat until it’s deliciously- STOP IT! Can’t. Even. Actually no that’s not really true, I’ve never really eaten a lot of pork. But it sounds delicious and at a lot of taco stands it looks and smells pretty darn good too. But, pass.]
- Salsa Mexicana
A perfect salsa for beginners, also known as “pico de gallo” in some areas. Made with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, onions and lime juice it is the perfect condiment for any Mexican meal. [Who the heck made this list? What is TheSpruce.com anyway? “Popular Mexican foods: Salsa!” Chalk this up to my not spending sufficient time searching for a real Mexican foods list haha. I can eat salsa. And do. Pretty much anywhere in the world. smh]
And while those may be some of the more popular Mexican food items online, here’s what I see a lot of in the real world many days:
- Nopal Cactus
- Tortilla chips
- Spicy salsas
- Vegetable oils
- Junk foods
Now, when we’re in the city, it’s much easier, we’ve got grocery stores, a kitchen, and my compañero is a great chef. But I’m talking about being out and about and stopping at a small restaurant for a bite to eat.
WHAT ABOUT THE BUGS?
Yes, there are VW Bugs everywhere. Actually seems like there are more volkswagen bugs (called Bochitos here) in Mexico seen in any given 60 seconds than Range Rovers seen in Phnom Penh. Or at least it’s a close race.
Ohhhhh, you mean the insects? Entomofagia, as it’s known in Spanish.
Well, we are often traveling with insect products, so yes, I can sprinkle some chicatana ant salt on my tortilla. Or mix some grillos or tenebrios in with my salad, when I can find it (salad = sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, usually). And I often do that, as subtly as possible.
But that’s actually less of an issue than finding hearty meals that don’t contain beef, pork, chicken, cream, or cheese already mixed in…which honestly I never paid so much attention to before, but when making a conscious decision to not eat a whole list of things, suddenly you realize, it’s everywhere.
People in rural mexico love cheese, and other dairy products. Not going to lie, I used to as well. Also not going to lie, there have been times that rather than go hungry, I went Entotarian this trip haha. Because a lot of times the choice is to eat what’s available even if it contains cheese or other dairy, or eat a plain tortilla. 😐
This is actually a point that I’ve found to be a big deal in other places as well, such as on long flights. Being a vegetarian is MUCH, much easier than being vegan. It really is.
And in Mexico that’s definitely the case. It’s possible to get by even in rural areas eating whatever the food is and requesting it “sin carne, porfavor.”
But asking for no cheese, or no cream, AND no meat, suddenly you’re looking at a plate of salted tortillas with lemon and some sliced cucumber for dinner. Yum.
That’s why I’m here though working with Chef Melgarejo on the long-term plan for development of entomofagia in Mexico.
Eventually, it’s going to be a lot easier to be Entovegan or Entotarian here, and as that trend takes root, it’s going to improve the health and the livelihoods of many, many people.
In the meantime, though, pass me those tortillas.
[UPDATE: I recently wrote more in-depth about Sustainability, Food Security, and Entomofagia in Mexico over at Venturopoly. Check it out if you’re interested in learning more about the challenges we’ve encountered, and the solutions we’re working on.]