Mexican pozole soup dances on taste buds with robust flavor

Mexican pozole soup dances on taste buds with robust flavor

Pozole is a traditional Mexican dish that has been served for centuries. (Image: Veronica Wong)

Food is one of the most important ways for us to connect with others—be it those we know or strangers.

Travel the world and food will be a common denominator. We all need it for sustenance, but it’s so much more than nourishment. Food can tell a story about the people, the region, the land, even the history of an area. Perhaps more important, with that shared meal comes shared memories.

Food easily touches on all the senses—sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Hearing can be the slurping, chopping, popping of a cork—even the conversation.

Pozole is one of those traditional Mexican dishes that brings people together. The origins are not well defined, but history proves the natives were making this concoction long before the Spanish arrived in the 1500s.

While pozole traditionally has chicken or pork, those can be left out or mushrooms substituted to satisfy vegetarians. A green pozole usually will have tomatillos, the herbs epazote and cilantro, and jalapenos, while a red pozole uses guajillo, piquin or ancho peppers. The verde version is more popular with chicken.

Verde pozoles traditionally come with chicken. (Image: Veronica Wong)

When Los Consuelos was open in Todos Santos (it closed in March 2020 because of COVID and has not reopened) the pozole presentation was outstanding. The bowl was full of meat, shredded cabbage, sliced radish, and slivers of avocado. Then at the table the broth was poured over this ensemble. The diner had assorted condiments to choose from like onions and more spices.

At El Refugio in Todos Santos pozole is served more traditionally with the broth in the bowl when it is brought to the table.

Los Consuelos’ version was more like a stew compared to El Refugio being more like a soup. The difference being soups have more broth.

What all pozoles have is hominy. These large corn kernels have been soaked in a mineral bath to remove the husk. This isn’t sweet corn, but instead is field maize that is used to make flour and cereals. It’s chewy, with almost a rubbery texture. Today hominy is available in cans at grocery stores, which eliminates a lot of the work for this dish.

While it is a soup, it is so much more. For those making it, there are many moving parts. Best to have at least one sous chef to help with all the knife work. For those with spoons in hand, the dish can be personalized depending on how the condiments are served and how many are offered.

An unexpected component to COVID test in Baja Sur

An unexpected component to COVID test in Baja Sur

I nearly gagged. I definitely coughed. And kept coughing even after the unwanted object was removed from my mouth.

This was a new take on being tested for COVID-19. When the medical person said “open wide” I’m sure my eyes got big. There was no doubt what he said; it was in English. This procedure was new to me.

Getting a COVID test at St. Jude’s Medical Center in Todos Santos includes nasal and throat swabs. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Having had four COVID tests in the United States, this was my first in Mexico. Not only was one nostril swabbed in Todos Santos, so was my throat. Neither is a pleasant sensation, but neither is painful either.

Another big difference was having to pay for the one south of the border. It cost 4,800 pesos, or $240.77. This was at St. Jude’s, a private medical center. I’m lucky, I have the means to pay this. Most people in Mexico don’t. Remember, the minimum wage here is about $6 a day; not an hour, a day.

Reportedly tests are free through Mexico’s public health system. Those in Todos Santos must go to La Paz for a test. The gas to get there can be a financial burden; and that’s assuming they have transportation. Medical care might mean going to Los Cabos. Another potential hardship.

All of the COVID tests I had in South Lake Tahoe were free, picked up by the state of California or my health insurance. The first one I got was mostly out of curiosity—about the test, whether I had it, not because of any symptoms or risky behavior. The second was after I had worked as a tennis coach for a week where none of the kids had to wear a mask and not all of the adults were perfect about it. The third was mandated by the medical facility where I got my colonoscopy. The last one was after the election because I had worked it for two days, indoors, seeing a lot of strangers.

The worst of those four was the one by Barton Health because I was sitting down. I think if they had people stand next to their vehicle it would be a better experience. It’s about the angle of getting that swab way into the nasal cavity.

As for Mexico, well, the cases keep going up, just like in the United States and so many other countries.

Oh, all of my tests have been negative. I’m going to keep wearing my masks (I have several), using hand sanitizer (I keep a bottle in the Jeep), staying several feet away from most everybody, and trying to only be around people who are doing the same thing.

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