Sunday, November 23, 2008

In Mexican Stores

After a hard day slaving away at tourism, I like to treat myself to a little cookie or pastry of some sort after dinner. And that allows me to wander around whatever town I'm in looking for a bakery. That's unlike the States--first of all--in that there ARE bakeries. And that they're usually open until 9 p.m. at night. And that's all they sell...just bakery. What I've observed is that it's frequently women buying bread for tomorrow morning's breakfast. Doesn't that beat a loaf of Wonderbread you bought a week ago? Fresh every day. And people are in the habit of shopping every day.

I thought you might enjoy seeing how a bakery works in Mexico: You come in through a turnstile. Mexicans really like their turnstiles. You find them everywhere. Near the entrance there is a stack of round stainless steel trays, about 18" in diameter. And a rod over which tongs are hanging. You grab one tray and one set of tongs. And then you wander through the tall standing racks of bakery lined with bakery sheets filled with various products, and wooden shelves along the walls filled with products. There is never a sign indicating what the heck the thing you're looking at is. Nor one with a price. And don't look for a sneeze guard over the food, either. I guess if you're a regular, you just know. Now keep in mind that most Mexican bakery is like the mythical Siren....very appealing to look at, but sadly deceptive. It may LOOK sweet and yummy, but when you get it home, you'll usually find that its dry, not terribly sweet, and--if filled--lacking in filling. Why do I continue to buy bakery, then, you ask? Well, I want to. And for the locals....they don't know any better, never having shopped at a real German or Swedish bakery. There are puff pastry things, "mil hojas (a thousand leaves...makes sense)." Eating these is like peeling away layers of dry skin after a sunburned day at the beach. One type of cookie is called "Polvoron" from the word "polvo," meaning "dust." And, to no surprise, that is exactly what they taste like....dust. But they come in fetching shapes and decoration. Some are dyed pink and green with little black chocolate chips, imitating a watermelon slice. I have no idea if they taste like watermelon. Probably not. Just dust. And doughnuts have reached Mexico in a big way. Here, they are sloppily translated as "donas." Sounds like "doughnut," doesn't it? And they are usually little grease bombs lacking in sufficient sugar.

So, once you've made your selection of goodies, you go over to the wrapping counter, staffed by several ladies, all fastidiously uniformed. What strikes me is that universally they wear hospital surgical face masks. And ugly little paper hairnet/cap things. OK, I get it...sanitation. But their hands are ungloved. And with the same hands that pick up and wrap your bakery product, they print out a price sticker or use a cash register to print your ticket (they never take cash). Aren't we missing a page out of the foodservice sanitation manual there? Hands....hello! Sneeze guards...hello! But the face masks make a point. I think.

Step Two: So you then take your neatly wrapped goodies, along with you cost slip, over to the cashier who takes your money. The whole process is like a Disneyland of bakery....wandering through the interesting "rides."