Sunday, January 18, 2009

On Sunday Mass and Sushi Bars

It's a land of contrasts.

Today, in my perambulations, wandering around Mazatlan, I passed no fewer than FOUR sushi bars. You wouldn't expect to encounter a Japanese restaurant in middle-sized town Mexico. On the other hand, if you look west from the beach and squint REALLY HARD, the next land mass you'll see is--indeed--Japan.

Sushi probably started as a tourist-oriented thing. Those hordes of teeshirted, short-shorted, and flip-flopped cruise ship passengers spewing forth from the 4 cruises that dock each week and fill Mazatlan's tourist places. But the patrons that I saw in these sushi joints (in all different parts of the city) were largely Mexican. A new culinary craze in these parts, I suppose. And, of course, there is an abundant supply of the main ingredient, raw fish, just a few hundred yards from the sandy beaches.

A great deal of that raw fish shows up in the public market building every day. The market defines the Mexican experience. Sure, there are completely modern supermarkets in the bigger Mexican towns. Places akin to a Super Walmart back home. Yesterday, we did some window shopping at the Mega store and at Sam's Club. Both enormous, stocking grocery and department store merchandise. Clean, well stocked, modern.

But the old city market is different. It's old, for one thing. And dirty. The smells reach you before you enter. But it's where most of the locals do their shopping. Every kind of seafood you can image is splayed out on ice, and fishmongers will prepare it for you with or without the head. Butchers specialize in either poultry (where I saw chicken feet for the first time) or beef, pork, and goat. Strange entrails conjure up a witch's cauldron. A complete, skinned cow head stares back. And pig's feet with 6 inches or so of leg. How do people cook these weird bits? And what do them make from them? Mystery meat, I'm sure. Or soup. You can disguise anything in soup.

Today, being Sunday, I stumbled upon a novelty (for me). A priest holding mass at one o'clock, smack in the middle of the busy market operations. Customers jostling around, that cow's head watching on, the fully-garbed priest in a green and white cassock, holding the Host up high, and a dozen or so faithful watching on. But it's a full-service kind of idea....if the folks have to support their families by working in their market stall 7 days a week, then why not bring the church to them? Sort of a mountain-to-Mohammed idea. But it makes sense, doesn't it?