Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fish Out of Water Rule #6: Don't Let Montezuma Spoil Your Travel Fun!

Mexico and my digestive system have always been enemies. This has been a big problem for me, as I love the country. So may exciting places to see and good things to eat. Living in California, Mexico is such a tempting destination. But the price was always high for my culinary adventures. When I decided to take my husband up on a trip to the Yucatan, I swore this time I was going to find away to truly enjoy the amazing cuisine he kept telling me about.

After a well-spent hour of searching for answers on Google, the usual precautions were posted. Frequently wash your hands, (now made much easier by hand sanitizer), drink bottled water, don’t eat vegetables washed in local water. You know the drill. Then I came across a post that would change my life. A doctor who loved to travel had a similar problem to mine. He liked sampling local cuisine until he tried that one thing that set his digestive track over the edge. I’m grateful for the last bout he had in Thailand, as it forced him to discover a cure. Somehow he figured out that if he took a chewable Pepto tablet before each meal he never got sick again. Eureka I thought. Yucatan here I come!

I diligently chewed a tablet before every meal as we ate our way through the Yucatan. From yummy tamales called brazo de reina, to the delicious enchilada-like papadzules, I ate with complete abandon. This cure may not work for everyone, and you definitely don’t want to exceed the recommended daily dose, but I have to say my digestive track was positively singing powered by the amazing pink tablet.

But the true test of the mighty Pepto pill came when we ventured to the giant pyramid of Uxmal. A veritable tour-de-force of engineering, Uxmal seems to shoot straight up to the Heavens. It makes hiking up Chichen Itza feel like a stroll in the park. The steps are so tiny you have to walk up sideways. Once at the top, the view of the surrounding grounds is breathtaking. Off in the distance you can see smaller pyramids still blanketed in vines of the jungle. The same vines that once swallowed up Uxmal.

After practically tight roping my way down the steep pyramid, I had worked up quite an appetite. My husband wanted to get back on the road and try a local place devoid of tourists. After more than a week of worry free eating, I gave him a thumbs up. When we pulled into a gravel lot next to a small house on the side of the road, my enthusiasm quickly dwindled. “Is this even a restaurant?”

He gave me a confident grin earned from a previous two-month exploration of the Yucatan. “This is what they call home cooking.”

He wasn’t kidding. We walked past a yard full of chickens and into the house turned restaurant. The décor was simple with dirt floors and a small grouping of battered wooden tables and chairs. Instinctively, I reached into my backpack and popped a Pepto. I looked at my husband, “What should we order?”

“Well, I think the main thing on the menu is chicken.”  

I gave him a look. “You mean our lunch is strolling around the front yard?”

He patted my hand. “Can’t get any fresher.”

We placed our orders for pollo pibil, a delicious native dish made with bitter orange and chicken wrapped in banana leaves. I watched as a woman headed straight from our table and out the front door. After a few loud squawks, she returned with two dead chickens. In a flash I watched her pluck the birds on a stool just outside the back door. And in fifteen minutes lunch was served!

After the delicious meal, I turned to my husband and said, “Fantastic choice. You weren’t kidding when you said fresh.” I proceeded to pull a small feather out of my teeth. “I have the proof!”

Moral of the story, always follow Fish Out Of Water Rule # 6, Don’t Let Montezuma Spoil Your Travel Fun! Try popping a Pepto before adventurous eating, your digestive track might thank you.