After living in a country for a while you really get a taste for the place both literally and figuratively. I feel that after almost nine months in Mexico I have learnt a lot about the important flavours of Mexican food and drink. Obviously chilies are central and used to get that spicy Mexican kick, but also tomatoes, onions, cilantro (or coriander) and most of all lemons. Almost everything you buy to eat in Mexico will contain at least one of these ingredients if not all of them.
However for me the most important Mexican ingredient has to be the lemon. Used in sweet dishes, savoury dishes, meat dishes and fish dishes, drinks (including alcoholic ones) and more. It is impossible to eat anything anywhere without seeing lemons all over the place. However recently there occurred, what some of my friends considered to be a national disaster, lemons ran short and the price shot up. Prices increased from around 10 Mexican pesos per kilo to an incredible 50 or 60 pesos per kilo. In some places one kilo was selling at more than the daily minimum wage of 65.53 pesos.
There didn’t really seem to be any clear information or reasons for this scandalous price increase. Some blamed bad weather, some blamed recent drug violence in the lemon producing state of Michoacan, and others blamed unscrupulous middle men who took advantage of a slight increase in price to make even more money for themselves by raising the price further. Luckily this month after weeks of lemon-less life the price returned to normal and lemons were back on the menu once again.
No one really knows why the price of lemons rose so much or who was behind it. But what the price rise and my friends’ extreme reactions taught me that lemons are central to Mexican life and not being able to buy them or having to resort to bottled lemon juice is just something that cannot be accepted. After nine months I am inclined to agree, it does feel good to see the little bowl of lemons served again in every bar, café and restaurant.
What foods are important in your country? Are there any foods you could not live without?