Living in a remote part of Mexico means that we’ve had to adjust to things taking longer to do, longer to get to and overall being quite a bit less convenient. Like grocery shopping. The days of a quick stop at the store to pick up bread or milk or beer? Hah! Where we live now, spontaneously deciding what’s for dinner is not an option. We have to do planning and preparation if we want to eat. And we do. So how do we go grocery shopping in Xcalak?
Leading out of town is a one lane dirt road known as the beach road. There are quite a few houses stretched along this beach road including ours. We live in the last house on the road, about nine miles from town and about a mile from the next closest house. So yes, we’re pretty out there. Most days we don’t mind being at the ‘end of the road.’ That is until we get hungry.
There is a food truck that drives up and down the beach road that sells fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and a few other odds and ends. The food truck announces its arrival by honking their horn at the front gate. There are actually quite a few vendors that announce their presence with a horn or by playing music. Kind of like the ice cream man. Unfortunately though, there is never any ice cream for sale – too hot to deliver (I really miss ice cream). For most of the road a food truck comes by daily. But because we’re pretty far down the road many grocers don’t want to drive this far so we typically only get a food truck 2-3 days a week. That might sound like a lot, but the food here doesn’t have many preservatives or chemicals added so the fruits and vegetables turn pretty quickly. It’s best to only buy what you think you’re going to eat in the next day or two. The selection on the truck is surprisingly good. We pretty regularly buy papaya, pineapple, mangoes, carrots, melon, bananas, eggs, tortillas, rice, chicken, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and zucchini. But planning meals based just on what you get from the truck can be difficult. The inventory is never the same from day to day. One day our truck guy has loads of lettuce, then the next three times he comes by he has none. It could be that there was none where he picked up the food from to deliver, or it could be that everyone else on the road bought all the lettuce before he got to us. I can typically get 3/4 of my list crossed off, but that might be only 3/4 of the things needed for a meal. So we’ve had to find some other ways to supplement what comes on the food truck, and to satisfy some of our cravings.
Once in awhile someone comes by selling meals out of the trunk of their car. It’s an odd version of a drive-thru, but the food is SOOO much better and often includes empanadas, salbutes, tamales and, Jason’s favorite, cochinita pibil – pork that is marinated in a citrusy sauce and roasted in a banana leaf.
But the food truck and the food delivery people don’t have everything. They don’t have some necessary household supplies and foods that we crave from the United States. And they definitely don’t have a lot of variety. It does get monotonous eating tortillas, rice and beans on a regular basis. So if we want additional items or need anything more than what the food truck and the people selling food from their cars bring it requires us to get in our car and drive. And drive. And drive. It is not as easy as a quick run down the street. There are a couple abarottes, or corner stores, in the town of Xcalak but not a grocery store. Our next closest option to buy groceries is in the town of Mahahual which is about an hour away. There are several specialty stores and restaurants here and while there is still not a traditional grocery store, the corner stores are a lot bigger and have a much wider selection.
And if you can’t find it in Mahahual? You keep driving. The closest real grocery store to us is in the city of Chetumal, the state capital, which is about 2.5 hours away. Here there are several grocery stores and….
If we’re going to drive that far for groceries, we’re going to stock up. And Sam’s Club is the place to do that. About once a month we take a day trip and drive to Chetumal to replenish our supply of food items that we want and crave. Sometimes we REALLY want something besides tortillas and rice. So when we go, we make it count. Kalmata olives! Cheddar cheese! Meatballs! Skinless, boneless chicken breasts!
As with many things here in Xcalak, grocery shopping can be time-consuming and a challenge. And from time to time we do miss the ease and convenience of being able to run down the street to pick up that one item we forgot we needed for dinner. But we have enjoyed eating extremely fresh food, trying new food and getting creative and coming up with new recipes based on the food we have on hand. Sometimes the recipes work, sometimes they don’t. We’re having fun trying. And so no ice cream, but I’m pretty sure there’s a spare Dos Equis around here somewhere.