Regional Cuisine / Lunch the Yucatecan Way

Lunch the Yucatecan Way

Lunch the Yucatecan Way

23 September 2005 CULTURE, Regional Cuisine 6

A new comida casera restaurant just opened around the corner. This place used to be a store that manufactured screws to order, and so the doors still bear the name, Casa de Los Tornillos (House of the Screws). The restaurant is a welcome addition to the neighborhood with seven very neat tables and white walls, each table topped with oilcloth tablecloths, a napkin holder, and a small vase with fake flowers. The chairs are provided by Coca Cola.

Every day at the new Mary Soco's, there are two or three meals to choose from. Today was a kind of beef stew in tomato sauce, and the other was something called Pesuñas Rebozadas. We asked to look at the food, since we had no idea what pesuñas were... and Mary was frying something up in batter that looked like a big chile relleno. "Hay carne?" we asked. "Is there meat?" "Si, claro! Cerdo!" "Yes, of course... pork". Well, we like pork. We'll try one of each.

We sat down and were served one Coke and one Coca lite upon request. (The only other choice is Sabor which means "Flavor" technically... but what it really means is "another soda that isn't Coke"). Mary Soco's waitress (daughter? niece?) brought us each a soup bowl full of black beans in their own broth, a wooden-lidded bowl with hot corn tortillas and fresh silverware, and later, the main course. One plate had white rice, covered with chunks of Yucatecan avocado (lighter and more watery avocado than we're used to in the States), and about six big squares of beef in a tomato stew. It was Puerco Empanizado and it was delicious. The second plate had a salad topped with the same avocado chunks, half a habanero pepper and two big rellenos, battered and covered with the pink, pickled onions that are ubiquitous in Yucatecan cuisine. Still curious as to what was inside, we dug into the rellenos and found... a white bone! a rather clean, white bone about the length of a large man's knuckle. We tried again... another bone. It turns out that pesuñas are pigs knuckles.

We must admit, we didn't find them particularly attractive.

But that's the fun of eating there... sometimes it doesn't work out. But sometimes you discover something you love. In either case, you can sit and watch the WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD come in for lunch. While we were there (about a half hour), at least five middle aged women came in with their bags and tupperwares to get lunch to bring home to their husbands. Ditto schoolchildren for their parents. An older woman and her teenage daughter, obviously just home from school, came in and sat down, then a man who looked like he had just left a construction site. The semi-crazy man from the next block, who speaks surprisingly good English, came in and gave us a Spanish comic book. This was a thank-you gift because we bought an old doll from him (for our puppy) the day before for 9 pesos so he could buy batteries for his radio. Everyone knew everyone else... the atmosphere was relaxed, friendly and fun.

For Yucatecans, lunch is the main meal. It's a time to spend time with your friends and family, eat heartily and then retire for your siesta... because it's usually, like today, VERY warm outside. So that's where we're headed now. Hasta luego...


  • Bruce Coppola 14 years ago

    I don't know when you posted this article, but it looks like the place my wife and I happened upon on our last (and so far only) visit to Merida in '04, I think. Had a great Poc Chuc, and got a good tip from an older local gent about where to get my Panama hat (bought expensively a few years earier in Playa del Carmen) cleaned and blocked in the mercado municipal.

  • Working Gringos 16 years ago

    A quick editor's update: This place is now called Doña Tere's, which is stenciled on the bright red doors. We think Doña Tere is one of the ladies in the kitchen, and we know that their mother, Doña Ophelia, occasionally comes by to help as well.

    The food here just keeps getting better. We take everyone we know here and we've never had a bad meal. Some things are better than others, but all are home-cooked with loving care.

    The place is very popular now and if you get there after 2 pm, chances are they will have run out of food.

  • Khaki 16 years ago

    I don't know how in the world I ever missed this article! The comments are hilarious! Can you imagine this being the first introduction a potential expat has to the gringo community in Yucatan? LOL Well - this is it, folks. Pretty much how we/they are! Must be the heat!

  • Andrea 16 years ago

    Love the one on the corner by our house (47 & 66). Today I didn't feel like cooking so I went and got food para llevar. The bag was so heavy for 140 pesos I could barely make it home. All 5 of us ate and we had leftovers! Today's meal was pechuga empanizada, (breaded chicken breast) and carne res something or other. I could only figure out it was beef. But it turned out to be delicious chunks of beef and I think squash in a yummy sauce. What a value and convenience and best of all the people are so nice. I spilled a little tamarindo on my skirt and an older man sitting near me handed me a napkin!

  • sweeping mayans 17 years ago

    We love Mary Soco too, though we are going to miss the orginal Casa de Los Tornillos. Los Dos Camelos (The Two Camels) just around the corner still sells screws and they have a lovely and colorful collection of brooms and dusters. Something dear to the heart & sole of the sweeping mayans. The sweeping mayans love to rub shoulders with the gringo's here in gringo gulch but we'd like to point out one thing to the Hermit and like minded
    ma’ ko’ohi tuucha’,

    In the book FOODS OF THE MAYA in the forward by Jeffrey Pilcher the opening line

    "The ancient civilization of the Maya has intrigued outsiders since John Stephens first ventured through the tropical forests of the Yucatan in the 1840"

    EXCUSE US. We have been intriguing outsiders since before Columbus was too afraid to land his canoe at Tulum. But thanks for bringing those pigs, dude.

    Pre Cristobal we had some interesting outsiders pass through. You don't really think those elongated skulls are from the sweeping mayans tying stones on their chaanpal pol.


  • The Hermit of Santa Isabel 17 years ago

    I love Mary Soco's I cannot say enough fabulous and positive thinks about Mary. As a christian and potential saint I am shocked to hear that she has opened a place called the "House of Screws" but hey that is between her and her god. I just wanted to be nice and post the recipe for Yucatecan Marinated Onions. Love em to death. I don't want to infringe upon any copy right laws so I will just plug the darling little cookbood called

    a taste of the Yucatan

    a place with all kinds of tastes! but that is a whole other blog!

    Nancy and Jeffrey Gerlach (no known relation) are the writers, editors and photographers of this tastey tome. How convenient as my friend Church Lady would say.

    with out further ado or comment, the recipe

    Cebollas Encuridas

    "These pickled purple onions are traditional accopaniment to a meal of chicken or pork pibil and are also popular with any number of other local dishes [i.e. pied du cochon]. They are found on virtually all tables throughout the Yucatan as a condiment, along with salsa and salt."

    (ok it is hard enough for the hermit to stay on subject without blatant lies like this. Now do not come down here to the land of sweeping mayans expecting to find salt, salsa and marinated onions on every table in the mundo maya. I have at least 7 tables in my house and only one of them has salsa and salt on it. and I have never seen the 'miracle of the marinated onions' on any of my tables. Ah but this is a christian home here, the hermitage.) I digress.

    the recipe with no further comment or French I promise.

    1 large purple onion, thinly sliced or coarsely chopped

    Boiling water, to cover

    10 whole black pepper corns

    3 whole allspice berries

    2 cloves minced garlic

    1 teaspoon dried oregano, Mexican preferred

    1/2 cup water

    1/4 cup white vinegar

    1/4 teaspoon salt

    Pour the boiling water over the heathens, I mean onions, let sit for 1 minute, then drain. Discard the water.

    Place all of the remaining ingredients in a pan with the onions and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and allow the onions to marinate for a couple of hours or days before serving. The onions will keep indefinaely in the refrigerator.

    yield 1 to 1.5 cups

    note: this recipe requires advance preparation.

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