I mentioned last week that I had been very busy for many reasons. One of those reasons was a Gastronomy and Tourism Congress I was invited to participate in Cholula, Puebla. I spent a couple of days putting the presentation together and a couple of days more in the beautiful town of Cholula. Last time I was there was when Jon and I ventured into Mexico 7 years ago. So many memories! Cholula is located to the east of Mexico City. To get there you just have to cross to the other side of the volcanoes that silently watch over the chaotic city. Thar ride alone is an amazing experience.
Cholula was one of the most important religious and educational centers in ancient Mesoamerica. The name comes from the Nahuatl word Cholollan which means “place of those who fled”. This may refer to the arrival of Toltec (the first major civilization known in the continent) refugees after the fall of Tula around 1000 AD. Cholula is the oldest continually inhabited city in the northern hemisphere. Settlement of Cholula began between 500 and 200 BC, with two small villages established near water sources in what is now the eastern side of the city. They were two of a number of agricultural villages with ceremonial centers in the area, with evidence of emerging social stratification.
Today Cholula is a city and district located in the center west of the state of Puebla, next to the city of Puebla de Zaragoza, the state capital, in central Mexico. Cholula is best known for its Great Pyramid (the largest pyramid on earth), with the Nuestra Señora de los Remedios sanctuary on top and its numerous churches. The city and district are divided into two, San Pedro Cholula and San Andrés Cholula, which together are officially called the Distrito Cholula de Rivadavia. Like many towns in Mexico, the main plaza now is the heart of the town. Spaniards built their churches and commercial centers on top of the existing indigenous religious and trade centers. Still today, downtown is where everything happens in a lot of Mexican towns.
Los portales, the main merchant building right in front of the plaza, houses restaurants, cafes and shops. I had one meal there, but as everywhere else I go to in Mexico, I had to visit el mercado (the market). I have visited a lot of markets in Mexico City, but going to a market outside the capital is a completely new experience. In general, Mexicans are very nice people, all my friends who have visited me from Ohio have mentioned this, but people are even nicer outside the city. Remember my visit to the Tulyehualco Market? Even though that market is technically still inside the huge city, it feels like you’re in another town. People are nicer and more relaxed and you get the feeling that there’s no need to rush through life. There’s time for everything, especially to browse the aisles of the market filled with bright colors and delicious aromas.
Every region in Mexico has a distinctive cuisine that sets it apart from the rest of the country. Puebla has some of the most diverse and delicious cuisines in the country. Mole Poblano (the most popular mole and the one that you might know because of the added chocolate), chiles en nogada and adobo are among the most popular dishes in Puebla. I asked my taxi driver what the best places to eat were in Cholula and he recommended two, Arab tacos at Tacos Robert and Cemitas poblanas at Cemitas La Conchita. Of course. I had to visit those places:
Puebla is one of the cities with the greatest Arab influences in Mexico, mostly Lebanese and Syrian, and all three of the religions of the area are represented, Christian, Muslim and Jewish. The “tacos arabes” (“arab tacos” – sort of a cross between Mexican “tacos al pastor” and “souflaki”) are very popular there. And because the proximity of Cholula to the city of Puebla one can find some damn good tacos arabes made with flour tortillas and beef or lamb.
Cemita is a Mexican sandwich originally from the city of Puebla. It is different from a torta because cemtitas are made with a sesame seed egg roll instead of bolillo. Additionally, the ingredients usually are restricted to sliced avocado, meat, white cheese or quesillo, onions and red salsa. These sandwiches are huge and you only need one to be satisfied. Mine was milanesa, thin and breaded slices of beef steak. Just look at it. Doesn’t it make you hungry? Cemitas La Conchita is a little bit out of the way from the main plaza, but I had no trouble finding it because everybody knew the place and I got very good directions from random pedestrians on the street.
This experience was great for me. Even though this time I didn’t visit any of the history and archeological sites, I returned to a little town that brings me back a lot of good memories and I was able to explore a little bit more the cuisine of the state of Puebla. However, to do that more seriously, one must visit the capital city of Puebla, which I’m planning to do in the near future. And I also got to be part of a Gastronomy congress. It was small and directed to students. But I was invited to participate because of my “experience” on blogging. I love to eat, take pictures of my food and write about it and on top of everything I’m starting to get invited to places like this because of that where I can eat more, take more picture and share with my lovely readers my experiences. What else can I ask for? Life is good!