During our trip to Playa del Carmen for the wedding, we decided to visit Chichen-Itza, which is one of the major Mayan ruins we had not yet seen. We arrived in the evening to Piste, a small town about a kilometer from the ruins, and got a hotel for the evening; we wanted to get to the ruins first thing in the morning to avoid the teeming masses.
It was Saturday night in Piste and the town was decidedly NOT happening. The quasi-square area cleared out pretty much at dark and most of the restaurants were either empty or weird “Authentic Mayan Buffet” tourist places and empty. We had an inconsequential dinner at a random place after I chokingly refused the delicious-looking tamales being sold by the nice old couple in front of the main grocery. (I have a problem with corn and could not afford any digestive drama if I planned to be walking all over the ruins the next day.) Tamales are one of my absolute favorite foods and it makes me cry every time I have to pass up anything wrapped in a banana leaf that might be a tamale. Joshua refused the tamales out of solidarity.
The next morning we emerged bright and early (it was Sunday) hoping the weird bakery might be open and we could get some sort of pastry. We were not optimistic as it was early and I have found few Mexican bakeries that have anything I want to eat.
Then, we noticed a glowing golden light yonder across from the main grocery towards where the market is located. A food stand! (Hot damn!!) A food stand at seven in the morning and it was already surrounded by crowd of men bent over plates of food. The stand had a large vat of what turned out to be pork ‘cochinitas’ (pibil possibly?–we originally mistook it for carnitas, but were corrected by a gaggle of ravenous old ladies). People were ordering it in tacos, in tortas, or in dripping plastic bags to go (all the women were getting theirs to go); the cochinita guy would pick out a mixture of all the parts: ear, skin, fat, normal meat, and then scoop in some of the juice. We ordered tortas and specified that we wanted ‘pura carne’ or just meat. The guy was super friendly and laughed at our crazy tourist persnicketyness and put together two totally awesome tortas of pura carne with chopped pickled onions on top. I think this is the best torta I’ve had on the trip. Definitely the best pork I’ve ever had. It was tender and there weren’t any gelatinous gooey bits (I just hate that, although I know many consider this the best part); the pork has been stewed in a sort of red sauce, possibly with annatto, which seems to be a popular spice in the region. The roll was fresh and chewy (so many are flimsy and crumbly).
We stumbled off to Chichen-Itza for the day, utterly blissed out in a cochinita torta stupor. We were the first to arrive at the ruins and had the place to ourselves for all of fifteen minutes when two or three other people arrived. It is a fascinating ruin with many relief carvings in excellent shape but you are not allowed to climb up anything anymore, which is understandable but still a bummer. At the base of some of the major structures, the information plaque will detail tantalizing artifacts that mean this highly significant thing and how there is original paint still visible on that famous relief, etc., and you just have to imagine it. Plus the museum was closed for renovation. Sigh. The vast majority of the tourist population of all of the Yucatan arrived in a convoy of air-conditioned coaches around 10 to 11:00am-ish and the ruins turned into an obstacle course of German or Italian tour groups. We had to wade through the latte-wielding, Senor Frog’s t-shirt-sporting masses to get out. We enjoyed a hot but quiet walk back to town where we hopped a bus to Valladolid.
(Detail of some relief carvings.)
Starved, we deposited our backpacks at a totally reasonable and decent (albeit toiletseat-less) hotel called Lili’s. Lucky for us, there was another cochinita food stand right across the street from the hotel! We had our second cochinita torta of the day. It was delicious but not as delicious as the one we had for breakfast in Piste. We spent the rest of the day wandering aimlessly about in the heat taking in the sights of colonial Valladolid. Darkness found us in the zocalo where there were zillions of food stands with various snacky things and lo! There was another cochinita stand was set up at the edge of the square. I was still reeling a little from two major meals of cochinita and so I took only a delicate bite or two of Joshua’s third happy pork meal in one day.
(Not pork obviously, but a cute advertisement of a sweet little cow.)
And yes, as the title of this post might suggest, it was more cochinitas for us come morning and breakfast time. Joshua was just about to die of bliss, never having gotten away before with eating pork for every single meal two days running.
Me, I was ready for a salad.