Monthly Archives: May 2008

Cold Cuts and Sound Systems – Supermarket Promotions

Enough of the political comments! What does a Canadian living in Mexico have to do with US politics anyway, you ask. Well as a citizen of the countries immediately to the north and south of the rogue elephant, it would behoove everyone to take an interest.

But of much greater significance is what I really want to ask in this post:

What is the relationship between sausages and sound systems?

If you have lived in Merida for a while, you have probably gone shopping at some point in one of the major supermarket chains like Comercial Mexicana, Chedraui, Carrefour (now extinct), SuperMaz, San Francisco, Bodega Aurrera and, most recently, Walmart de Mexico. And on one of those forays into the mazes of aisles and products, you have probably come upon that section of the store dedicated to the ever-popular cheeses and cold cuts.

These are special areas of the store that sell everything from the plastic, fluorescent orange queso americano to dubious (non lactose) versions of Oaxaca and Manchego cheese from brands with names like Deisi and Meli (OK I made that last one up). They also sell sausages – hot dogs made with the cheapest filler are extremely popular and show up in everything from wienie salads to paella – as well as salami and ham, another HUGE seller.

Now – and I am getting to my point at last – whenever there is a promotion on any of these products, the companies like Fud, San Rafael and Dubi (I did not make that last one up) decide that the best – and only – way to promote fake meat is through a direct assault on all your senses more or less as follows:

  • Sense of sight – they will have scantily-clad hostesses showing off their belly buttons, legs and cleavage, holding trays of pre-cut samples which obviously appeal to your
  • Sense of taste, which will detect mostly salt and fat but that is just the product; nothing can be done there.
  • Your sense of touch will be employed here when your fingers scrabble around on the aluminum-foil wrapped tray trying to grab a piece of fatty hot dog or ham
  • And finally, your sense of hearing will be attacked by a full out, blaring sound system, playing the latest tunes in the reggaeton, cumbia and salsa genre. In addition to the music, one of the hostesses or a host dressed in bright blue and yellow polyester will act as a DJ or MC, announcing the fabulous deals on wienies right now, and all the goodness that corn starch, pigs feet and salt can provide when ground up and shoved into a semi-edible sausage casing. He will be yelling into the mike, the music blaring, perhaps even delighting his oblivious audience with a few dance moves, and generally just creating a real exciting ambiance in which to purchase ham and cheese.

Why is this? What is the relationship with loud tropical music and cold cuts? Certainly an important question that deserves some thought.

Chili’s Altabrisa

The Casual Restaurant Critic is deeply aware of the fact that no one wants to read reviews of this American chain restaurant. But since it is the only restaurant visited lately and something must be said about all the available options in Merida, here goes.

Chili’s Altabrisa (in the new Altabrisa mall) is a notch above the Chili’s located in Liverpool, where the Critic was amazed at how bad the service was. Here, in the sparkling new mall and across from the already reviewed Fogoncito taqueria, the service is a little better while the food is the same gringo fare found at the other locations.

The Critic’s better half ordered her usual hamburger which was good enough (Carls Jr. is better), the MiniCritic ordered her favorite, cream of broccoli soup which she enjoys, and the curmudgeonly Critic ordered baby back ribs. All the food arrived without utensils of any sort and the party had to resort to hissing and whistling and finally just grabbing a bus person walking by to get some forks n knives. The burger was good, the soup was good, the ribs were OK (Friday’s has better ribs). Basically they were dry and the extra sauce asked for when the food was brought to the table took an eternity to arrive.

An on the rocks “Top Shelf” Margarita was served without any of the problems and difficulties encountered at the Liverpool location and was delicious and refreshing as usual.

The bill was asked for and once the money had been placed in the little bill-thingie, it took another eternity to get the change back. Finally the party’s waiter approached the table with the bill holder tucked under his armpit. However, he was distracted by the bus station and stopped to help roll up cutlery elegantly in wrinkled paper napkins (do not use the wrapping napkin to wipe your mouth – trust the Critic on this one). The Critic assumed he was going to do two or three to take to a table, but after watching him complete his seventh roll, he realized that the waiter had forgotten the change and bill holder in his armpit and so the waiter was called by name and he promptly came over with the bill at that point.

Please keep in mind that a Chili’s hostess will attempt to sell you a ‘membership card’ that is good for 10% off your bill at any of the participating restaurants. There are about 8-10 listed of which one is in Merida. The rest are in the D.F. You decide if it is worth your while.

Again, nothing that Chili’s did here made the Critic change his mind about the fact that this chain should be – with the notable exception of their great margaritas – near the bottom of your out-to-dinner list when in Merida.

Golf?

As a show of respect for the sacrifices made in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by the 4000 men and women in the US Army (screw the Iraqis, they’re evil after all) who have died and the many more wounded, President George W. Bush has declared that he is giving up golf.

I would like to ask people in the US – where is the outrage? I see Olberman and others ranting but by this time, with all this lying and all this deceit, why hasn’t the vast majority American public simply stood up and said: Enough!

Someone please explain.

NotTheNews Commentary on US Presidential Candidates

That NotTheNews occasionally dabbles in foreign affairs is not new; this particular entry takes a glimpse at the contenders for the US presidential race, the results of which will assuredly affect everyone around the globe, as much as George W. Bush has negatively affected the world in the eight years he has been undermining any chance of international goodwill towards the United States by the rest of the citizens of the beleaguered planet.

Talk about your run-on sentences. And I write this knowing full well that there will be at least one reader who disagrees with me on some of this.

For purposes of clarification: NotTheNews is atheist, does not support the Republicans at any time and is generally wary of all American foreign policy; military, economic or political, seeing that for the most part, they have proven to be destructive and poorly thought out.

Barack H. Obama – The official candidate of the NotTheNews editorial team; his recent declarations deploring the Reverend Jeremiah Wright for ‘inflammatory’ statements selected carefully and with malicious intent from by the US corporate media are, in the opinion of the afore-mentioned NotTheNews editorial team, a blatant sellout to the brainless sector of American society that cannot think for themselves beyond the 5 second sound bite and take offense at the Reverend’s words.

In the humble and completely irrelevant opinion of this writer, the fact that Sen. Obama has to pander to the ignorant instead of standing up for free speech and perhaps even inviting the American public to take a closer look at what the Reverend said, in what context and how much of it may be – however remotely and however unpopular – close to the view held by many of the citizens of the world. The truth hurts, the American public in general can not face it (there’s another sale at Macy’s!!!) and Obama has cheapened his position in siding with the sheep in this case.

Hillary R. Clinton – The second choice of the NotTheNews team, the senator from New York who never lived there much has blown her chance of any endorsement by this website by declaring recently that if Israel was attacked by Iran, she would ‘obliterate’ the latter. To make such an irresponsible statement when you have two unpopular presidents – el loco Bush in the US and el loco Ahmadinejad in Iran – rattling those proverbial sabers, is pandering to the macho element in American society who still believe that a woman cannot be strong militarily. Being as ignorant as many are of international politics, perhaps they have never heard of Margaret Thatcher. In any case, more than for reasons of pandering to the thick-necked, thick skulled, NRA membership, the comment by la Hillary is downright dangerous and will surely make Americans even more popular abroad. It also reinforces this writer’s idea that Hillary is just another old, white American business-as-usual politician who will continue with the same America First policies, the rest of the world be damned, that have characterized American foreign policy since the Spanish-American war.

John McCain – While the Democrats fight amongst themselves, this Republican former ‘maverick’ who ran against Bush in 2000 has, in some sort of Frankenstein-sells-off-parts-of-himself process, become another person altogether, completely at odds with his former, thinking self. Where he was once against torture (having endured it as a POW himself) he now supports all those delightful tactics that Rumsfeld, Cheney et al have come to call ‘aggressive interrogation’ methods, including the charming activity known as water-boarding or simulated drowning. He is all for the war and has declared that the US could be in Iraq for the next 100 years. Back in 2000, he openly opposed the idiots on the fundamentalist religious right; now he has pandered (there’s that word again) to them by seeking and obtaining – among other lunatics in that vein – the Rev. Hageys endorsement.
In short, McCain is now a Bush/Cheney clone, has seen the light ($$) and has sold out big time.

The conclusion is that so far, in order to reach as many possible voters as possible, all the candidates have taken positions that they were perhaps originally less than eager to embrace, all in the name of getting more votes. And the common denominator seems to be the lack of intelligence among the majority of the American electorate who have been shielded from any real discussion about the effect of US policy on the rest of the world, or indeed, of their own history. And so, each candidate ‘dumbs down’ his position, watering it down, chewing and re-chewing until it becomes palatable and digestible to the infants charged with electing their next glorious leader.

All the rest of the world can do is watch. And hope.

Link: Bill Moyers on Rev J. Wright

After a long absence…

Another month goes by and there is nothing to write about?

To tell you the truth, my dear readers, I have been absorbed in other things that have taken me away from the NotTheNews blog site and therefore my writing has been somewhat nonexistent. Of course, the fact that there were no more updates on the Chabelo case really put a damper on my inspiration.

There is of course, always something to write about when you are a neurotic foreigner. Although I am coming up to the point where I will have lived as long here as I have elsewhere growing up! 20 and 20 (years).

There is an interesting development regarding the hospital in Alta Brisa. My last post was on the IMSS so here is another health-related note: it seems that the Hospital de Alta Especialidad which was touted as the largest and most advanced medical center in the southeast of Mexico – if not Latin America, oh hell, in the world – has never been opened or inaugurated.

Apparently former President Fox did come to snip some ribbons, but the place was never really opened. It sits there, completely finished (at least from the outside) complete with landscaping and security… EMPTY.

Now a branch of some medical workers labor union has overrun the facility, declaring that they want half the jobs in the hospital to be alloted to their union people and the resignation of the guy running the operation. The local paper Diario de Yucatan shows some of these folks eating tacos and sleeping in the hallways of this brand-spanking new hospital that could be already helping people, but is mired in conflict in true third world fashion.

There was another narco-shooting in Merida this past week, when several men in a vehicle tried to make off with someone and that someone managed to escape the vehicle but not the bullet of a 45 caliber pistol that mangled his forearm. This happened in Mérida’s hallowed ‘norte‘ (where the ‘nice’ people live) and the local papers made the most of it.

Mostly this violence is not affecting anyone outside the sphere of
the business that these folks are in, so nothing to worry about yet. I will be sure to keep you posted.

That about wraps it up this morning, thanks for checking in and hopefully you found something interesting.

Credits: Special thanks to:

  • La Rosita for their unwilling and unknowing participation this morning by providing me with the photo of their rather simple salbutes.
  • Theresa for sending me this link: http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-trw-insider28oct28.pg,0,2826129.photogallery?index=1 which highlights the top places for Americans to get arrested. In the world! You live in Mexico? Well read it! Thanks Theresa: you kick started by lazy butt this morning.
  • My dear wife, for making this damn fine coffee that I am drinking as I write.

Walk the Wok

Merida has a new restaurant that you might want to check out if you are in ‘el Norte‘, that part of town where all the action is.

The Casual Restaurant Critic first heard of this place in Plan B, that information-packed, Thursdays-only supplement in the local Diario de Yucatan newspaper. There was a catchy ad, and lo and behold, a whole page dedicated to the restaurant, which has, apparently, two locations on the entire planet: the first one, located in Amsterdam (Holland aka Netherlands for those geography-challenged, Left Behind readers) and now Mérida.

Amsterdam and Mérida share little else (understatement of the year, perhaps?) but now they share this cute little restaurant idea where the signage is funny, the food is interesting and they even have those little oriental food take out boxes complete with chopsticks.

It works like this – you pick your base, which can be rice or noodles, the latter of the rice or egg variety, which come with a bean sprout-y mix of basic veggies. Then, you add ingredients according to the contents of your wallet, the size of your appetite or your delusional thinking that you are a great chef and will invent something new. There is everything from shrimp to peanuts to choose from, each with it’s own price. Finally, you have a choice of about 7 salsas or sauces to bind it all together. Black bean garlic, Thai curry and coconut, that sort of thing. The cashier takes your money while the cooks whip up your concoction right there and then in one of two enormous woks being slaved over behind a protective sheet of glass.

The result? Before you can finish a cigarette outside, your little boxes are ready to go. The
food itself, the Critic found a little bland. Of the three combinations ordered, the Shanghai sauce was the only one with enough kick to make it tasty. The other two were rather bland, in the Critic’s humble opinion.

What about price you ask? Well, since you add your choice of ingredients and the prices are all over the map, you could probably eat cheap. The Critics meal, three orders for three people, two with shrimp and shiitake mushrooms, ran $250.00. Pesos of course.

On a scale of 1-5, the Critic rates this one a 3 for now. Take it or leave it.