The Critic knows for a fact that many of the 19 readers of his ramblings have been – probably repeatedly – to eat at the market in Santiago, so he will just post a few photos of the delicious breakfast enjoyed recently in the company of the always charming Better Half and a group of amigos.
After a while, you tend to get a little tired of the same old same old when visiting Yucatecan food restaurants, so it came as a nice to surprise to find yet another Merida restaurant offering all the same recipes, but with a twist: a novel and appealing form of presentation!
El Manjar Blanco is owned and run by some nice people loosely related to a local legend in the newspaper business: Antonio Peraza aka Tony, whose smart, funny and biting social commentary in the form of political cartoons are featured in the Diario de Yucatan newspaper. No politician or businessman, no matter how prominent, self important or powerful, is immune to the barbs and jabs that come out of Tony’s talented inkwell. The Critic only mentions this because when you enter the restaurant, you will notice a lot of familiar (if you peruse the local newpapers at all) art on the walls.
Once you order the food, you will see what the Critic is talking about in terms of the presentation of each platillo, Yucatecan cuisine classics all, from luscious papadzules and crunchy smoked longaniza appetizers to cochinita, queso relleno (the Critics personal favorite) and lomitos de Valladolid. They are all there, and they are all not only pretty to look at and photograph, but also taste as good as they should.
Service is very friendly and adequately professional and the prices are well within the bounds of reason for what you are getting.
** warning – this article contains ‘bad’ words **
Santiago Puc Arjona felt chastised and furious. An important lesson about drinking and driving, as well as the dangers of littering, had been brought home to him just minutes before, when, while driving back to his home in Merida, he drained the bottle of Corona he had brought with him from his cousins wedding in Tixcacal and tossed it out the window of his silver 1992 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. The bottle had shattered against the glass in his drivers side door, which was when Santiago realized with some surprise that he had forgotten to roll down the window before throwing the bottle out.
“Chinga su madre!” he said aloud, angrily.
Continuing to curse his bad luck under his breath, he pulled off the narrow highway and, checking for traffic, opened the door and stepped out to survey the mess. The remains of the Corona bottle littered the inside of the truck and the drivers side window now featured a rather prominent crack that ran diagonally across it.
“Me lleva la puta madre” he cursed again under his breath angrily and proceeded to look behind the seat for something with which to sweep out the glass. Yesterday’s copy of the Por Esto newspaper would do, he decided, and rolling up a section or two began to sweep the glass shards out of the truck and onto the side of the road.
When he was done, and shiny bits of broken glass lay motionless on the grey asphalt, he felt a sudden and very real urge to urinate. Leaving the side of the pickup, he stepped to the front of his vehicle where traffic coming from behind could not see him and unzipped his fly. The relief was blissful as he watered the weeds on the side of the road and he turned his face towards the sun, closing his eyes, to take in the last of the afternoon rays. The buzz from the beer at the wedding had not dissipated even with the adrenaline-pumping moment when glass hit glass inside the truck. He zipped up and walked back to the drivers side of the pickup taking no notice of a car-full of tourists who turned their heads to see what he was up to as they drove past in a rental with orange Quintana Roo plates.
Snakes are not uncommon in the Yucatan and among them, the boa constrictor is often seen on highways and byways, sometimes making the Local section of the Diario de Yucatan newspaper when a group of police or firemen are called upon to shirk their patrolling duties and is assigned the delicate task of catching one in someones home and then have their photo taken with their prey.
It is less common for a snake such as the aforementioned boa to to slither out of the underbrush on the side of the road and somehow find its way into a vehicle, but today, as Santiago’s luck would have it and while he was happily relieving himself, a boa constrictor did just that, nestling itself comfortably in a space behind (and under, given its size) the bench seat that stretched across the interior of the pickups cabin.
Santiago got in the pickup, turned the key and the 6 cylinder engine roared to life reassuringly. Putting the vehicle in ‘drive’, he pulled out onto the highway and reached the periferico a few minutes later, coming to a stop at the traffic light and completely oblivious to the fact that an enormous reptile was curled up just inches away.