La Desayuna (Breakfast Time in Mexico)

-Lorianne Tenove

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. As Canadians, we were brought up to this way of thinking, and most nutritionists would likely agree that one should break the fast after not eating for twelve hours to rejuvenate the body.

In my life experience in Canada, particularly as a child, the breakfast choice during the school week was cereal. On weekends, pancakes, my dad’s famous waffles with whipping cream and strawberries, or my mom’s quiche were welcomed, accompanied by polka music, of course. Since then, many more breakfast food choices are available for families on the go, but for the most part, the weekly breakfast choices in Canada are pretty predictable. But when you come to Mexico — madre mía!

Breakfast — desayuna — in Mexico is not like any other morning meal I have experienced. The choices are endless, flavourful, and always incorporate fresh ingredients like eggs that are not refrigerated, onions, chilies, garlic, beans, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, various meats, tortillas, and fruit.

When I first arrived in Mazatlán, the school administration team wanted to take me out for breakfast. I had no idea what to order on the menu, so they recommended chilaquiles. My response: “OK”! But then it was chilaquiles with salsa verde or salsa roja. Then with queso or pollo? Basically, chilaquiles are nachos with a red or green salsa sauce accompanied by either cheese or meat, and they are the bomb in Mexico!

A big lesson for me was to learn how I want my eggs done — muy importante because runny eggs are gross! So, when you say, “huevos al gusto” that means, eggs as you like them. My preference always is “revueltos,” which means scrambled eggs, or “estrellados,” meaning fried.

We have learned that in different parts of Mexico, certain tacos are only served in the mornings. In Mazatlán that would be the birria taco. The restaurants that serve this taco are called birrerias because they have their own variations. This is my favourite taco in all of Mexico because the tortilla is fried, not soft, and filled with meat that you dip in juices. It is a messy morning taco, but what taco isn’t messy?

Enchiladas can also be a breakfast choice, particularly enchiladas suizas, which have a green tomatillo sauce with added cream and cheese.

Huevos rancheros is very popular as well — fried eggs served on a tortilla with spicy tomato sauce. Another favourite dish, which I think is hilarious, is huevos divorciados. Basically, it is two fried eggs — one egg served with red sauce and the other with green sauce — thus, divorced eggs.

One of the things I love about Mexico is that there are always so many choices for what to eat at any time of day. That being said, many Mexican people who have eaten traditional breakfasts for most of their lives are turning toward smoothies and fruit juices made from all of the fresh fruit available in this country. This dietary shift has created a tremendous opportunity for small start-up businesses, whether in a kiosk or street stand, to produce fresh fruit drinks.

It has been so interesting to see, within my limited time here, how the culture of breakfast has changed within the school culture. When I started almost three years ago, it was taco fiesta all day long. Now it is tea, coffee, smoothies, and fresh fruit.

Mexican breakfasts are now more for weekends and holidays, a favourite at our house at any time of day. Huevos rancheros anyone?

Lorianne Tenove, retired in Alberta but head of a school in Mazatlán, reports that she loves cooking, and what better way to learn about new recipes than living in a country that has authentic and fresh ingredients. She often starts her day with fresh eggs, tomatoes, onion, garlic, cheese, and tortillas. “Mi favorita, omellete Mexicana!”