Martha Does Mexico

Domestic dynamo discovers barrio's beauty

One minute you are on top of the world; the next you are not. Resigning from the New York Stock Exchange is not the answer (or maybe it is), but perhaps a little working vacation in Phoenix would help ease your stress.

Come on, Martha Stewart, get away to my barrio. We could shoot your show from here. I have visions of us both wearing our oversize oxford shirts, untucked of course, laughing as we walk down the aisles of the Phoenix Swap-O-Rama searching for those culinary treasures from my old country.

Midtown Phoenix, old town Mesa -- if it's from Mexico, it can be found there. Martha, you and I could have menudo (beef tripe soup) at La Tolteca on Van Buren before heading out to the dog park.

Tired from our day of shopping, we would shoot over to 16th Street, or shall I say "Calle Diez y Seis." The camera can follow us as we walk past the crackheads and hookers over to La Michioacana to have some wonderful frozen fruit pops. Surely you would try a tamarind, mamey or even hibiscus flower fruit pop, maybe even a glass of horchata (a rice drink). Perhaps you would explain how you grow hibiscus flowers at your estate back east, with a wonderful harvest each year, enough jamaica flowers to keep you drinking the refreshing brew all year long.

Our educational shopping could continue as we head over to McDowell. At my favorite Mexican candy store, Dulceria Pico Pica, we investigate the hundreds of plastic bags filled with every possible type of candy from Mexico. Mango lollipops dusted with spicy chile de arbol, tamarind candy with a hint of chile, cocadas (a coconut candy) and, yes, Martha, your favorite: Astro Pops.

Now you want Mexican bread? So off we go, heading over to Panaderia la Estrella, just south of the 202. We would compare their wonderful bread to the French pastries you are used to back home. You could note for the camera that the French had a big influence on the style of bread and pastries found in Mexico today. I would shake my head in agreement, proudly adding that my family's trade of baking can be traced back to France.

But by now, my feet would hurt and the oxford shirt would be full of hibiscus flower stains from the frozen pop I ate earlier. I would be feeling the Phoenix grime in every one of my pores. But Martha, I have no doubt you would be as clean and crisp as ever.

"Sorry, Martita," I would say, "I am too tired to go on -- you must go on without me."

You would be sad, but you would head over to Tacos Mexico on 16th Street to try some beef brain tacos. I imagine you taking a bite, looking into the camera and smiling as you say, "It's a good thing."

Silvana Salcido Esparza is a local chef and restaurant owner.

 
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