By Haley Sherman, a 15-year-old from Gilbert, Arizona who has been on a long-term journey to travel the world with her family, Let’s Just Travel, since 2014.
| When we left for Puebla, Mexico, I made a promise to myself that I would try most, if not all, of the food that was offered in Puebla, whether or not that food was out of my comfort zone. I’ve gone so far out of my comfort zone it’s actually hard to see the zone from here. The dishes I tried were so interesting, in fact, that I’ve decided to share them here with you, my lovely readers. Before we get into the food, though, I’d like to tell you the reason why trying new foods was so hard for me.
I’ve had anxiety for many years of my life. It’s taken form of not wanting to go to school, fearing the possessed girl from The Exorcist, fearing my little sister’s American Girl dolls, extreme germaphobia (which I deal with to this day), and more recently, fear of vomiting. I am absolutely terrified of vomiting. Whether it’s because I haven’t done it in 6-7 years, or it’s uncomfortable, or it smells bad, I don’t know. Actually, it’s most likely all three. Nevertheless, I am scared of it, and that fear makes eating anything new a very daunting challenge. For heaven’s sake, I can barely eat grilled chicken and not have a single thought about whether it’ll make me sick. About 75% of sips of water I take are in fear of the water being contaminated. It has truly ruled my life for quite some time, but for the past couple of months I’ve been trying a lot more, and let me say, I am proud of it. It was challenging, but I did it. Here are the foods that I tried, in order of when I tried them:
You might’ve tried chalupas at Taco Bell or Taco Time, but you’ve never experienced anything quite like a real poblano chalupa (poblano meaning from the town of Puebla). These delicious cousins of the taco are simply AMAZING. Since Puebla is the birth town of the chalupa, I knew I had to try one, so my mom and I went searching for a chalupa restaurant.
We got there, sat down, and ordered a plate of six chalupas to share between us. They gave us the option of having chicken or pork. Since I saw a pig get slaughtered in Panama, I don’t eat pork, so we ordered chicken. 10 minutes later, they came out with a plate of delicious corn tortillas with chicken and onion, three with salsa roja and three with salsa verde. I was immediately suspicious of the sauces, but I decided to go along with it because mom had tried the sauces in a previous dinner and announced that they weren’t spicy. They were so good, my mouth is watering as I type this. The blandness of the chicken went well with the onion, and the salsa seeped into the corn tortilla, making the slightly-too much spice it had much more tolerable. Every flavor was complemented by another one. While eating them, my anxiety was nagging me about foreign food and how my body was going to reject it because it was new and different. They were so good, though, that I ate all of mine and some of mom’s.
I don’t know how popular this is in the states, so I don’t know if any of you have heard of this one. This very…. different dish is almost like a lasagna but with different ingredients. On the bottom, I found a large, spread out corn tortilla. Layered on top were some refried beans and then, sitting on top of everything, was a thin slab of beef completely drenched in salsa verde and shredded cheese. When I saw it, I was actually pretty disappointed. It looked like vomit’s odd cousin. Then I tasted it. Everything was so soft and flavorful, I ate the entire thing. The poblano people have a knack for perfectly balancing the different flavors in their food. The corn tortilla, once again, took the slightly-too-spicy taste out of the salsa verde and left the wonderfully-tasting part on my tongue. The meat went very well with the beans and all the flavors were tied up nicely with a little bow on top. With this one, my anxiety wasn’t that bad, since I knew that my body and I both liked the salsa verde and the other ingredients were very simple. I would eat this one again in a heartbeat.
Chiles en Nogada
This was a dish that I actually didn’t order, my mom did because I didn’t have the guts to do it. When she ordered it, though, I promised to try it. Chiles en nogada were very obviously the one dish that everyone looked for when they came to Puebla during this time of year, because we saw ads for it EVERYWHERE. In the pictures, we could only make out a fat carrot-like shape drenched in this white sauce with reddish pomegranate seeds and some leafy green herbs on top, as a tribute to the Mexican flag. When we ordered it, it came to us like that too.
The waiter brought it in, and I didn’t exactly know what to think of it. The sauce, we soon realized, was a type of sauce made by nuts, and for some reason it made me feel like gagging. I truly have no clue why, and even thinking about the smell of the sauce right now is making me hold in a gag. So that was weird. After scraping off some of the sauce, we found an orangish-brown baked (?) chile. “Okay,” we said, “so why do they have this for dinner again?”
That question was soon answered. When we cut into it, raisins and nuts spilled out among various vegetables and meats. It had quite an interesting nutty taste that I didn’t particularly enjoy. I don’t tend to like nuts, chiles, or raisins so this really wasn’t my cup of tea. I could tell from the look on my mom’s face that she didn’t love it either. She says that the (baked) chile was more of a container for the things inside of it than a contribution to the flavor pool. Speaking of, that pool was overflowing. In the previous dishes, I enjoyed the surplus of flavors and how they mixed together to make a very nice combination that balanced out very nicely, but this was way too much for us. The meat, veggies, raisins, nuts, peppers, and weirdly-textured sweet nut sauce were a bit too much for the taste buds. The nut sauce, my mom says, felt like alfredo sauce, but tasted oddly sweet with a slight nut flavor in it. We later found out that the nut is made of goat milk, cream cheese, and assorted nuts. Who’da thunk it? My anxiety wasn’t all that bad this time around, mostly because of how well-cooked everything appeared. The main reason I didn’t have much of this, however, was simply because I didn’t enjoy the taste or flavor. Nevertheless, I tried something new, right?
While we were there we tried some other snacks and traditional.. edible items? Anyway, here they are, with ratings:
So, as you can see, I tried a lot that week! I’m quite proud of how far out of my comfort zone I went, and I’m really glad I did it. It was a great experience and, despite my anxiety telling me otherwise, I didn’t get sick. It was a win/win situation all around. I found some new favorite foods, my parents are happy with everything that I tried, I didn’t get sick (have I mentioned that already?), and you all got to come along with me!
About the Author
Hi! I’m Haley. If you told me three years ago I would currently be in Thailand, my 17th country, I would have said you were crazy! But here we are, traveling the world and I’m unschooling as we go. Some of my current favorite things include monasteries, birds, tiny sculptures, pocky, making chocolate chip banana bread, trying desperately to make my ocarina sound decent, and all things meme.