We had a team in from the US helping us with our recruiting process for a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. Early in the morning on their way out, I ran them to the market for a chance to pick up a few souvenirs and to get a look at the Mujeres de Tortilla (Tortilla Ladies) in action.
The market was just opening at 7am and only about 50% of the hawker stalls were open, but all of the stands where the moist, tender tortillas would be made, cooked and sold during the day were heating up and flat discs of ground corn were on their way out to be consumed all over town.
This time I didn’t stop with tortillas though. I was asked to bring back la Cuajada — a fresh white cheese. I’ve had it before and like the Queso Fresco or Queso Blanco I make at home, it’s moist, crumbly and salty.
I asked Jorge — Donde esta la cuajada, por favor? Where is the cuajada, please? He lead me to a small stall where a man was stirring what looked to be milk with his hands. Off he went to package it, wrapped in a swath of banana leaf and into a plastic bag it was placed. The tortillas were steaming hot and the cheese was ready for breakfast.
We made it back to the office eager to dive in. Well, I was eager, I’m not sure about my traveling cohorts. In the office, the Admin team was all smiles when they saw what was in the bags. It didn’t take long and we were diving in.
What I didn’t expect the next morning was to run across a blog post that talked about the evils of cheese in Honduras. I knew it was risky as I tried to ignore the man’s hands stirring the milk that was most likely not pasteurized. I was skeptical about the container he fished the cheese from, thinking briefly that it was probably not hanging out in the most sanitary of conditions, but I went for it anyway.
After reading La Gringa’s post however, I think la Cuajada is going to have to be scratched from my list unless I make it from a container of Parmalat UHT (Ultra High Temperature) milk although it seems she found a more reputable cheese vendor a year later so maybe there’s hope fro this cheese I enjoy so much.
I’m here and getting ready to head out on a plane this afternoon and while there is a little grumble in my belly, I suspect it’s not the cheese I consumed 3 days ago. Nope, there were other episodes of Russian Roulette played with food this week, the same as all other weeks that I choose to try not to think about.
All this won’t stop me from heading to the market to watch scores of tortillas being made or having breakfast of beans and eggs at the office most mornings, but it will make me think before blindly taking a bite of “street food”.