I’m craving cheese today. Salty, sharp Wisconsin cheddar cheese. The closest I could find in the market is a processed, yellow cheese that looks like a sliced Kraft cheese-like-product. It contains a label of Procesado Typo de Americano Queso, Amarillo. No bueno!
The cheese I’m craving is actually part of a larger craving — for a refried bean, spinach, and cheese taco. I stopped in a place advertising tacos and my craving was not on the menu. I decided instead to hit the market and see what I could find to make my own.
First stop was Pali, the local supermercado that caters to Nicaraguans who want food not provided by the outdoor market. I cringe to shop at Pali now that I know it is actually an arm of Sam Walton. Walmart is also the owner of one of the other two grocery stores in town, La Union. This store sits on the corner across the street from La Colonia, the large supermarket owned by Nicaraguans. Classic Walmart style all the way – find your competitor and place your store directly across the street! In fact, Pali also follows this model, located right in the midst of the outdoor food market. I find it a stark picture of the local economy that Walmart owns 2 of the 3 grocery stores in town.
However, most Nicaraguans get their food at the local market. Small stalls crowd each other in and around several blocks selling items such as fresh meat, eggs – both factory farmed and not factory farmed, large pungent home made blocks of cheese, and baskets filled with an unimaginable variety of fruits and vegetables. The only thing that drove me to Pali today was the hope of finding that elusive American cheddar cheese. Alas, the trip was unsuccessful, but I was pleased to find fresh spinach, a vegetable strangely absent from the outdoor markets of Granada and often hard to come by in the supermercados.
Tortillas were another item on my list and Pali carried packages of 10 tortillas for 12.50 pesos. I left them on the shelf as I knew I could find fresh-made tortillas in the outdoor market. Walking outside Pali and taking a quick left then a right, I happened upon an small, wrinkled lady with a plastic basket covered with a towel. Underneath the towel lay packages of warm, fresh tortillas, only 5 pesos for each package, containing 5 home made tortillas each – yum!
Having failed in my quest for cheddar cheese, I remembered an hombre selling cheese with chilis in it. This cheese is not quite as pungent as most Nicaraguan cheese, has a squeak to it on your teeth when you chew it, and has colorful, flavorful chilis sprinkled throughout. And at 30 pesos a pound – about $1.10, I can justify buying some even though I have a quarter pound of Nica cheese in my refrigerator already. Alas, the hombre was there with his offering of cheeses but no chili cheese today. Looks like I’ll have to content myself with traditional Nica cheese after all.
Arriving home, I steamed my spinach, heated up my refried beans, and piled it all on the still-warm tortillas. I then topped it with crumbled Nica cheese and sat down to eat. The tacos are good, but I’m still dreaming of a hot Texas taco served up with sour cream and guacamole out of a food cart on the corner of some Texas street. Mmmm, Austin food.