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What do you eat?

On the forum that I frequent, Yolisto, someone asked about what people ate. Whether we (the expats) had found that our cooking and eating had changed by living here. I started this big long post in response but as I wrote it I realized that I was probably NOT the sort of person who he was targeting.However I  do have some thoughts on the subject.
People who move to a foreign country generally keep to their native style of cooking. Which is why when I go NOB I can go out and easily eat Vietnamese, Indian, Italian,Chinese, Japanese, Texas Barbeque, and French food. For Cuban food, I can go eat at my mother’s house. That is the point. You might start introducing foreign foods into your diet, if you are adventurous, but generally you stick with what you know.

I’m very fortunate in that my mother is a very curious and intelligent woman, when she would encounter a new vegetable in the supermarket, she’d immediately question someone buying it. How do you use this? If that failed she would just bring it home,do some research and find out how to prepare it. Which is why I know that you can eat turnips raw in a salad. Most of the odd vegetables to find their way home with my mother were things like parsnips, turnips and mesclun. The mesclun was more readily accepted by the hoard than the root vegetables.

It’s the second generation that becomes more native. My children eat more “American” than me, I didn’t marry another Cuban-American so my cooking changed somewhat.

Now that I live in Mexico, I make more Cuban food than previously, simply because the ingredients are available. Though to be honest, when I find yucca it’s often in a less than desirable state.

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. Teresa, I have never seen malanga here, I have seen the camote morado which is the same as the boniatos, I think. It’s nice when you can find familar foods in foreign lands isn’t it.



  2. theresa,

    in japan we can get yucca, platanos (although only at one store in the area for the latter) malangas, and boniatos-the ones cubans eat-pink outside, white inside. i like them much better that sweet potatoes or yams.

    teresa in nagoya

  3. Leslie, you prove my point! People adapt their cooking to the available ingredients but the style and dishes themselves don’t really change. Thanks for sharing your experience with this, you are one super cook.


  4. I think I still cook mostly the same as I did in the States. A combination of Mexican and American dishes, with a few Italian & Asian inspired dishes here and there. The real main difference is that almost everything is made from scratch and with fresh ingredients.

  5. Lee, When I lived in California I remember roll ups being popular. They were sandwiches made in flour tortillas and rolled up. Of course they used the giant burrito ones LOL. When I miss Mexican food (instead of Yucatecan) I made chicken enchiladas with salsa verde. Salsa verde mixed with cream makes a great sauce.
    Until we decided to cut back on the carbs chiliquiles were pretty popular in our household. That is when you know you have adapted, when you have stale tortillas around! LOL.

  6. It’s funny, but since my last trip, and having seen corn tortillas in use, I’ve been buying LaFe brand (not Goya or Mission) at the local store (NOB) and using them in place of bread. I think it would really catch on with some proper marketing. People don’t know that they warm through in a dry pan in under a minute. I’ve also made salsa verde my condiment of choice, another influence from my trips to Yucatan. So I’m adapting already.

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