Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How To Order Your Eggs Without Fear

One of the lesser, but frequent challenges for the expat in Mexico is ordering eggs in a restaurant. If you are fussy about how you want them cooked, as many are, you should read the following primer about getting your eggs the way you want.
But before anything else, I want to confront head on the nearly apocryphal mysteries of the double meaning of the word, "huevos". While it's true that it also has a second meaning of "testicles", or more accurately, "balls", the visiting gringo or savvy expat should not worry about evoking snickers or even guffaws from the waitstaff. The staff deals with eggs all morning, and if they were constantly snickering, they'd have no time or energy left to serve customers. That sort of humor, and also about chiles (a potent phallic symbol) is best relegated to the humorous repertoire of small boys and barely pubescent adolescents.

Nota bien: if you accompany your ordering with sign language, you may provoke humor. If you personalize your order, you run further risks. For example, don't say, "I'll have your eggs, fried, and over easy."
That's personalizing it. You just want "
huevos estrellados."
Common Pitfalls In Ordering Eggs
1. "Huevos al Gusto", literally, "eggs to your pleasure", but really "eggs to order".
Don't make the mistake of a one of our visiting friends and say, "I'll have the huevos al gusto." The waiter will have to ask you again how you want them prepared.

2. "Huevos Estrellados", or eggs, sunnyside up. These are among the most popular. You need not accompany your request with elaborate sign language, making what seem to the waiter to be confusing and possibly humorous gestures. You have a better chance of getting them as you like if you use those two simple words. And, "por favor", of course.

3. "Huevos a la Mexicana": eggs scrambled with chopped chiles, tomatoes and onions. Simply, "eggs in the style of a Mexican woman". Try not to say, "huevos al MexicanO", which gives a simple order a new, special meaning.

4. "Eggs, over easy" aren't easy to order. Many restaurants don't get the concept. You have to ask for "huevos fritos volteados". I once mistakenly said, trying to be helpful to another breakfaster, "huevos revolcados", or something like, "knocked down eggs". Where did I get that?

If you are lucky, one of your breakfast companions will order eggs sunnyside up, using gestures, and his eggs will arrive revolcados, umm, volteados, and you can swap.

Let's move along quickly now. The following egg dishes are less fraught with peril:
5. "Huevos Rancheros": eggs sunnyside up, on top of a lightly fried tortilla or two, covered with a salsa picante. Why this is totally snigger free is a mystery.

6. "Huevos Divorciados." Sounds spicy, and they are: two eggs, estrellados, one in salsa verde and the other in salsa roja, on top of tortillas. This is a gringo favorite, especially those who have been in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

7. "Huevos revueltos": I almost forgot them! Scrambled eggs. They are seldom cooked as I like, so I do not order them while breakfasting out.

8. "Omeleta" Sounds like "omelet", and it is. Usually made with two eggs, and filled "al gusto". What does
"al gusto" mean? Class???
"As you like.", that's right. Muy bien.

So, you will need to specify what you want in it. "Tocino" (bacon), "queso", (cheese); "cebolla" (onion), et cetera. Omelets are usually attractively garnished with onion, tomato and avocado, so you get a bonus for your breakfast pesos.

Special hint: The Omeleta de espárragos, cebolla, nopal y queso at the Gran Hotel Café in Pátzcuaro is a delight.

9. "Huevos Albañil", or "Stonemason's eggs"; scrambled eggs drowned in a very spicy sauce. Order this, as I do, when you want to be a cool, Old Mexico Hand.

10. Poached eggs: in general, don't even try, unless you are in the restaurant of an international hotel. My Spanish-English digital dictionary yields the word, "escalfar" for "poached", but we have had some limited success with "huevos pocheados". Don't get your hopes up. Please
, whatever you do don't call them "huevos pochos".

There are other ways of preparing eggs, but the above listed are among the most commonly encountered. For further information, sign up for our advanced Huevos Clase.

Always be polite, and say "Por favor" and "gracias" at appropriate times. Try to keep gestures and especially sign language to the minimum. They look rude.

Finally, try to remember that Patience Is A Virtue, and that glitches in service do not occur only in Mexico. I'll end with a video drama, made in an American diner, to keep things in perspective.

This is probably my last post of 2008. We'll be travelling to México D.F., Puebla, and then spending a couple of weeks on Oaxaca. I hope to be observing, tasting and even cooking while we are there. With luck and energy, I'll report back on our experiences.
May you have una Feliz Navidad y Provechoso Año Nuevo 2009!


Anonymous said...

Eggs? You eat EGGS in Mexico? Don't you die from salmonella if you eat eggs in Mexico? Run! Run!

Actually, I've found it useful to say 'más cocido' - seems like the chefs here try to save gas cooking them, just as drivers save electricity by not using their headlights at night.

Don Cuevas said...

Doug, I actually prefer my eggs softly cooked. As a child, I wouldn't eat them unless they were well cooked.

Keep in mind that the best things in life require some risk-taking.


Tancho said...

I get my eggs cooked exactly like I like in my kitchen, all other is a crap shoot, and it's never worth the hassle to argue otherwise. I quit getting picky about eggs in Mexico about 15 years ago. It does wonders for my hypertension. Cheers! have a safe trip!

Don Cuevas said...

De acuerdo contigo, Ken.
As long as they're not raw or "off", it's o.k.


Steve Cotton said...

Mike -- Loved the Huevos Rancheros comment: "Why this is totally snigger free is a mystery." Last year a young waiter and I got into a pun battle ordering dinner. He won, hands down.

Have a great culinary adventure.

Merry Christmas -- and may you have a grand 2009.

Some Chilean Woman said...

I'm hungry now. Great blog :)

Marlublu said...

I wish I was eating a mexican breadfast right now after your eggs post.I'm glad I stumbled on your site. Do you have any idea how polvorones or pan de polvo is made. I have been searching for a good recipe for years and years. Mexican pan dulce cannot be compared to the one in Houston. The polvorones have chopped pecans with white powered sugar on top.Pleas please help me find a good recipe.I'm salivating just thinking about them.

Don Cuevas said...

Esteemarlu; I'm sorry, but I don't have a recipe that I use for polvorones. When I want some, I buy them. In fact, those we had last week while we were in Puebla were especially good.

If you read back through my blog, you will see that as time goes on, I cook and bake less and less Mexican food. This is partially a function of living here. Why make it if there are so many expert cooks who can do it better? This is more a blog of what I cook and eat in Mexico and less a collection of Mexican recipes. So, instead of making polvorones for Christmas, I made pfeffernuesse. (With limited success, but we ate them anyway.)

Maybe Mexico Cooks! has a recipe.


Unknown said...

The egg story was hilarious!

Patricia P said...

Love that clip of Jack Nicholson! sorry to say it reminded me of my husband in his younger... grumpy years. Thanks for sharing.

and Great blog.

San Diego

Michelle said...

Ohhh yes you do !! That is why Mexico's population is non-existing ... Hay gringo ....

Jessica said...

Great blog, not only for expats to read it, but also for Mexicans, one small detail though, we don't say omeleta, in any part of Mexico you can just ask for an "omelet de / omelet con ..."

DonCuevas said...

Gracias, Jessica por la aclaracíon. No lo supe antes.

Don Cuevas