Finding the Real Mexico in the DF: Walmart

It was a cruel joke that on my last night in Mexico I ended up perusing the aisles at a Walmart. The cruel part was that is was a Walmart, not that I was visiting a super store or super market, which is one of my favorite past times while traveling. After all that’s where you find the real local goods.

As for Walmart, a super sized store, it gives you a real view of what’s up with a country’s culture. For example, why does Walmart need a 20 foot long, 4 shelf high section dedicated only to marshmallows as well as an end cap stacked with marshmallows? I never encounter marshmallows when out in Mexico. Maybe it is to support the fast Jello section.

Entering the store, it was a thrill to see an 8 vat stand full of various types of mole paste. That’s ‘molay’ lest you think it is paste made of moles. I won’t explain the thrills of this chile/chocolate paste but suffice it to say one of few souvenirs I am bringing back is Oaxacan style mole negro.

Additionally Walmart brought to my attention a vast selection of dates. Have dates always been popular in Mexico?

I wandered out and decided as I had not eaten anything normal today, having suffered from ‘turista’* that I needed a full meal.
*a term that WebMD desperately needs to add to its lexicon, faster than you can say Montezuma’s revenge

An ‘Italian’ restaurant called Trattoria Ragazzi in the same mall as Walmart looked reasonably priced so I settled in. It was a delight to discover a rich cabernet from a winery called L.A. Cetto in Baja California. I had spent much of the trip enjoying reading Love by the Glass and so a wine to end the trip seemed befitting. Indeed it was delicious.

Breads were served, and a lasagna for 89 pesos (basically 9 bucks) came out. While at first it impressed in its presentation, it turned out to be a pastay, cheesy, meaty mess. At one point I tasted the flavor of undercooked beef. It was quite vile, not in the way when you order rare meat, but that undercooked taste. I looked up and saw 3 chefs talking behind the counter.

While I did not have my glasses on and had wine goggles on to boot, I could swear one was staring at me. In the meantime a mouthful of undercooked meat sat in my mouth. I really wanted to spit it out. I glanced away and stared elsewhere. Looked back and there he was still staring at me.

I devised a move I will advise you not try at home:I picked up a piece of bread and acted like I was taking a bite. Only I spit the meat out on the bread and casually put it down.

He still stared. Imagine Newman in a chef’s hat staring at you.

After eating half the lasagna I simply stopped and decided with the prior stomach problems to call it quits.

The bill comes. A 110 peso charge for cover. The meal has come to $15 for a subpar lasagna, mostly hard bread, and a good glass of wine.

But that’s not all folks. I ask the waiter for a card so I can dis-recommend the restaurant. We don’t have one, he tells me. I ask if it is a chain.

He says “Yes, Walmart.”
I flip. Walmart??? So THAT explains why they sell the wine in the restaurant. Suddenly I notice there are coffee and other food stuffs for sale. He tells me they own the VIPs eatery, the clothing store, the other Italian restaurant etc. in the mall. He goes so far as to show me his Walmart employee badge.

I am totally disgusted. On my last day in Mexico I have eaten a disgusting faux Italian meal at Walmart.

My stomach hurts already.


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