Why cocinas económicas make sense for everyone

In the U.S., fast food restaurants are constantly under fire for marketing fatty dollar-menu items to low-income groups. I think Mérida has figured a way around this problem.

Cocinas económicas are everywhere, and even the gringos who prefer Costco to the local mercados have a much earthier attitude when it comes to the informal kitchens that turn out homey lunches for cheap. Two of the ruins we’ve toured with real estate agents were operating as temporary cocinas, with big pots sitting on little burners and a lady puttering about the kitchen. They’re so basic, you might get the impression they’re running on the down low, but there they are in the light of day with a clear sign on the sidewalk so I assume they’re licensed, or somehow running with the city’s approval. Other cocinas look more permanent, with Coca Cola awnings and such.

Cocinas económicas seem to have earned the respect of locals and gringos alike. Some reach mythical status, like classic New Jersey diners, probably not as great as people say, but not a bad deal either. For me, the merits of the food are almost beside the point. This system provides income for the proprietors and affordable, wholesome food for the public. And the money stays in the neighborhood rather than going to some corporate headquarters.

That makes too much sense for us NOB. Although in the city I live in, where the Mexican population has doubled in the last 10 years, they probably are in operation, on the double down low.

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  1. Yes, the cocina economica is a wonderful institution and an important part of life in many neighborhoods across Mexico. You won’t find them in the posher parts of town or in tiny pueblos, but just about anywhere else in Mexico that means that good and economical meals are always close at hand.

    I eat in a cocina economica almost every day. It beats spending time in a hot kitchen when the temperatures are rising, it’s a nice way to meet neighbors and socialize, and I find it’s often cheaper than buying the food and preparing it myself anyhow.

    I just discovered your blog since you listed mine on your blogroll. Keep it coming…

  2. Re: double down low: (years ago)

    I knew some kids who came to the USA from Mexico to work with their uncle/former neighbor in construction. When the economy got worse, they were having trouble paying the rent. By “kids,” I mean 19, 20, 21, 20. All either cousins or neighbors from the same village.

    At the end of every workday, people showed up in their apt living room and just sat down. No knocking, just walked in. The kids sprang into action, chopping lettuce, frying hamburger, and in no time, tacos and tostadas and various other plates were served. I have no idea how much the various plates cost – they just gave me one – but it wasn’t much. $3-$4 or so maybe, for a lot of food! That’s how they paid their rent for months until they found ‘regular’ jobs: cooking dinner for working people.

    How would I know such things? From working with an outreach group assisting immigrants based in our neighborhood church.

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