There was a thing on a big avenue that runs through the centre of the city called Reforma. It was the Feria de las Culturas Amigas, which, is something like the fair of cultures and friendship. A friend and I went yesterday. Along each side of the avenue were stands from a whole bunch of countries. Mostly it was a bit of food to eat, liquids to drink, some trinkets and clothes to buy, and some music playing from that particular country.
We had a Russian drink that was a mix of cola and non-alcoholic beer. (I presume that the lack of alcohol was mainly because of the laws about not drinking on the streets here.) We had a small potato-y thing (a bit like bubble and squeak) from Portugal. We were gonna have a German sausage, but they looked kinda skinny and useless, and a bit further up the road was a Polish place which had great sausages. At this point we kinda decided to try and eat a little food from each continent. Not before we had a fantastic brie sandwich from the French stall.
On a side street near the European section is a big hotel. Can’t remember the name. But it’s the hotel where One Direction were staying. They were playing in the city. Loads of screaming. Especially when people, one assumes band members, popped their heads out of the windows on the fourth floor.
One of the good things about going on Sunday was that Reforma was closed to regular traffic, as it is most Sundays, because they allow people to cycle there without being injured or killed by this city’s terrible motorists. Sadly, though, at around 2pm, the roads were opened and the whole fair got super busy when pedestrians were forced back onto the pavements.
The stalls were all vaguely grouped by continent. Apart from, it seems, countries that have issues with each other. Pakistan and India were pretty far apart in the Asia strip. Israel was grouped together with the Europeans, way away from Palestine. And the Koreas were kept apart, too.
I was looking forward to seeing the Reino Unido stall. Mostly, and lets not be coy, to giggle at what crap Britain would come up with. And they didn’t disappoint. It was awful. You know those gift shops you see at the London airports? All beefeater teddy bears, Tube logo t-shirts. There was that, a thing promoting Strongbow, another thing promoting Walkers shortbread, and the area where you could buy food was seemingly just about Knorr. You could get chicken bits and chips. FISH AND CHIPS, you fucking morons, not chicken and chips! That’s the Britishest thing.
In Africa we had some fantastic lamb balls, couscous and salad in a flat bread from Tunisia. Balls of lamb flesh, btw, not lamb testicles. And a very refreshing lime-y mint-y drink from Algeria. (Interestingly (?), Algeria in Spanish is just an anagram: Argelia.)
Heading into Central and South America, I bought a baseball cap from the Domincan Republic stand for just 60 pesos. Had I have wanted to, I could’ve bought a Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, or Albert Pujols t-shirt, too. At the Brazil stall, we eat pão de quiejo and drank guaraná. I cheered a little when I saw the Belize stall. I cheered a lot when I saw that they were selling Marie Sharp’s hot sauce which, dear reader(s), is the best hot sauce on the planet.
Outside the US embassy, there was a huge gap in the fair, mostly, one assumes, because they want to remind everyone how important and how party-pooper-y they are. A bit further along, was their stand, which seemed to be designed to remind you about all the crassest parts of American culture: Jack Daniel’s, Harley-Davidson, hot dogs, chilli dogs, apple pie, a cut-out of Obama, and lots of plastic flags. Plus the chance to have your photo taken with people in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes. United States of America, you made it very easy to mock you.
Seemingly all the Arabic countries offered your name in Arabic as a henna tattoo. The UAE stand was decorated way better than most. Comfy sofas and carpets. And framed pictures of sheiks. There was a dude at the Saudi Arabian stand who stood near the back, aviator shades, legs crossed, inhaling deeply from a cigarette, for all the world looking like he could not only sell me some fabric, but some uranium, too.
Just one more continent of food remaining, and we had a shitty spring roll-type thing from the Phillipines (the only really bad thing we ate, actually.) And then on to what I was looking forward to the most: La República Popular Democrática de Corea. North Korea. There was an amazing-in-its-badness painting of two dogs and a football. Lined notebooks for sale. Bought one of those. And we tried the food. What we had was a flat fried vegetable thing with some soy sauce. It was okay. Kinda better than I imagine most North Korean food being.
It was a nice afternoon. And a great reminder that there’s way too many countries out there that I will never get around to visiting.
Apologies for the crappy quality of the photos, I only had my iPod with me, which is a piece of shit. Here’s a picture of some Russian chocolate and my North Korean notebook.