Mexico is the wellspring of inspiration for Blanco Niño, so we’re delving a little deeper to share some stories with you. We caught up with Ben, a photographer and cinematographer who has produced many beautiful images and films for us, to discover more about his most recent Blanco Niño assignment. Read on to hear about this remarkable place’s ethereal quality, taco culture and one particularly memorable taco joint.
Flying into Mexico City is amazing. The city, nestled high in the central region of Mexico, in the Texcoco basin always has this feeling as if it were another country, almost as if it were a separate region unto itself. I was picked up from the airport and was whisked away to a taco stand. If you know a place that does good tacos, you will make the effort to go there. Even outside of your own locale. Even if they’re not hungry.
When we reached the place, the neighbourhood was thronged with people. It was on a corner, outside of a convenience store. There were people already sitting up at this little stall, which has been there the last 50 years. Mexico City is 2,240 metres above sea level. That’s really high up. As I hadn’t fully acclimatised to the altitude, my legs were weak and I felt lightheaded, a bit like you feel when you step off a rollercoaster. This experience of altitude just adds to the unique character of the place.
Tacos by definition are more casual. There’s no set amount of how many tacos one can have, although the general rule is: as much as your tummy permits! You usually wash it all down with a soft drink, or these glass bottles of extremely sugary, concentrated fruit juices. So you have this sugar rush along with the fatty, salty tacos.
There’s a very particular pose that people eating tacos are famous for having. When at a busy stall with next to no free surfaces for resting plates or bottles on, diners have adapted and will adopt a particular stance when eating.
You have your plate in your fingers, and then you have your bottle between your two fingers. Eat your taco with the other hand. You have to stand with your legs spread and your body leaning slightly forward to avoid salsas or anything else dripping down your clothes. You’ll often see loads of people huddling around in this way. A lot of people munching. It’s very much like a bar. Everyone is there to eat, chat is optional.
There aren’t any traditional hours of business: tacos are readily available anytime. There’s no set time for when people go. You could say it’s an afternoon onwards thing, but 24 hour places do exist. You can always count on finding tacos somewhere.
The smell of warm tortillas. It’s such a loaded smell. I link it with so many different things. Taquerias are like pillars of the community, in the way that pubs might be in Ireland. Many taco stands will be famous for their rendition of one particular taco, be it al pastor, barbacoa, birria or suadero for example. For smaller operations who just do one taco – and do it to perfection – there will be no menu to speak of. This taco stand in particular was one such spot.
The guys there were about my age, listening to the ‘taquero’s (taco maker’s) stories. He would tell stories about everything from crime, news of the day to the local people who lived on the street nearby.
Many taquerias use big wooden rounds of tree trunks, the thickness of your head, which are hollowed out in a concave shape. The taquero’s ability to multitask was unreal: wielding a sharp cleaver, dicing ingredients at speed and chatting away.
Taqueros are not always going to be up for a chat. In fact, some are famous for giving really short answers. But if you break down that barrier, then it’s really cool, because they’ve seen so much and the stories are a delight.
Ben Ingoldsby is a cinematographer working between Dublin and Mexico City. He has completed a range of assignments for us, in film and photography, capturing the essence and awe-inspiring magic of the place which inspires our brand.
Our team is obsessed with Mexican cuisine and honouring a traditional tortilla making method. We hope you enjoy our tortilla chips. If you’d like to give them a go, you can find your nearest stockist here.