On The Range: Pozole

On The Range is a weekly exploration of the history and lore of Texas menu items.

In Puerto Vallarta, you can enjoy pozole poolside. According to food writer Eduardo Rincon-Gallardo, the only place to enjoy the savory pork and hominy stew in the Mexican seaside resort town in its green incarnation (rather than the more common red version found in the U.S.) is a restaurant called Aqui es Guerrero, a charming, straw-thatched-roof venue located by the pool at the entrance to the Hotel Vallarta Sol. He notes that the main ingredient of posole verde is corn treated with calcium called cacahuazintle, along with shredded pork, onion, garlic, oregano, avocado, dried ground chili pepper, and other spices.

Apparently, the atmosphere at Guerrero also includes some feathered friends, for he notes, "While I write this, a noisy flock of parrots keeps flying overhead, then disappearing into my neighboring tree, once perched they become invisible, but to watch them flying as a thunderous bright green crowd is a delight!"

Hard to find delight in the thought of...never mind, you get the point. As those in the infantry used to say, only two things drop from the sky, one being paratroopers.

In her book My Mexico, Diana Kennedy confirms that pozole is indeed a Puerto Vallarta staple, adding that Thursday is the tradional day for the dish, and that white pozole is served in the mornings and green midday. In fact, pozole is so beloved by the people of the Jalisco town that she includes a recipe featuring shrimp as a substitute for pork.

This variation was made famous by Senora Rafael Villasenor and created by her so that the people could still consume their favorite sopa during Lent. Kennedy also recommends serving posole in large deep bowls, with salsa picante, lime wedges, sliced radishes, finely shredded lettuce, and finely chopped onion on the side.

Depending on your hunger, a good bowl of posole can stand alone, or can serve as an excellent starter toward an afternoon of decadent dining. Rick Bayless, in Mexico: One Plate at a Time, seems to prefer the latter when he writes, "Enjoy a big bowl of pozole and you ride the crest of a day-long buildup toward rib-sticking fiesta food."

Hmm. That's pretty subdued for Bayless.

Here in the states, pozole is more likely to be red, which is indigenous to Central Mexico and the Northern Pacific coast. If you want pozole at Avila's, the superb, Maple Avenue Mexican joint that has been serving meals for over 23 years, then it's best not to come right at noon when it's most crowded. You see, the tiny restaurant sports fewer than a dozen parking spaces front and back, and is so popular that you will most likely have to park at Quintanilla Furniture Store across the street.

In any case, the pozole is well worth the trouble and is so cheap you can easily get out of there for right around $10, even with drink and tip. Best of all, Avilas is indoors, so you will not have to dodge marauding parrots, intent on dive bombing both you and your meal.

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Chris Meesey