When we needed shower shelves for our B&B, my partner, Steve, and I hopped a city bus for the nearby pueblo of Dzitya. A friend told us that Dzitya was the place to go if you wanted anything in stone. How right he was. What our friend didn’t know was that you can find another one of those incredible “Cocina Economicas” (inexpensive kitchen) you find everywhere in Merida. This one would give us the most “local” experience ever.
We got off the bus at a corner, on a street where are located about a dozen little shops selling their stone wares. They all seemed very quiet and we wondered whether they were even open. Ahead we saw a little more action: dogs wandering the street, children riding bikes, and a few cars parked on the side of the road. Birds chirped in the trees and a woman in a ragged jumper watched it all from her front door. We headed in that direction.
As we rounded a corner onto the dusty road that passed the town square (one of the things I love about the Yucatan is how every town, no matter how small, has a town square), we began to pass a few small, old stone houses. The last one before the square had a large covered carport attached to the side. Billows of smoke rose up to the roof and flowed under until it found its way to open sky. It carried with it the most delicious aroma of pollo (chicken). We stopped to see a woman grilling maybe a dozen chickens on her barrel grill, with abuela (grandmother) seated near the entrance overlooking the operation. Behind them were four plastic Coca-Cola tables and chairs set about the carport, and three children of about 8, 11, and 13 helping set up for the day’s hungry guests. We had seen many Merida cocina economicas in storefronts or set up on the street even, but this was the first we saw in a carport.
Steve and I looked at each other and Steve said, “I think we’ll make better shopping decisions on a full stomach”.
“Abierta?”, we asked. That was about the extent of our Spanish at that time.
“Si! Entrada”, the old woman said to our question…or something like that. My ear is still learning to separate long strings of gibberish into understandable words. She waved her arm for us to take a seat, so we assumed she was welcoming us in.
Upon sitting, the 11 year old girl set our table with knife, fork, and spoon. Salt and pepper and the ubiquitous pepper sauce were already on the table. This was a family affair; the older boy was carrying supplies out of the house for his mother at the grill while the little 8 year old watched us intently, seemingly trying to figure out what she might be able to do for the two gringos.
We each ordered half a chicken. We waited for our orders only the time it took for the woman at the grill to serve up half a chicken on each of two plates, along with freshly cut cabbage and tomatoes. No sooner did we start digging into the chicken than the little girl arrived a second time with two huge bowls of black beans swimming in the water it was cooked in. It was really like a bowl of black bean soup.
The chicken was plump and juicy, perfectly grilled, and so delicious. It was like no chicken I ever tasted before - the way you always think chicken should taste. The vegetables were garden-fresh, and the black bean soup was the perfect accompaniment.
We ate slowly, deliberately, and savored every bite.
Finishing up, we washed our hands at the little sink hung on the wall. The water went down the drain and into a bucket placed on the floor. We then returned to our table to relax and savor a great, simple meal. Then we were ready to head out to shop for… Uh, now why did we come to Dzitya?