“While it necessary that you eat and your belly becomes full, everything is as it should be. But if you are lucky enough to have someone who makes you tasty food, then give God many thanks,” said the ever-smiling Don Rogelio, who owns a small restaurant on the road to the village of San Bartolo.
Talk was tasty and plentiful at the restaurant but the true show was how he stood behind the bar and served five coffees with fresh goat milk saying, “Talega coffee with milk from a goat, and not an ordinary goat. Try it right now because there will be none later.” He immediately recited the menu of the day in a high, hoarse voice. “I have dried beef, fish and stingray burritos to replenish energy lost in the night and to start a new day. I did not bring deer because there aren’t any.”
The three types of burritos are classical Los Cabos cuisine. Their origin came with the arrival of flour tortillas from across the sea, quite possibly from the State of Sonora. Hard working countrymen needed a food such as dried meat that could withstand the hot temperatures during the day.
The machacha meat and flour tortillas are the most popular dishes of South Californian cuisine. They can be enjoyed as burritos or separately and accompanied by beans, a cheese called “chopito” which is similar to panela, and avocado. Of course, a complete breakfast includes a good cup of hot Talega coffee.
Continuing with anecdotes about the business of Don Rogelio, when he realized burritos would not satisfy a customer’s appetite, he tried the house specialty. “If you have a knowledgeable palate, I have meat and bean empanadas. When you leave, you can say that for flavor and size, you ate the best empanadas in the world, right here in San Bartolo.”
Empanadas are also a representative dish of Los Cabos and the State. The best are stuffed with a chopped cut of beef skirt steak, or suadero, and a special sweet bean. This dish is one of the oldest in this region and the residents of each rural area believe that the best are those cooked at home. Empanadas are the classic dish to eat while traveling.
To close the deal, Don Rogelio offered samples of mango jelly on slices of cheese. They were a big success because they were quickly finished. While trying to sell more of this delicious dessert, he said, “As a finishing touch and for you to see that I’m a true friend, I bring you the best and original mango jelly from the mountains to sweeten your life. Taste it once and you will want to eat more until your belly is full.”
The Nao of China brought mangoes to this land from the Philippines. Missionaries and settlers brought sweet dishes prepared with fruit jellies from Spain. These two influences came to stay in regional kitchens. The delicious mango jelly is the most traditional dessert of Los Cabos. It is an irresistible delicacy, especially if it is made with mangoes from the Sierra de la Laguna. This dessert can be found in the stores of towns such as Todos Santos or San Bartolo.
Don Rogelio said goodbye, loudly thanking his guests, “A full belly means a happy heart. If you like it, recommend it. If not, do not lie. God bless you and arrive safely at your destination.”
Selling food became an important economic benefit for locals around 1970 when the San Jose del Cabo – La Paz highway began operation and the need arose to serve bus passengers and other travellers. It’s for this reason most restaurants serving regional cuisine are located at the edge of the road.
The traditional cuisine of Baja California Sur has plenty of delicious recipes to discover. The recipes for seafood dishes and fresh fish from the marine areas and the roasted meats and other preparations from the ranches were imported from European countries and arrived here in the mid-nineteenth century. They influenced the early twentieth century kitchen and left a culinary legacy adopted by future generations. Today, renowned restaurants have integrated rich dishes of South Californian cuisine in their menus.