Everywhere around the world, I’m sure, there are flavor combinations that aren’t exactly obvious, but work surprisingly well. Yucatán has its own: Edam cheese with Nutella and Globito wafers with Coca-Cola, for example. However, none of them come from a collective memory as deeply ingrained in us as meringue-smeared tamales.
Unlike the others, this odd combination has a perfectly reasonable explanation. For decades (centuries?) Yucatecos have celebrated our first few birthdays (and those of our siblings, cousins, friends, and a good number of strangers) with what is known as a Plato de Fiesta (party plate).
The menu might vary according to the host family’s taste (and budget), but the elements have remained practically unchanged to this day. For children, a combination of red spaghetti, two Arrolladitos (slices of cheese-paté roll), in some cases chicken salad, and a Vaporcito (the local name for a tamal Torteado). For grownups, spaghetti, Sandwichón, chicken salad, Conitos (sweet pastry shells stuffed with Yucatecan-style ground meat and mayonnaise), and either a Vaporcito or a Tamal Colado. In all cases, a slice of cake. Everything on the same plate, one thing on top of the other. This is what created an accidental mix of flavors that thousands of Yucatecos have had, generation after generation.
Why these dishes? Why all of them crowded together? The correct answer is usually the simplest: they’re all meals that are “easy” and inexpensive, not only to prepare for a crowd but also to serve during the rush of the celebration. Do remember that, up until a few years ago, party food was prepared at home, and was served by the host family and their closest relatives. Every family would have a specialist by area: the aunt who always made the spaghetti, the aunt who always made the Sandwichón.
At children’s parties nowadays, it’s easier to find pizzas, hot dogs, and even Marquesita or burger carts. Considering, additionally, that the Plato de Fiesta (party plate) by definition comprises a variety of dishes made by different people, it turns out that it’s getting harder and harder to have access to the proper mix of delicacies of our childhoods.
That may be why there are now several businesses in Mérida devoted to recreating the Yucatecan party plate. It doesn’t matter if you need 30 of them, or just one for yourself. Not a fan of chicken salad? Are you only craving Arrolladitos? You don’t have to sheepishly walk into someone’s kitchen to ask their mom if you can have a special plate; you can put yours together with your favorite elements, including, of course, slices of cake with which to smear your tamal.
If you’re a true old-school Yucateco, do away with the cravings. If you’re not, do away with the curiosity; this might be your chance to try the mysterious Sandwichón once and for all, in a safe space of your choosing. Find out what all the fuss is about!
A quick Facebook search will surely yield options near you, but here’s a couple of popular ones:
Sucursales: Lindavista y Alemán
FB: Frannys Delicias Oficial
Calle 24 #201-A x 26-Diag y 23, Fracc. Brisas
FB: Don Sandwichon
By Alicia Navarrete
Communicologist born circumstantially in Mexico City, but who says “uay” since 1985. Life has allowed me to see the world, which in turn has allowed me to discover how much I love the place where I live.
Photography by Alicia Navarrete and Olivia Camarena Cervera for its use in Yucatán Today.
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