It was 1976, and I was on my first trip to Mexico with my grandparents.Our three day drive with my grandfather at the wheel started in Stockton, California, and ended up in my grandparent's hometown of Aguascalientes.He was a professional truck driver for Tri Valley Growers. I was about to turn 8 years old.
The trip would be where I first fell in love with Mexico, and would be full of firsts. I had grown up to the smells of Aguascalientes's cuisine in my grandmother's kitchen, but hadn't yet been to Mexico.
On the highway passing through the state of Chihuahua my grandfather picked up a bag of carnitas, corn tortillas, and some pico de gallo. The bag sat in my lap so I could smell the savory pork and fried lard, and my feasting was only interrupted by brief,sleepy nods. My moments of sobriety were accompanied by my own hand assembled carnitas tacos. I can still taste and smell those carnitas like it was yesterday afternoon, and every place I have carnitas today is held to that lasting impression . They came from a carnitas stand just outside a town that I can't recall. Like most that grew up in Mexico, my grandfather must have known which stand to patronize by instinct. I think my grandmother and grandfather had some tacos, but I consumed the balance of the lard stained bag. I couldn't stop thinking about them on the road to Aguascalientes.
When I arrived in Aguascalientes the next morning I met my grandfather's sisters, Jovita and Carmen. I would meet family I had never even heard of and even had a group of female cousins that stared at me, giggled, played with their hair, and flirted with me while whispering things to eachother. When I said hello to them in spanish, they all said "hola" in perfect unison each one a different shade of red, dimples out where they could .
At Aunt Jovita's and Aunt Carmen's, milk was boiled before breakfast. The houses all had central courtyards, you had to go outside to go from the bedroom to the kitchen. There seemed to be cooking going on in the kitchen most of the day, breakfast was worth running barefoot through the cold cement courtyard upon first scent of chiles, eggs, and frying beans. Just like when I stayed at my grandma's house, I was awaked each day to breakfast awaiting my arrival, Mexican sweet bread, milk and papaya, some huevos rancheros, or chilaquiles.
I met a blind man who held my hand and said some things to me in spanish while my grandfather visited with him. When we left, I asked who that was. "That was your great-grandfather", my grandpa said,"Blas Esparza." "Hey, he has my same initials as me grandpa!",I exclaimed.
Aguascalientes has natural mineral springs, and my grandfather took me to one of the city's bath houses one day.After cleaning up, we headed outside, where my grandfather hired some kids to wash his Cadillac El Dorado.I knew what was coming next. It was a little fun watching someone else get schooled on how to properly wash a car for a change. My grandfather always grabbed the rag from me when I would wash his car and proceed to furiously wash while scolding me,"like this(grunting and puffing)....you dumby!"
All the kids were gathered around me and I was treated like a celebrity, my grandfather introduced me to everyone as his grandson, and he bought me my first Jarritos soda, along with getting sodas for six other boys around my age. It was a party, and it was great to see my grandfather laughing and joking with all the kids, beacause he was pretty grumpy at times. I think I learned later in life that he wasn't really grumpy, just old school Mexican.
I believe it was their mandarin flavor, mandarina.I grew up with so many more American sodas than people know today, before the cola wars, but hadn't ever tried a Mexican soda.I think I had quite a few of these before the trip was over.
Jarritos was founded in Mexico City by Francisco "El Guero" Hill in 1950, and is now owned by Novamex, based in Guadalajara.
They currently has 12 flavors including mandarin,mango,pineapple.....
guava, lima-limon(lemon-lime), toronja(grapefruit),lime......
tamarind, jamaica,strawberry, fruit punch, and cola(not pictured).
I received a sampler package from the generous people at Jarritos to try their sodas.Well, I'd already had a head start back in 1976 with that Jarritos mandarin soda on a dusty parking lot in Aguascalientes. Jarritos is a classic beverage, and the number one selling Mexican soft drink among the Latino population living in the United States. Their refreshing sodas are well balanced, with light, crisp fruity flavors. Jarritos say Mexico, in each bottle. In LA, Jarritos always gets a shout out from customers at our taco trucks, both the new and the old style of trucks.
Diving into my sampler kit brought me back to my childhood. The mandarin soda is a favorite of mine, it's mildly sweet citrus flavor forever linked to my first trip to Mexico.
These days, I'm sure to keep a Jarritos toronja around the house for palomas. The paloma is the true national cocktail of Mexico. Just mix one part tequila like Real de Mexico's tequila blanco, with three parts Jarritos toronja in a salt rimmed glass and add a squirt of fresh lime, or orange.
Come join the Jarritos Nation. Jarritos, is the flavor of Mexico. Available at latino grocers, convenience stores, restaurants, food trucks, and a backyard party near you.