BEHIND THE LENS
MEXICO CITY BEHIND THE LENS OF ANA LORENZANA
Ana Lorenzana is a Colombian photographer trained in Paris whose relentlessly creative eye took her to Mexico City over 10 years ago, where she now calls home.
It was through her photographic work in the local fashion and lifestyle industries that she discovered a passion for gastronomy as a photographer for the Mexican gastronomic culture magazine, Hoja Santa. This led to a career pivot and a position as Food & Wine en Español’s Photo Editor between 2017 and 2018.
Her work is a result of spontaneous curiosity and contagious energy, and has been featured in the pages of publications such as Crash Magazine, Nylon USA, Nylon México, El Espectador, Gatopardo, Travesías, Vogue Hommes, Vogue and 192 Magazine. According to Ana, no two versions of Mexico City are alike, and so, with her particular gaze, she shows us her personal version through the incredible gastronomic diversity of the megalopolis.
What led you to the world of gastronomy?
I came to the world of gastronomy unintentionally. A friend launched a food magazine and initially invited me to collaborate by shooting portraits. Little by little I became more involved, taking photos of restaurants, spaces, dishes, ingredients, cooks, and I began to understand how incredible this world was. There are so many people involved! There are so many stories to tell! There is always something new happening… There is always something delicious happening.
What does Mexico City taste like?
It tastes like esquites and chamoy to me.
Best food discovery?
It’s not exactly a discovery, but one day I decided to follow the whistle of the sweet potato cart. It happens several times a week in front of my house around nine o’clock at night. I recently decided to go down, chase it and try what it sells. It’s incredible! The cart is like a walking oven that is heated with wood. When it fills with steam, it exhales and creates that deafening whistle so characteristic of CDMX. This one in particular sold sweet potatoes and bananas. They’re served with condensed milk and cinnamon, and truthfully it made me very happy. Now I often go down to follow it. You can see this chase here: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMdkPPqHn/
If you had to choose your favorite thing about the city, what would it be?
It is such a big place and offers so many possibilities that no one has the same version of the city. That fascinates me. There is an endless variety of plans, you never quite finish discovering her. I’ve been here for 10 years and I’m still amazed. It goes very fast, it is unstoppable, it is inexhaustible and it has the best climate in the world.
What could surprise a foreigner about the food culture in Mexico?
Diversity, quality and prices. You can eat very good food from all over the world at very affordable prices.
What would a perfect day in CDMX food wise be like for you?
I would get up very early (six in the morning) and have breakfast- some good refried beans with scrambled eggs, chilaquiles and a coffee pot at the Fonda Margarita. I would walk for a while because I’d be full by now, and I’d go to Masala y Maíz for a passion fruit donut. I’d keep walking to Cicatriz for a cold coffee, and sit in front eating the donut with the coffee in the sun. I would not leave that area without going to La Rifa, where I’d buy a bag of mini chocolate covered pretzels to keep as a snack in my bag.
As I’d be nearby, I would stop in at Tamales Madre and eat the seasonal tamale; there is always a delicious new tamale. I’d then continue my way to Doña Jenny, better known as the quesadilla lady, a stand on the corner of Colima and Mérida, and I would ask for her favorite quesadillas (see here: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMdkmvgUE /).
I think at this point, normally, the fullness would not let me go on, but as we only have one day and it must be perfect, I’d go find a nearby Nevería Roxy and have a coconut ice cream with chocolate.
Wait, we are not finished, hold on…
I’d rest for a while then go straight to Meroma, where I would order the day’s raw fish, the orecchiette with lamb merguez, and let Rodney choose a bottle of white wine for me. For dessert I’d choose the cocoa custard and if there is a cookie then, how lucky would I be?
After eating, I’d go down to the bar and continue drinking wine until closing time. At that point, so many bottles would have been opened that we would all have to go downtown, to Los Cocuyos, for some good taquitos de suadero or taquitos de lengua, whatever there is, the important thing is to close the night … something good always happens there, there is always a story to tell the next day. I recommend replicating this great day with a box of Alka Seltzer.
If CDMX had a soundtrack, what songs would be included?
Definitely, the whistle of the sweet potato cart and the recordings of the tamales vendors: “Come and order rich and delicious Oaxacan tamales”, without forgetting … “We buy mattresses, drums, refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, microwaves or some old iron that they sell ”. This happens every day at least once a day. It is the soundtrack of the city.
Is there a dish that everyone should try without fail when they go to CDMX?
It is not there all year round, but in September, Chiles en Nogada Fridays in Paris 16 are a must. In general, one has a lot of fun in the fall in Mexico City for the chiles, and in October for the panes de muerto. Everyone should come do a pan de muertos tour and argue about which one is the best (ha ha ha). I love that time.
We only have 48 hours in Mexico City… What restaurants do we go to?
I wouldn’t miss out on Expendio de Maíz, Meroma, Masala y Maíz and the chocolate concha from the García Madero bakery. I’d do the Lagunilla tour by Devoured (only on Sundays), I’d go have wine at night in Loup Bar, Hugo or Vigneron; In all three you eat incredible food and have a very good atmosphere. I’d without a doubt find a cart of esquites and order them with everything; that’s a delicacy, and I wouldn’t leave this city without having a michelada.
A Sunday in La Lagunilla looks something like this: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMdktuLoM/
What is the most unique thing about the gastronomy of the city, something that you have not seen anywhere else?
I can no longer live without the spice. They put sauce on EVERYTHING, everything is spicy … I still can’t believe it, it’s great! They add chili powder and chamoy to fruit, and to beer too. ¿Have you seen dorilocos? They are Doritos with Valentina sauce, chamoy, jicama, cucumber, Japanese peanut, pork rinds, lemon juice plus sauce (https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMdknd84v/). In this country the amount of gestures that one makes while eating is incredible, it’s a party. Really, I don’t want to live without everything spicy, in fact this year we launched @salsas_iki with some friends, so if you come to Mexico, don’t hesitate to try them: Iki with everything.
NO MAMES for everything, ha ha ha.
What do you enjoy most about living in CDMX?
This city has given me everything. I am very grateful to it, it’s my home. I really enjoy learning to understand it, knowing how to live in it, being able to walk about and eat it all.
Images courtesy of Ana Lorenzana. Portrait by Guillaume Guevara.