I loved Sundays when I was a kid. Because Sunday was the day the family would go for a Sunday drive and a Sunday drive always involved food. I still remember my father’s black 1949 Oldsmobile 88. I still remember him telling my Uncle Calvin it had a rear end as beautiful as Rita Hayworth’s.
We’d head out along country roads, winding our way through apple, peach and cherry orchards, and end up at some place with a name that usually ended with the word Inn.
My favorite though was one that ended in Motor Hotel and, just in case you didn’t know, the difference between a motel and a motor hotel was a motel was where you went to have sex, a motor hotel was where your parents went to talk about people who had sex in motels while they ate a late breakfast or an early lunch (because no one had invented the word brunch yet).
Prudhomme’s Motor Hotel was the name of my favorite. And it was on the first highway I’d ever seen with four lanes and a median. And the highway didn’t have a number like all the others. This one had a very regal name, the Queen Elizabeth Way.
Prudhomme’s was my favorite because it had something very special, so special people used a French word to describe it. Prudhomme’s had a buffet. An all-you-could-eat buffet. And we tried very, very hard to always eat all we could eat as the neon sign requested.
The Tilt-A-Whirl at Prudhomme’s was retired many, many years ago. And so was Don Day, And, when you’re retired, Sundays aren’t quite as special as they used to be. For every day is like a Sunday.
But there are some things that are strictly Sunday things. Things that you usually can’t do on other days. Things that often require a drive. And things that, of course, always involve food.
In San Miguel de Allende, you can head out to the campo for a fine Sicilian lunch at La Cucina di Afrodita. You can take a short trip up to Los Balcones and take in the view and the fried chicken at La Mansion de Montitlan. You can dodge the potholes on the road to Jalpa for a visit to Zandunga to hear the music of Gil Gutteriez and his friends and eat food far better than you’d ever expect at a music venue. Or you can go where Don Day’s Wife and I went last Sunday.
It was at lunch a few days earlier that Gary Cook had asked what Don Day’s Wife and I were doing on Sunday. Would we like to drive out to Hacienda Galindo?
My answer was we’re doing nothing and we would definitely like to go to Hacienda Galindo. We’d only been there once. And that was about ten years ago. I think only once may, however, be one more time than some San Miguelenses have ever been. Which is a shame.
Six of us ended up going and, from the time we left the parking lot at La Luciernaga Mall, it took almost exactly an hour. Sure it’s a bit of a hike but some people and some things are worth going the extra mile for.
The scope of Hacienda Galindo is mindboggling. I’m not sure how many rooms there are. Definitely over 100. Maybe close to 200. And to think that this was once, to put it in real estate talk, a single family dwelling.
The history of the hacienda is fascinating too. But the line between fact and legend is definitely a little muddy. One tale has Hernan Cortes (the guy who’s name was changed to Hernando Cortez by the writer of my Grade 8 history book) giving Hacienda Galindo to his Aztec mistress La Malinche as early as 1524. And there are stories of a long list of other owners and their decades of escapades.
Then, in 1971, the now decaying buildings were taken over by a new owner and the enormous task of restoring, refurbishing, enlarging and adapting it into a luxury hotel began. A few more owners later, the property is now the Fiesta Americana Hacienda Galinda. And every Sunday the hotel hosts a buffet that’s about as big as all outdoors.
I did a rough count when I arrived last Sunday. There were about 150 people in the massive courtyard. Quite a few more people were indoors.
We were seated at a table in the loggia that surrounds the gardens on two sides and off we all went on our little sightseeing trips to spec out the offerings (noting that the peafowl preferred papaya).
First stop for most of us was the juice bar where, in addition to the traditional orange, apple, tomato, grapefruit, etc., we discovered a crystal clear juice called vodka and an almost clear sparkly juice called vina espumosa. Much to my surprise, those clear and almost clear juices are included in the hacienda’s all-you-can-eat 316 peso price.
Next stop for me was the hot breakfast table where about a dozen of those chrome domes with the swingover lids and the double sterno holders underneath held just about anything and everything hot (both calor and caliente) a man might ever want on a Sunday morning.
At the other end was the cold table with everything cold a man might want and which every man passed by quickly.
Out in the middle of the gardens was another long line of hot dishes, this time featuring some of the local delicacies of the Queretaro area. While I was checking out the carnitas and the barbacoa, Andy discovered Mexico’s foremost contribution to Sunday mornings. There was chef Adrian with a big cauldron of pancita.
Now you may not know what pancita is or, then again, you may only think you don’t know what pancita is. For pancita is simply another name for menudo, the Sunday breakfast of champions particularly favored by the previous night’s champion chuggers. Why it sometimes is called pancita I don’t know (but I’d love too). And if there’s a different recipe for pancita than menudo and not just a different name, I’d like to know that too.
This pancita was absolutely crammed with tripe but had no tendons and no feet (which is not necessarily a bad thing). The tripe was as tender as I’ve ever had and there was none of that foam on top that some people find gucky. The broth was mild in heat with the flavor of onions, garlic and guajillo chilis.
Chopped onions, dried cilantro, a sprinkle of chili flakes and a squeeze of lime for topping, along with freshly made tortillas for dunking, made me think of that old Spanky And Our Gang song, “Sundays Will Never Be The Same”.
Meanwhile the band was actually playing “My Way” which I thought was appropriate background music as the ladies looked on with their heads crooked in a show of disgust as the guys wolfed back the tripe.
Dessert was in deep contrast. As the younger crowd piled up their plates with donuts, we all stayed reasonably sensible with plates of some very fresh and juicy fruit.
Now listen to what I’m next going to say for you will rarely hear words like this come from Don Day’s lips: The best part of Hacienda Galindo isn’t the food it’s the facility.
A walk through the corridors marveling at the architecture and then through the lush grounds, fantasizing about what it might have been like to live in one of these massive haciendas in the 16th Century, is a remarkable experience. Sure there are palaces and castles and chateaus in Europe that are more elaborate, more luxurious, but none of them seem to go on forever like Hacienda Galindo does.
Very little of the contents go back to the early days and there have been a lot of additions and extensions over the years. But it’s difficult to tell old from new, ancient from modern, as the renovations have been done so tastefully.
To try and put things in words would be difficult. To take you on a little photographic tour is better but still doesn’t do the property justice (unless maybe you arrived in a helicopter). To persuade you to get in the car for a Sunday drive, have a little or maybe a lot too much to eat at the buffet, and then walk it off through the buildings and grounds is really the only way that you’ll see and believe the magic of Galindo.
Fiesta Americana Hacienda Galindo is located on Carretera Amealco, approximately 5.5 km. west of the highway leading to Mexico City in San Juan del Rio, Queretaro, Mexico.