Christmas preparations for traditional Mexican dishes begin at a Nashua butcher shop
In Mexico, ponche, tamales and broths are a must-eat during the holidays. Finding the ingredients in New Hampshire is difficult unless you go to specialty stores, like La Carnicería Zapopan in Nashua. There, customers can find traditional fruits and a wide array of meat cuts that are used in classic recipes.
Fabiola Lazo is a young entrepreneur who became the owner of La Carniceria Zapopan nine years ago. Her goal was to bring quality products that remind Mexicans of their childhoods.
As a single mother with no previous experience in business, she says she had to learn a lot to remain open. She's done so, she says, in no small part thanks to her loyal clientele: Mexicans of all generations. It also helps that Nashua is one of the most diverse cities in the state.
“I love when someone tells me, ‘Oh my god, we have spent so much time looking for something authentic like this,’” she said.
Lazo has four employees, and they speak Spanish all the time. “I love that we can do that,” she said.
At La Carniceria, traditional Mexican music marks the atmosphere and makes it feel much like Mexico. Christmas is particularly busy at the shop. People look for fruits, like penca de maguey, tejocote, tamarindo, and other ingredients to make Christmas ponche. Plantain leaves to make tamales are also one of the most sought products at the store.
Lazo had planned to prepare carnitas for herself and her loved ones on Christmas Eve, which is when people from across Latin America celebrate the holiday. But instead, she’ll be at her store.
Lazo says she understands it may be the only day many of her customers have off, so she will make an effort to open. It is important to her that her people have a fabulous meal that day.
She says people constantly tell her she has more variety than stores in California or Chicago, where bigger Mexican communities live. That input and encouragement have made her venture to bring products from other countries, like El Salvador or Colombia.
Without a doubt, people come looking for meat cuts, like carne al pastor, bola or diezmillo, that are nearly impossible to find elsewhere. And sometimes Lazo can’t help it to bring some home.
“Even I crave it; I say, 'This is for me!'” she said.
For Lazo, Christmas without chile guajillo or nopal would be sad, and she is in the business of bringing memories of happiness.