The best Mexican food comes from … New Jersey?

Más vale atole con risas que chocolate con lágrimas.

Mexican proverb, Atole with laughter is better than chocolate with tears.

pantry 1Such a rich expression! We laugh with others, we often cry alone. Atole, made from humble ingredients can be superior to expensive chocolate.

In the 1980s and 90s a series of commercials on American television showed some cowboys complaining that their salsa didn’t taste right, and they discovered the salsa wasn’t from San Antonio, and that it came all the way from New York City. In the first of the commercials, the cowboys were disappointed with Cookie, and the punch line of the commercial was “get a rope.” The truth of the matter is that the commercial was partly damage control as the manufacturer of the San Antonio-made salsa had moved its corporate headquarters to New Jersey (New Jersey salsa?) and later was acquired by the food conglomerate Campbell’s, which is headquartered in – New Jersey.

For some expats in San Miguel there is the vexing issue of how to fill the time of one’s housekeeper-cook. This week I found myself wondering if I should send myself to

a new cooking course for Mexican Housekeepers/Cooks beginning Wednesday, January 23rd. The focus is seasonal international food using as many organics as possible. From simple lunches to sophisticated dinners, the menus include appetizers, soups, main dishes, vegetarian options, salads, sides, and desserts.

The cooking school’s blog has a number of interesting recipes using traditional Mexican ingredients and the non-Mexican recipes look inviting. However, the featured recipe the day I checked the blog was “Chocolate Guinness Stout Cake with Bailey’s Irish Cream Frosting.”

If one reads an expat forum, one of the topics that will sooner or later show up is one’s favorite foods – and where to find them in one’s adopted country. A few years ago the manager of a new Mega store in San Miguel asked the expat community to provide him with a list of desired products. Carol Schmidt (author of Falling In Love With San Miguel) compiled the list and posted it on the forum associated with her web site under the title Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be a gringo. The list contained 115 items including many Asian-style foodstuffs, which are understandably hard to find in a small Mexican city, But I found the following items to be a little – no lo sédesconcertante (as in baffling):

  • Sweet Chili Sauce
  • Heinz Chili Sauce
  • Pace Picante Salsa (medium hot)
  • Red Enchilada Sauce
  • Ortega Diced Chilis
  • Hormel Canned Chili (both turkey and beef variety)

There are any number of pastelerias in town, yet I have never seen any traditional (or non-traditional) Mexican pastries or cakes at any gathering of gringos (admittedly, I have not been to many gatherings). I get together with some people for lunch occasionally, and with one exception it’s always been at a restaurant owned by a norteamericano.

Tal vez for some, the best salsa is still made in … New York City – or Berkeley – after all.

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