Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mourning Mexican Food: Where's My Burrito?!

ז' לחודש השני תשע"ג

I had been planning to write about the profound effects of having to live without Mexican food for quite sometime. During the almost 16 years I have resided in Israel, I have yet to find anything remotely close to good, Mexican food. Argentine, yes; Mexican, no.

"Big deal," you tout?

Well, while I was searching for material for this post, I came across this quote from Hadice, posting about Carne Asada Burritos at Food.com. Of course, only those of you from the Southwest U. S. and Mexico will have any chance whatsoever of understanding its significance:
"For all of you poor, displaced San Diego-ites, the quest to find an authentic carne asada burrito is always disappointing, until now.... It's been over 4 years since I was in S.D. last and I have been craving this burrito ever since. I ate 5 of these bad boys in 2 days. I would take a bite, close my eyes, and dream of La Jolla, Balboa park or a stroll around Seaport Village. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did."
I am one of those "poor, displaced San Diego-ites," more properly known as "San Diegueños." Although I have no intention of living anywhere else besides Israel, I do see San Diego as my "hometown," or rather my "city of origin." And, although I miss very few material things from the old country, Mexican food IS one of them.

I grew up, believing that "Mexican foods" were "American foods." My Spanish-speaking father's incessant "Where's the salsa?" only reinforced this inaccurate notion. Nonetheless, these may not have been "American foods," but they were most definitely San Diegan foods. There is even a debate over the origin of the fish taco. Mexicans will insist that it's from Mexico; Americans will explain to you that its origins lie in San Diego.

I was in shock anytime I met an American, obviously not from the Southwest, who thought that anything made with a tortilla was called a taco.

"Blasphemy!" I would scream inside my head.

"The Border"
Many are surprised to hear of a steak or a nice piece of fish can be thought of as Mexican. Those same people are surprised to hear that San Diego really DOES border Mexico. After all, how many Americans actually live next to an international border? Not many.

The obvious solution to the problem is to make my own. Once in a blue moon, I do, because it's such a pain in the neck, and the ingredients found in Israel are, shall we say, less than adequate. White wheat flour tortillas from Turkey? I mean, c'mon! Do I really have to go any further?

Fortunately, I have been able to survive with the help of a salsa recipe I received from friends. The above reference to "San Diego style" I can only guess means with avocado, as the last time I checked, San Diego County supplies the rest of the the U. S. with something like an unbelievably high, 75 percent of its avocados. I never liked avocado as a kid. That's why I do not remember the expression.

Now, I do, and so I make guacamolé from time to time.

But, I digress...

There is a much easier solution to my carne asada burrito woes: shwarmah. What is shwarma, you ask? Well, it's basically meat wrapped in something made from ground grain.

Let's take a look at the similarities, each item being analogous (in my opinion) to the item in the same row:
Carne Asada Burrito
carne asada
refried beans
(pareve) sour cream
salsa/hot sauce (w/cilantro)
hot peppers
zhug (w/cilantro)
You can even get spicy carrots in Israel! And, now, jalepeño peppers are becoming increasingly easier to find.

Sure, they are not the same thing. The meat is different and their respective spiciness is of a different quality. Nonetheless, shwarmah makes a great substitute, for when the occasional urge for a carne asada burrito strikes me.

Sure enough, such narishkeit fades away over time, one local dish replacing the other.


Batya said...

This post has been included in me-ander: Kosher Cooking Carnival, Sivan 5773.  Thanks for your participation. Please visit, comment and share, thanks.

Esser Agaroth said...



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