TEFL Mystery #4: What The Hell Is Going On With Mexican Food Abroad?

mexican_mural_lumen1.jpgI will confess here that this post is not really about any mystery…it’s a thinly veiled attempt to present a topic that’s been on my mind as of late in a way that is not obviously a rant. When I noticed that Guy Courchesne posted about red hot chili peppers, it struck me: the time is now.

I’m not Mexican or Mexican-American and I haven’t even been to Mexico, but I am from Chicago and have even lived in Pilsen (the neighborhood on Chicago’s near south-west side originally named after the Czech town where many of its early inhabitants came from), now home to one of the largest Mexican-American communities in the US. There are colorful murals on buildings and lots of good cheap Mexican restaurants. It’s one of my favorite places in Chicago.

I say this to establish my credibility as not an expert but as someone with a reasonable awareness of Mexican food.

I’m very much into other cultures and respect that things will not be the same abroad as at home. I don’t expect to find peanut butter everywhere, and have even resigned myself to buying and soaking dry black beans (because I can’t find them canned). I’m not going to author any guides to Mexican cuisine, but I can tell you what it doesn’t include:

BROCCOLI and CAULIFLOWER (as served in Ljubljana, Slovenia). PEAS and MUSHROOMS (as on offer in Bratislava, Slovakia). It’s not bad food. But it’s sure not Mexican.

I can deal with a lack of the right spices. This can be hard to get right. But some things just do not belong in Mexican food. This may become a PR crisis for Mexico: other countries throwing together some local vegetables and passing it off as one of the finest cuisines in the world. And I should point out that this issue is not only relevant to me personally; I have come to believe good Mexican food is what tops the “What I Miss From Home” list of many a TEFLer.

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