When I was in junior high, or middle school, or whatever the hell they’re calling seventh grade now… I had my first taco. I wasn’t lucky enough to be born in a Texas border town so I had the misfortune of my first taco being served in one of those crunchy yellow taco shells, with what I am hoping was orange greasy hamburger. (If it was zebra/kangaroo I don’t want to know) This taco also had shredded lettuce, tomatoes, yellow cheddar, sour cream and of course taco sauce.
Fast forward 18 years and I am going to eat for the first time in a real Mexican restaurant. Imagine my shock when my tacos arrived and someone had apparently forgotten my crunchy shell, lettuce, cheese, ground beef, chopped tomato, yellow cheese and what’s up with this soapy tasting green stuff? No Taco sauce? I thought this place served Mexican food!
Yep I was that gringo but not for long, on weekends I’d eat bowls of menudo when I was hung over, or was invited to a lunch or dinner with a Mexican friend, because he knew I was so far from my family and home. They were almost always simple meals, yet somehow amazingly complex in flavor. I was in Houston for 4 years and because of it am spoiled to the point of being a Tex-Mex snob.
Now back in New England I’m fortunate to be within twelve miles of a decent taco place that actually knows the difference between a flour and corn tortilla, and has lengua on the menu. The place is great if you want tacos but if you want something more substantial, there is nothing to be had for quite some distance.
I’m not looking for something you’d find in Oaxaca and I don’t need to have huitlacoche on the menu, but just don’t piss on my head and tell me it’s rain. I mean seriously one place in town charges twelve dollars for bagged tortilla chips and microwaved toppings, or 17 dollars for a frozen pepper stuffed frozen chicken & garbage from a can and authentic frozen margaritas with sour mix.
The Mexican food that I love is like most cultures, born out of poverty and availability. It’s hard to get a sour mix tree to grow in Jalisco all they could get were stupid lime trees. Cheap meats cooked for a long time with simple fresh local ingredients for maximum calories and flavor. How do the people running these restaurants sleep at night? I’ll tell you, because people like us frequent these places because we’re not smart enough to say no thank you. It’s not just Mexican it’s most restaurants and we’re too stupid to notice or even worse, care.
We’ve been trained to think this way with things like precooked bacon, frozen egg squares, canned sauce, fake cheese, “scrod”, dinosaur chicken fingers, canned soup, black olives and fake feta on your nothing Greek about it salad.. Don’t you ever get tired of not knowing where your food is coming from, or of someone putting a steaming pile of rhino droppings on your plate and smiling when they put it in front of you?
I say all this because I saw where a “New Modern Mexican Restaurant” is coming to my town in the near future and have figured out New Modern Mexican is code for “Food Mexican’s Wouldn’t Eat.” As for me, I’m tired of seeing these places and the sheep that eat in them. I don’t mean you shouldn’t ever eat something bad, but at least make it real food. 90% of all restaurants in the United States are garbage and you know it. Think about that next time you’re tucking into a cool ranch taco.