The first culture shock

To be fair, we all knew this would be a thing, and I should’ve been prepared. Mainly I figured the difference might be the use of Velveta cheese. (That was mistake #1, since we’re in DAIRY country now, duh!)

After a long day of unpacking boxes, it was late and we went to the first thing that was still open and not obviously McD’s… a drive-thru Mexican place.

The menu board astonished me in that they served their ‘alleged’ burrito with NO beans . instead it had potatoes (with meat)! Then the clincher - it came with a side of smashed, fried, tater-tots (highly salted potato coins)!

A meat & potato burrito, with a side of fried potato! I thought my head would explode (I was too tired & hungry to cry!)

If by "Mexican" they meant "Swedish" (potatoes, cheese, meat and more potatoes) then their food combination might make sense.

There is Viking ancestry here, and apparently Germans too, so maybe potatoes are a go-to comfort/fill food for them? I am a full quarter Norwegian but I despise potatoes - it will be a self-enforced diet to avoid them (but I could use a diet, lol!) 
I’m married to a German guy, and he misses the beans and pico de gallo too, so maybe we’re just weird, or we’ve just been spoiled, but it’s a small thing; I guess we’ll get used to it.

I know this isn’t fair - I learned to cook in a Mexican house in Mexico, in a small mountain town (that was much like the Old West). Unfortunately now I can never really like restaurant Mexican food, (and to be fair, this wasn’t even a restaurant)!

I try not to compare - I tell myself ‘it's different due to regional differences', or the fact that a food industry biz must curb costs… so I hope to just get my money's worth. Actually that part is usually easy, since there’s invariably a lot of kitchen prep involved that I don’t often take the time for.

[As an aside, salsa alone takes half an hour with all the chopping. Well, what I call “salsa” is chunky and fresh. It’s often called “pico de gallo” for “peak of freshness” (I’m making that up, since I don’t know what it means): Tomatoes/onion/jalapeno/cilantro and maybe add Anaheim chilies too!]

But they don’t appear to have pico de gallo here - all the ‘salsa’ is SAUCE –and in a liquid form (“salsa” = “sauce” after all). It can be made in a blender, after you skin the tomatoes, and it’s good … but it's not the same.]

I suspect the potato additions are attuned to the local population - who's heads might explode if they eat a jalapeno, (just kidding, but not). 

To be fair, jalapenos are not all-American fare, and my taste expectations are bent from having lived in California for too long. It's just that once you learn to include such things in your everyday diet, (and we're trying to eat more consciously with fresh foods as a priority), lacking the option leaves one feeling kinda deflated. 
Why middle America doesn't include beans in their burritos is quite another thing. Maybe because it's potato-growing country? That is not something I'll ever learn to live with... besides, even beans and potatoes can go together!  

I guess it's a bigger deal to me than most, because I'm kind of a 'bean affectionado'... I collect different colors of dry beans like a kid might collect marbles. I love the feel of them, smooth and solid in my hand, and like to study the colors and patterns. 
I'm not strange either - there are lots of bean collections out there!
As an aside, one that I fell in love with (after the Anasazi, which rates #1 for several reasons) is one called Koronis.... here's what I'm talking about:

Picture from f'resh picks of the week' at the Certified Farmers Market .org in Palm Springs:
Their names - Yin/Yang (also known as Black Calypso), Purple Koronis, Hutterite Soup, Jacob’s Gold and Good Mother Stallard –and the yellow ones (I think they are the ones going unnamed here). 

If YOU would like to get started in this fascinating venture, check this out - 
'Over 90 varieties of rare & endangered heirloom beans'.

I love to plant beans- they are not fussy (creating their own nitrogen, you don't have to mess with fertilizers, or add things like eggs shells - like you do for tomatoes, for instance), and they grow fast! So fast, reliable, and sturdy in fact, what pre-school hasn't had the little ones plant beans in a cup? 
And then, if you're going to save the beans for soup (dried beans that you soak and then boil), to save the beans is easy- you just leave the pods on the vine to dry! No hassles. Knock the pods into a paper bag, then simply crush the dried pods and collect the beans in a jar... where they will sit on a shelf, shining nicely like pennies, or in layers of different colors - like a sand painting if you want. 

You could even add spices and you have an instant soup mix, or a frugal gift with a nice presentation. There are LOTS of ways to save and use beans...

                                     Anasazi Beans -my favorite bean by far, so far:
                                         photo credit:
photo credit:

I can only imagine the people here simply have not been as fortunate as I have, to know the creamy richness of soft, plump, Anasazi beans, and have only been exposed to the paste form of 'refried' pinto beans from a can. No one could be blamed for not liking those. So I'm fairly confident that they would change their views (if not their menu) should they ever be so 'culinarily exposed'... and I'll close with the wish to share that opportunity some day.

No comments: