Saturday, April 5, 2008


It might be nice to go to Mexico, don't you think? I certainly do. After packing, moving, and unpacking (the WKRP theme song has just popped into mind "Town to Town, up and down the line..."), a person might think a good vacation is in order. I think Mexico might be nice: tropical, with warm and kind people, and the ability to make remarkably tasty food, even if there seems to be a national aversion to vegetables.

Forget what you know of Mexican restaurants for the most part. I am here to tell you that the real thing is so much better and so thoughtful, it is hard to believe it bears anything in common with the fajita joints littering this nation. I have a great deal to tell you about fine Mexican food but I need to begin somewhere.

I will briefly tell you about the drinks and return to this in future notes because, while it may seem like a frivolous agave-related college lecture, this is relevant to improving your lifestyle: Tequila is not some throat-on-fire, worm-in-bottle-affair meant to cause you to send your taste buds out for repair after a night in the fetal position on your fraternity's couch. There will never be enough explanation for me to understand how it arrived at that less than esteemed position in our understanding. But, among it's native people, it can be quite rarefied, unique, and truly special. It is a sipping drink and at its high end can, and should, be served along side your best whiskeys, whathaveyou.

And furthermore, sangria. In Mexico, this is not wine punch. This is a shot glass size portion of a non-alcoholic tomato based puree prepared carefully and patiently by women with the cadence of a dozen proud generations in their hands. Generally, it will be served to you before your meal, but it is a wonderful sensation anytime, I imagine it is what V8 would be had it been done properly, freshly, and quite literally. I hope you get some tomorrow, then I will know for certain your week is off on the right foot.

And one more point of relevance: that sour cream slopped all over the top of Central American food is no more authentic than Taco Bell is Mexican food. I will let you in on a bit of a secret and then off you go to make Crema while the sun shines and bask in marvelously good, truly authentic Mexican food once and for all, Taco Tico be damned: Crema was the substance replaced by sour cream. Crema takes much longer to make and is more costly. But, when eaten atop any variety of Mexican and non-Mexican foods, it makes a perfect accompaniment in all the places where sour cream sat before but failed you in comparison. Tonight in our house, it went along side the roast chicken, composed salad of grilled romaine, vidalia, tomato, and raw corn dressed with nothing more than lime juice, sea salt, and pepper. As the kitchen here finally hits its pace, I am glad to have you with me. I hope this sleeper of a spectacular condiment graces your table always, and that your table always knows good days, full of sunshine.

Good night, amigos.

Adapted from Authentic Mexican Cooking, by Rick Bayless

1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons buttermilk

1 teaspoon lime juice

In a glass bowl, or condiment keeper, combine cream and buttermilk. Cover and place on the center of the stove or countertop and leave, at room temperature for 24 hours, less only if the
mixture has set up to a solid consistency, thicker and far creamier than sour cream. Once set, place in fridge, will keep for a week or so. Before using, add the lime juice if you care to, it is perfectly good without but, you know, it steps it up a little and it feels so good going down with a chili roasted chicken, for example.

Makes 1 cup.

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