Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mexican? I doubt it.

While visiting wonderful friends in Texas this week, for the Ambleside Online conference, I was privileged to eat at a wonderful Mexican restaurant. They made table-side guacamole, and I had these delicious enchiladas. The food was almost as good as the fellowship, and that's saying a lot. It prompted me to share a story about eating at a "Mexican" restaurant in Krakow, which I was informed was a "blogworthy" event. So here it is.

A brand-new mall was being built within a ten-minute walk from my front door. The really neat thing about this new mall was that they were putting in a food court. To my knowledge, it's still the only food court in Krakow (it wasn't a wildly successful venture). In any case, one of the restaurants was TEX-MEX. I was really pleased, because I love that kind of food, and hadn't had any for a while. You can buy El Paso brand products, but they are imported from somewhere and are very expensive. I waited impatiently for the mall to be finished and the food court to open.

At the earliest opportunity, I walked over and perused the menu. I was eating alone, and I selected a sampler platter with half an enchilada and half a burrito. Mmmmmmmm...

I was a little taken aback by my first glimpse of the plate. Polish people like coleslaw--they like it a LOT--and it is sort of obligatory at all kinds of restaurants. But still--this plate had not only the usual white-cabbage slaw, but also a red-cabbage version side by side. I wasn't planning to eat cabbage with my Mexican food, so I just pushed it out of the way. The burrito was odd, but not too bad. The enchilada, however, destroyed forever my hopes of enjoying Mexican food in Poland. I cut it open, and found it full of vegetables. Prominent among them were small, whole...brussel sprouts.

Brussel sprouts???

I am reasonably certain that brussel sprouts do not grow in Mexico. Mexicans probably don't even know what they are. And if they DID know, I bet they still wouldn't put them in enchiladas.

So, I choked down a few bites, but left most of the Polish-Mexican food untouched. It was a lesson I had already encountered, and my expectations were probably not realistic. In America, the Chinese food, and the Mexican food, and other ethnic cuisines, are tailored to suit the American palate. The same is true in Poland. Chinese food tastes Polish. Mexican food tastes Polish. Polish food tastes Polish. Even McDonald's caters to the regional preferences. (Did YOUR McDonald's ever offer deep-fried cauliflower?)

The only consolation in all of this is that I actually like Polish food. And I do most of my cooking at home, where the Italian food, and the Chinese food, and the Mexican food all taste American!


At 10:06 PM , Blogger Tim's Mom said...

The best curry I ever had (in fact, the first time I ever had it), and the curry by which I measure all other curry, was at an Italian restaurant in Okinawa. I don't remember seeing anything like spaghetti on the menu. I remember that the Italian salad was finely shredded lettuce, like they shred all their lettuce in all their dishes. It was beautiful, but not very Italian.

At 12:23 AM , Blogger Krakovianka said...

I figured it was a pretty universal principle. "When in Rome, feed the Romans what they want to eat."

At 5:22 AM , Blogger TheHeadGirl said...

You should post more often, in all your spare time. :-) Your entries, particularly the ones about Poland, are wonderful.

At 12:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool blog you have going here, I will check in often! I have a similar site about pet food. It pretty much covers pet food related stuff.

At 3:10 PM , Blogger Debbie V. said...

Definitely blogworthy - brussel sprouts in enchiladas? Oh my. Coincidently I was planning on making enchiladas tonight for dinner.
I discovered your blog this morning and have started reading all your old posts. VERY interesting, thank you so much.

At 4:09 AM , Blogger Silvia said...

This is so funny, Karen.
In Madrid we had a similar day at TGF. We ordered quesadillas, and it's funny because they have some words or menu items in English, and my in laws ordered in English (they don't speak Spanish), and the waiters there call steak stick, and the quesadilla had almost no cheese, they don't know how to prepare Mexican food!

And Chinese in Madrid has a certain Spanish taste, but since there are many Chinese people, like here in Texas, I'd say it's decent. Here you can have very good Chinese, it's just that the buffets are ridiculous, they have quesadillas, ha ha ha, better than the ones in Madrid, and chicken nuggets... now how Chinese is that?


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