About a month ago, CNN Travel put up a list of the top 10 things that Americans miss most while abroad. I don’t remember what the other nine were, but #1 was absolutely correct: we miss Mexican food.
It’s not that Mexican food doesn’t exist elsewhere – it does. But it’s not the same.
Last summer I went to a Mexican restaurant in Kosovo of all places. It had all the usual decorations: sombreros, cacti, traditional clothing, blinking pepper lights, etc. It was playing Mexican music, and they had an impressive menu of frozen drinks. But that’s pretty much where the similarities ended. I ordered my go-to item – a beef burrito – and while what I ended up getting wasn’t bad or in any way unenjoyable, and even though it had what appeared to be the usual set of ingredients, it definitely wasn’t a real Mexican burrito. It just didn’t taste the same.
Such was also my experience in the ICTY cafeteria today where, to my surprise, they were serving beef burritos. They didn’t look exactly the same (they were very long and had cheese wrapped around the middle), but of course I had to try one and see. I also loaded up my plate with salsa and guacamole, excited for a taste of two of my favorite snacks.
Verdict: the burrito was very good, but it tasted much more like lasagna than a burrito. There was no spiciness or any kind of kick to it. The salsa tasted more like duck sauce than anything else – it was distinctly sweet and not spicy at ALL. The guacamole… well, I don’t know what it was made of, but I don’t think it contained a single avocado.
This, friends, is why when I returned from my first summer abroad in 2005, I went straight from the airport to a Mexican restaurant. Such will be the case in August when I’ve gone THREE months without Mexican food…