Monday, February 28, 2005

California Expatriate Problem #1 - Culinary Isolation

I’ve grown accustomed to blowing off my tastebuds with spicy/tasty food, especially Mexican food. Because of this, moving from LA to Pittsburgh plunged me into major ethnic food withdrawal. Once the shaking and hallucinations stopped, I was awoke in a city where mentioning the word ‘spicy’ makes local tongues spontaneously combust. Branded as a 'spicy food lover', I’m forced to listen to stories that begin with, “I remember the last time I ate spicy food…” People, I'm not a tongue psychotherapist. I don't care if your tastebuds have 'baggage'. Vamanos.

With a lot of hunting, Mateo and I have found tasty Indian, Chinese and Thai places willing to make things hot enough to penetrate the calluses on our tongues, but no decent Mexican food. We’ve received countless recommendations for ‘really awesome’ Mexican restaurants, only to find a dude squeezing out $6 guacamole from a tube. Yuck.

This leaves three options:

1.) The Import/Export Game

Each time we visit LA, we fill a giant cooler with carne asada (yummy marinated steak) and salsa and take it back to Pittsburgh. This backfired once when, upon our return, the cooler came down the luggage ramp drenched in blood-red salsa. The contents of the cooler had exploded, tossing 3 gallons of salsa around the luggage hold of the plane. It was on other people's bags and was dripping down the luggage ramp. People were pissed ("you wrecked my Gucci!") and curious ("is there a hacked-up body in your blood-drenched cooler?") We were desperate enough to lick the sides of the cooler, but the mob was getting angry, so we just ran. We got home and Mateo very nearly burst into tears.

2.) Traveling Abroad

In our search for the very best Mexican food, we permit ourselves no compromise. No expense is spared. We go to Cleveland.

In Cleveland is Luchita’s, home to some of the finest Mexican food I’ve ever put in my mouth. The restaurant is staffed by a giant family headed up by an awesome abuelita (grandma) who runs the kitchen and her children with an iron fist. Grandma in kitchen = happy stomach.

We use the trip as an excuse to visit the supermercado (Mexican food supermarket) in Cleveland. The next closest supermercado is in Chicago. Here’s a shot of me among the chicharrones (that’s fried pork skins, people):

3.) Making It From Scratch

Though I can make a pretty mean tortilla from scratch, let’s be real. I am NOT the cook in this house. I’m genetically incapable of making good food. My mother knew how to prepare exactly 10 meals, and has cooked them same consecutive order since 1963. Mateo learned quickly that unless he wanted to eat cereal and quesadillas for the next 60 years, he had to pick up a skillet. And he's good! Yeah, I'm lucky.

Combined with good carne asada and salsa (#1) and some tasty beans and nopales (supermercado in #2) we can make a pretty nice approximation of a tasty Mexican meal.

Viva la Comida Mexicana!
Random Fruit Fact: Tunas

No, not the fish. Cactus fruit. It tastes so sweet and nice...and there's no mercury in these tunas.

“Cactus fruit appears to have a number of health benefits. Dr. Helmut Sinzinger of the Medical University in Vienna, Austria, and his team found that a study group made up of healthy volunteers, patients with metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) and those with familial hyper- cholesterolemia who ate cactus from a living plant for four weeks showed an increase in glucose tolerance and decrease in oxidation injury, as well as possible "anti-thrombotic action.''

See? They’re good for you! Learn more about sweet, sweet tunas, here.

God, there’s drool in my keyboard.

Posted by Spurious Nurse at 2/28/2005 07:25:00 PM


  1. Blogger uglyagnes posted at 8:47 AM  
    i am a spicy food eater as well. In providence there is plenty of spicy indian, but no spicy mexican. I just went to chicago and had the hottest mexican breakfast EVER. delicious
  2. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 10:27 AM  
    I'm all about "anti-thrombotic action.''
    It is just my gig.

  3. Blogger Amanda B. posted at 2:36 PM  
    Is that ginger by your head? It looks very skirry. Does this mean you engage in Wasabi? Ackackack. ;)
  4. Anonymous Spurious Plum posted at 3:27 PM  
    Sorry Amanda B, that ain't no ginger. That's a fat-ass pile of fried pork skins, or chicharrones. I'm not sure that's less scary than buttloads of ginger, though.

    Wasabi makes electrical shocks dance in your brain. You're right, that's scary crap.
  5. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 8:06 PM  
    Brillant! You hit the head with this. If you like spicy food here you are the "weird guy", and become a novelty. Why do people feel the need to tell confessional hot food stories? At work they watch me eat pizza that I bring from home and cover in hotsauce, and I'm the freak?
    And Mateo, I will take that hug, Cowboy style.
  6. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 10:57 PM  
    Thanks Abe.

    You make me happy in a way that can only best be described as... as, well confused and more than a little vulnerable.

  7. Blogger That one chick posted at 12:26 AM  
    I live in a suburb of cleveland but grew up right down the street from Luchita's! That place rocks! Definetly the best mexican food ever. funny to think another blogger out there has been in the same places I have!

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