Sunday, December 13, 2009

When Mexico Hands You Limones...

...Make Limonada.

A favorite pastime on Mexico expat forums is to endlessly whine about the unavailability of certain products to which we were accustomed al otro lado. The gamut of longed for unavailable Gringo Stuff ranges from crunchy peanut butter, yellow lemons, and cornmeal; through high thread count cotton sheets, good kitchen knives and three-way light bulbs.

Not too surprisingly, some expats find what they're looking for after a little research. Others are destined to live out their retirement in frustrated longing.

Now all of us have our special wants, including me. Thanks to the generosity of friends, I have a good supply of cornmeal, stone ground grits and powdered buttermilk schlepped over the border to our home. We ourselves have brought back special Asian condiments, Licorice Twizzlers and proper Reeses' Peanut Butter Cups snuggled—not smuggled— into our luggage. There's no denying our origins and the desires that arise from them.

A recent frustration is that not long ago it was possible to buy Sharp Aged Cheddar Cheese at Costco. Several months ago, the relatively economical Kirkland brand disappeared, leaving only the Cheddar Suave (Mild). Then the super aged Cabot Cheddar appeared in the deli case. It cost about $145 MXN for about 12 or 14 ounces. That price was insupportable, until the craving for sharp cheddar overcame reluctance to spend so much.
The Cabot Cheddar was so intense and concentrated a flavor, that a small slice would satisfy.

Now it also has disappeared from the Costco inventory. So, I recently bought Kirkland Cheddar Suave. When I tasted it, I was pleasantly surprised how good it was. It had more sabor than I recalled from previous purchases.

What can you do? After living here more than four years, isn't it time we adapted better? Accept that we're not living in the United States, but in the provincial state of Michoacán, México?

Can you make an apple pie with lime instead of lemon zest? Sure.
Can you eat a peanut butter sandwich with smooth PB? It's o.k. (After all, you can always chop some cacahuates and blend them in.)

Mayonnaise, too, has long been a contentious subject. Some loathe the sweeter Mexican mayo. I think it's fine. Others may need to import their favorite U.S. mayo, but I'm content with Mayonesa McCormick Mexico.

Incidentally, Gamesa Saladitas are superior to most U.S. branded saltines.

Lightbulbs: we are phasing out the incandescents and using the new, energy saving fluorescents. The lighting is fine, and our electric bill is low, low, low.

Sheets: I have no idea of the thread count of our sheets. They are satisfactory. (Some are made in Mexico, others in the United States.)

Knives: I brought my professional cooks' knives with me when we moved here. They are not of the highest quality, but they serve reasonably well.

The discussion continues to tedium.
I'll end with a quote from my amigo, "Anónimo", who posted this reply.

Bring an open mind, a sense of adventure, and most of all, a willingness to adapt to your new country.

"Cada loco con su tema."


Bob Mrotek said...

Don Cuevas,
I feel slighted. You forgot to put Polish Style Kosher Dill Pickles on the want list. Sniff :(

Don Cuevas said...

Bob, the list is nigh endless.

I have made Kosher Style Dill Pickles with varying success. (Not sure what makes them Polish.)
It's easy, IF you can get the right type and size of cucumbers.

Hound Dawg, on Mexconnect's Chapala Area Forum has been going on about some pickles available at a restaurant there. I think they're Jalapeño, not Polish.

Don Cuevas

Bob Mrotek said...

Don Cuevas,

There is no vinegar in a Polish style pickle. They are fermented in a brine solution like sauerkraut and there is also dill, garlic, and even horse radish used in the process. Like really good sauerkraut it is practically an art form to make them. I'll bet that Tancho knows what they are and I also bet that he likes them as much as I do :)

Tancho said...

You surprise me Don Cuevas! Being a master culinarian as you are, that you just don't make your peanut butter cups.
The are one of the easier candies to make at home, and do not need tons of ingredients.
Or perhaps your mind was full of the nuances of Cheddar Cheese?
In between your editorial project of your Hotel and Restaurant Guide, you might take a break and make a dozen or so Cuevas Butter Cups!

Don Cuevas said...

my kosher style dill pickles have had natural brine fermentation, fresh dill from the garden but it had never occurred to me to add horseradish, a great idea! (Horseradish: where can you get that in Mexico?)

You amuse me. Although I liketo eat Peanut Butter Cups from time to time, they are bad for the waistline. I have them when we visit the States. I tried the Mexican version, and they are barely acceptable, as well as expensive. Playing with molten chocolate can be dangerous.

Don Cuevas

Leslie Harris said...

Ay, ay, ay! I know all too well how you feel! And as Tancho said, I have learned to make the things that I crave at home. But, I have found that making friends with a couple of shop owners, they can usually get me what I want or need. One of my favorite shops carries a wide variety of Asian condiments and spices. The other store carries almost everything I need to make pastries. Now, if I only I could find some white chocolate! Can't find any anywhere, not even Guadalajara!

Bob Mrotek said...

Don Cuevas,

Horseradish is called "rábano picante", or rábano rústico, or "rábano fuerte", or "rábano silvestre" in Mexico and you can find it at the farmer's market and if not there you can find in a herbal remedy store. My mother-in-law Carmelita uses it in several ways but first she slits it several times from one end almost to the other and puts it in water for about an hour until the legs spread open like the petals of a flower and it has lost a bit of its heat. Then she uses it in a suace for fish, and in a special salad that she makes or even as a condiment for pozole. ¡Buen provecho!

Don Cuevas said...

Leslie, white chocolate is made by Chocolates Turin, and here we find it available in Costco, Morelia.

But IMO, white "chocolate" is not chocolate at all, having all the chocolate liquor removed, what is left is cocoa butter plus sugar plus milk solids, vanilla, etc. In other words, sweetened flavored wax.

Don Cuevas

Michael Dickson said...

What´s with the knives? If it cuts, it does its duty. All my knives were bought here, and they cut just dandy, so dandy they scare me.

And the problem with peanut butter is less that you cannot find chunky, which I do prefer, that it is you cannot find any peanut butter that is not jammed with sugar. Natural smooth PB would be nice, but not even that can be found. Mexico is often a sad sack.

Don Cuevas said...

Felipe; about the knives: cooks with a professional background are very particular about their knives. But if your knives do the job, cut and be happy!

Peanut butter: una gringa amiga in Morelia was searching, so far without luck, for a peanut butter machine. She wants to grind her own, customized, sugar-free PB at home. I wouldn't go to such lengths, even to make Reese's PB Cups. But she has her reasons.

Don Cuevas

Tancho said...

I try not to purchase anything that is only designed for one job. Multitasking is the key to a larger bank account.
A regular Cuisinart food processor does a fine job in making home made peanut butter, it requires scraping down the bowl with a spatula a little more, but worth the end result.
Try it, you might like it!

JackiMex said...

I'm that gringa looking for a peanut butter machine. Reasons--my husband is hypoglycemic and cannot eat any sugar. A friend said she uses a coffee grinder, and it does the trick. It's easier to clean than a food processor, and it doesn't require the addition of any extra peanut oil. You have to chop peanuts separately for crunchy style.

Feliz Año Nuevo,


Don Cuevas said...

Thanks for posting, JackiMex.

A Coffee Grinder??????? Sounds terribly time consuming, if it's a bitty coffee grinder lke we have. And I don't even want to think about cleaning the blades...

By the way, we're still eating Skippy PB Mexican style,with sugar and smoooooooooooth.

Feliz Año,
Don Cuevas