Loosely translated, the headline means “Mexican food around the world”, and that’s my eating goal. I don’t claim to have completed that quest yet, but I’m working on it. Yes, I know it’s foolish to think I can find good frijoles in France or carnitas in Canada, but I’m not the kind of traveler who’s content to return home with just a mug and a T-shirt as souvenirs of my trip — I seek acid reflux.
You see, I happen to love Mexican food. I crave that string of molten cheese that follows my fork all the way from the plate to my chin. I savor the salsa-laden chips that, when bitten, wait a moment or two before they bite back. When Mexican rice is perfectly prepared, it rivals risotto. Oh, I love Italian food too, and French cuisine. I’ve had tafelspitz in Austria, tzadziki in Greece, and other regional specialties that were delicious — but no matter where I am on the planet, eventually I find myself needing a Mexican food “fix”.
That’s not a problem in Mexico, of course, and San Antonio, Texas, is loaded with good Mexican restaurants. It’s even possible to find a reasonable facsimile of an enchilada in New York City. There are, however, parts of the world that are seriously tortilla-deprived. I’m not sure what it’s like in Paris today, but a little over a decade ago, there was only one Mexican restaurant in the food capital of the world. It was in the Sorbonne; the owner/waiter (he may have been the cook as well) was from India. The menu was mostly in French — it felt odd ordering Enchiladas de Frommage. They did have Bohemia, though, one of the best Mexican beers.
A little Mexican diner in Cairns, Australia, had no beer for sale because they didn’t have a license to sell it. The guy working the counter (who was Canadian, by the way) solved the problem by — wink, wink — giving me something called Hahn Ice Draft. Which tasted very similar to beer. Although the menu was limited, the tacos were OK, and when you’re thousands of miles from Mexico, “OK” is pretty good.
We ate in a restaurant on Leicester Square in London that served up decent Mexican food, and we had a great combo platter in the Virgin Islands many years ago. Near the Pantheon in Rome we discovered a place called Oliphant, which, in 2001, claimed to be the only authentic Tex-Mex restaurant in Rome. The use of the world “authentic” bordered on fraud, but we found their fare tolerable as long as we didn’t think of it as Mexican food. It certainly tasted better than a really bad burrito I once had in British Columbia.
The famed (and doomed) mountain climber George Mallory supposedly was asked, “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” “Because it’s there,” he replied. If you ask me why we go searching for Mexican food in distant lands, I guess I could give you a jaunty smile and say, “Because it isn’t there.” Except that every once in a while it is there, which makes it all the more satisfying. I mean, that guacamole we had in Greece was out of this mundo!