Nothing so controversial today the only things that may be offended are the bland palettes of Midwesterners. I grew up mostly in the midwest so I really did not have a wide variety in my daily diet. Most meals were meat and potatoes with some kind of vegetable, breakfast was bacon and eggs or cereal, either hot or cold, including occasionally rice all doctored up with cinnamon and sugar and milk. Occasionally mom fed me milk toast for breakfast. Nothing too hot or spicy until my parents moved to New Mexico when I was sixteen. At that point I was introduced to a whole new world of foods that I’d never heard of let alone eaten. Tacos, I didn’t know about tacos, never lived where there was a Taco Bell, and those are not really tacos.
In high school one year my home-ec class was first period. It was a mixed class of both girls and boys. First semester we did cooking. We learned to make tacos. As a matter of fact even in second semester we had tacos for breakfast often. We students would pool our money and some of the students would run down to the local grocery store and buy all the ingredients. While the girls did sewing the boys would cook tacos for breakfast. Ground beef seasoned with El Pato tomato sauce, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and shredded cheese all folded up in a nicely fried soft corn tortilla. To this day that is how I like my tacos best. Great memories associated with that particular food.
Later after I graduated from high school I worked in a local restaurant for awhile. It was a small restaurant attached to a small motel in a small southwestern town up in the mountains. The woman who was the main cook there made the most delicious green chile salsa in all the world. I still haven’t figured out her secret ingredient. I ate bowls of the stuff with potato chips. We didn’t have corn tortilla chips that I know of but that would have been awesome. Still with potato chips it was wonderful and the flavor of her green chile is what made me fall in love with green chile. The closest I’ve had to the flavor of her chile is the green chile salsa served with tortilla chips at Si Senor in Las Cruces. I like eating there when I have the opportunity.
Now I’ve never really cared for red chile all that much though over the years I’ve learned to recognize when it is good and when it is mediocre. I’ve never liked red enchiladas nor red chile in most other dishes. Still, I do like a good red chile in my winter-time chili con carne. Spicy in just the right way to warm the body and soul.
I really miss the cuisine of the southwest, particularly of the Hatch Valley and further south. Shortly after we moved to Nebraska we went to a Mexican restaurant here that supposedly had been voted the best in the city. Well, the atmosphere was great, very reminiscent of some Mexican restaurants in southern New Mexico and El Paso, TX. The pictures on the menu looked good too. So we ordered our food. To say we were disappointed is an understatement. To us the pictures would have tasted better. Needless to say we never went back. The best I’ve found is Mexico cuisine in the part of town where many immigrants from Mexico have settled, but, Mexico cuisine isn’t the same as Southwestern cuisine, though it is a lot better than the Mexican food served by most midwest restaurants.
I base how well I like a Mexican restaurant on the way they make green chile chicken enchiladas. Most places in the southwest do pretty good, I liked the ones at Si Senor, but, Malinche’s in El Paso has the most wonderful green chile chicken enchiladas. I have mine with an egg or two over easy on top. Heavenly to my taste buds. A bit on the hot side but the flavor is well worth it to me. I used to go there often when I worked in downtown El Paso. Well, as often as I could afford to buy lunch instead of taking a lunch to work.
It is a good thing that I am not a food critic here in the midwest. I find most restaurants serve pretty flavorless foods here. Beef, they do beef pretty good, but, nothing has yet compared to the prime rib at Cattle Barons in Las Cruces. I keep trying though. There is a little restaurant here in the small Nebraska town where I live that comes really close. So far the best I’ve eaten since I moved here ten years ago.
I do not miss living in New Mexico or in El Paso, but I do miss the food. When I go back to visit I try to dine in at least one of my favorite Southwest restaurants. Doesn’t always happen, but I do try.
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