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Explaining Mexican food to French people

M told me a great story this morning. I should probably write it down while I’m still laughing about it. Here goes.

To preface: we’re both rabid fans of Mexican food, especially since we grew up in Los Angeles. We can’t even hear Spanish words without craving guacamole and sour cream. (El Segundo? Cerritos? Hasta la vista? OMG I’M STARVING.) Mexican food is our favorite in the world, a staple, and is always the first thing we miss when we travel back east or abroad.

While growing up, we both had family that didn’t live anywhere near LA; I’ve got folks in Hawaii and England, she’s got folks in France. Comparing memories this morning, she and I were discussing the cultural gap that always existed between our geographically distant relatives and our cuisine of choice. When you get right down to it, describing Mexican food to somebody unfamiliar with it is sort of like trying to describe ice cream to somebody unfamiliar with refrigeration.

Below is a typical (translated) exchange that regularly occurred between M and her French relatives. Il est classique.

French Relative: “What is a burrito?”

M: “Well, it’s kind of like a crêpe, but it’s spicy and salty, and filled with meat, beans, and saladdy stuff.”

French Relative: “And what is a taco?”

M: “Well, you can just think of it as a crêpe filled with meat and cheese and saladdy stuff, but it’s crunchy, and it’s folded over. Not rolled up like a burrito.”

French Relative: “Then what is an enchilada?”

M: “Well, um, imagine a crêpe filled with spicy salty stuff, then all covered with spicy sauce and cheese.”

French Relative: “But what is a quesadilla?”

M: “Well, uh, hmmm, okay, if you were to take a crêpe…”

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