Sunday, August 9, 2009


I imagine it goes without saying that I enjoy spending time in Europe in general and in Germany in particular. There are a lot of things I like about being there that I'm already missing now that I've been in the States for about two weeks. But there is at least one thing that I DON"T like about Germany. They don't have good Mexican food there. There are Mexican restaurants, but they are laughable. The cooks are mostly from Sri Lanka and can't tell a taco from a tamale. I intend no slur on the fine people of Sri Lanka. Presumably they are fine chefs when it comes to cooking Sri Lankan specialties.

When I landed two weeks ago at JFK, I was disoriented, jet lagged and hungry. I had to drive my giant black Jeep Liberty to Connecticut through intense NY rush hour traffic and the whole way I was thinking of what I could eat. I made it to Hamden and found my hotel, then drove to the closest restaurant: Andale. It featured a mouse with a large sombrero on the light-up sign and there was plenty of parking. The building was a converted residence. I entered and ahead of me was a long bar with two young men nursing Buds and a barmaid who looked about twelve. Her response to everything I said to her was, "No problem." But the place was completely empty of diners. I imagined the underage barmaid thawing my dinner in a microwave.

When the barmaid turned waitress approached our table with two glasses of water, my wife asked her if the Chile Rellenos were fresh. My scornful laughter at the question was cut short by the waitress, "Yes, our cook makes everything from scratch. It's no problem." Wow! A cook. This required a complete reevaluation of the menu. I decided to try the Enchiladas de Mole and was not disappointed. By accident we had discovered surely the finest Mexican restaurant in New England, disguised as a rundown roadhouse. We arranged our return trip to enable us to visit Andale again last night. Again it was empty and again the food was fabulous.

Today I board a flight to Salt Lake City and I'm preparing myself mentally to get back to work on campus: teaching, organizing my office and studio, dealing with the seemingly unending budget cuts from the legislature. It's not a particularly happy time. But I'm trying to focus on the benefits of living in the Intermountain West. Eating good food from those huge white platters that are an inch thick and scratched as though they were dragged behind a pickup half way across the Baja peninsula, for example. Food brought to you with serious asbestos gloves. Carnitas. Frijoles. Corn Tortillas. Life is good. And I've got some time now to plan for my next sabbatical.


Tyler Vance said...

aagghhh!! (slobbering) I do love a good chile relleno.

Em said...

There is nothing I like more than a good plate of mexican and plenty of chips 'n salsa to supplement. mmm.. The best place I've found in Atlanta gives you every 6th meal free, and I'm eligible for my 3rd free meal. so. yeah.

I hope the transition back into USU life isn't too painful. I miss campus on occasion.