Cultural Experiences

Cultural Experience #1 Smashed Peanut Shells

A couple weeks ago, Dan the Man asked, “What’s one place you’ve wanted to go eat and haven’t?”

“Hmmm,” I replied. The truth is that we go out to eat often. Something about coming home to un-defrosted meat or having to stop by Kroger to pick up two or three things that dissuades me from cooking. I find myself second guessing my cooking skills wondering if it was me who used to cook all these wonderful things like lasagna, enchiladas, spaghetti, and gnocchi.

After some time, I finally answered with Texas Roadhouse. I thought back to the conversation at one of my co-worker’s wedding and remembered all the raving my friend Mari did about that place. Also, when I do cook, I try to stay away from steaks because I’m awesome at drying out a beautiful cut of meat for fear or salmonella or e-coli. So this suggestion excited Dan the Man.

After watching the massacre of a book on Sunday (see prior entry), we headed to the Texas Roadhouse. It was quite an experience. I can’t remember being at a place that has barrels of peanuts and allows you to throw the shells on the ground. I thought that was an Aggie thing, but apparently, it’s also a Pasadena thing.

“Does that bother you? Would that make you not come back?” asked Dan the Man.

“The peanut shells don’t bother me; I don’t like their food.”

The waitress was short with us. Dan the Man didn’t think so, but I felt rushed when I was placing my order. She also set down my tea refill to hard on the table, and I really didn’t like that she brought out my salad and held it in front of me until I moved the plate I was using for my appetizer. I guess I’m officially a restaurant snob.

Cultural Experience #2 Mi Tienda

Being on vacation allows for a lot of things like cleaning, shopping, watching Ellen, and cooking. The past couple of days, I have reacquainted myself with the kitchen. I didn’t cook Monday because we went shopping on the other side of town. Tuesday, I heated up some nacho cheese that I’d frozen a couple weeks ago. On Wednesday, I made some chili, and today, I didn’t really know what to make.

I was watching Ellen as I finished addressing our Christmas cards (yeah, I know they’re late) and was suddenly inspired when Selma Hayek showed Ellen how to prepare and eat a grasshopper taco. Although I would not eat grasshoppers, I do love me some tacos of any kind really. I’ve given up on the idea of carnitas because I haven’t found a place that sells decent carnitas tacos. Mexican food around these parts is strange to me. When I ask for a taco, I expect corn tortillas but always get flour. Once when I ordered a gordita at a Mexican restaurant, I got this thick tortilla cut all the way through with tons of greasy melted cheese.

Anyway, I decided that my goal for the day would be to make some yummy tacos with maybe some fajita meat. Since I had to go drop off the Christmas cards at the post office, I made my way to Mi Tienda. I tried to go to this store once before, but there was not a single empty parking space. This time, I had better luck.

It took forever to get through the parking lot though because there were so many people walking to and from cars. Getting into the store was also a challenge because there were people standing around looking at signs to the various produce that was at the entrance of the store.

I wound my way around the produce section, and the bachatas and cumbias playing on the intercom made me want to dance. As I walked through the store, there was young Latinas standing around helping people. There were also people handing out free samples for Cacique cheese, yogurt, tortillas, and various other items.

I don’t know that I would go back and shop there always, but it was fun. No one spoke Spanish to me in the store. They just assumed I was a “gringa” in the Latin grocery store. I let them believe it too. I guess it was just one of those days.


MsAbcMom said...

Peanut shells on the ground??? Yuck!

We don't have a Latino grocery store near my house but there are FOUR within 10 blocks of the school that I work at. I love going to those stores. My favorite is one called La Perla Tapatia. The food is SUPER fresh, I can get items such as yuca and platanos verdes there in good shape and at a good price and if I come at the right time, I can get freshly made tortillas. The best part is that every time I shop there I am a BIG TIME celebrity. Everyone from the neighborhood shops there. From the time that I walk in the door to when I leave the store, I must hear "Ms. V!" or "Maestra!" a gazillion times.
My celebrity status has its perks too. About 3 years ago on Christmas Eve day, my mom and I decided to make tamales. I called in my masa order. When I arrived at the store, there were about 25 other busy women in line ahead of me with screaming kids etc. Someone noticed that I was in line and they all shoved me up to the front. I told them that I could wait and they refused and made me go ahead of them. One of them said it was the least they could do.

Annette said...

Call me strange, but I actually like Texas Roadhouse. The peanut shells are kind of an entertaining appetizer, and the steak I had there was one of the best I've ever had.

And Cultural Experience #2 made me grateful that I live in El Paso where there's never a problem finding great Mexican food.