Europe According to Emma is a weekly column written by Emma Dell a University of Denver student currently studying abroad in Berlin, Germany. Read other installments here.
As anyone from the western half of the United States knows (or the Eastern half, or Mexico, or basically anywhere in the hemisphere except maybe Canada), Mexican food is a delicious and essential component of life. Burritos, quesadillas, and especially tacos can save a mood, turn a day around, and maybe even cure cancer. Who knows. They’re magical.
And a well-made taco is a beautiful thing. Expertly spiced meat that hangs in the heavenly balance between tender and tough, each bite mixing with the perfect ratio of hot spanish rice and blending impeccably with the chilled flavors of sour cream, lettuce and tomato all wrapped in a soft yet sturdy cocoon of tortilla. Bite after bite of pure joy.
Europe doesn’t have well-made tacos.
Tacos in Europe are more along the lines of poorly executed alternative sandwiches, or what happens when you take meat that belongs in a stew and put it in the thinnest layer of baked wheat flour you can find, then feebly attempt to fold it in half.
The result is not good. Taco Tuesday should really come with a bib, like you get at fancy places where they give you nice drippy foods like lobster.
Because instead of just taking the meat from the pan and putting that in the taco, joints over here like to pour in the whole pan, excess drippings and all, making the taco sit in less of a tortilla shell and more of a tortilla trough. Which could be okay if there were rice and lettuce and all of those delicious things I mentioned to soak it up, but of course that would be silly.
Instead, Taco Tuesday consists of tiny thin tortillas, meat and all of its juices, and a little pile of onions and cilantro in the center of the plate for when you get bored. And in case your taco wasn’t drippy enough, you can also spoon in some salsa (or just eat it straight instead, because Europe defines “spicy” about as loosely as they define “taco”).
Even when you get something other than tacos that does have more ingredients, there’s always something missing that makes it no longer really fit the label it’s been given. Ground beef with absolutely no seasoning? Boring, not real Mexican. Grilled vegetables in a burrito that’s not even vegetarian? Passable, but not really normal… it’s okay Europe, you tried. Or the always classic “side of fries with that?” Uhhh.
Trying to eat Mexican food over here basically always boils down to this question: Do I want it badly enough to pretend this satisfies my craving, or should I just drool over pictures on Google images and prepare for the massive binge that is going to occur on my return to the homeland?
Because for all of the things that Europe makes well, Mexican food is not one of them.
photo via iStock