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Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Mexican Evening, part 1

As many of you know, I LOVE Mexican food.  It's my comfort food.  It's my big craving.  When I mentioned this to some of my fellow fellows here, the ones who'd had it raved about Mexican food, too, while I was shocked by some of the others who hadn't ever really had it.  (Okay, I know I shouldn't be, but there it is.)  So I decided to reincarnate an Ireland tradition and have a "Mexican Evening" here in the Töölö Towers.

Now for most normal people this isn't a big deal.  You invite people to your house based on the size of your dining room and table, number of plates, etc., and copiousness of your platters.  In my case, it often means lots of people with even more food than we could ever hope to eat.  Hey, if you're going to cook for 4, you might as well cook for 10, and I would never want my guests to leave hungry. :-)

But I live in Fort Töölö, remember?  The place where you have to get through 2 sets of locked doors and 2 other sets of doors just to get to the apartment.  Moreover, while my apartment suits me fine, 4 really is about the maximum capacity of the place.  So I turned to the staff downstairs and asked if it would be okay for us to take over the kitchen and common room on my floor for one evening.  Not only did they say yes, they actually seemed kind of chuffed at the idea; they liked that the people here were doing something a little more homey and even supplied extra plates, utensils, etc. to make up for what I and the common kitchen didn't have.

Next stop: the food. what does an ex-pat Californian do for Mexican food in a place where guacamole is sold in little jars next to pineapple-flavored salsa on the shelf?

I smuggle food in!

Actually, it wasn't quite that nefarious.  When I was Texas for Sixteenth Century Studies a few weeks ago, I brought an extra suitcase and filled it with things that are hard, if not impossible to get here and that I think of as Mexican essentials: some dried chilis, big cans of mild green chilis, masa harina, dried corn husks, corn tortillas, Abulita (the hot chocolate, not the grandmother) ... you get the idea.  I suppose it falls under the category of smuggling because Finnish customs has pretty draconian laws about what you can bring in, but then again they never, ever seem to staff their customs booth and the folks in Frankfurt just thought it was funny.  So I was feeling pretty confident about that part of fulfilling my Mexican cravings.

Then my friend Debbie stepped in.  What passes for corn chips here are incredibly thick and frequently stale; there was no way I was corrupting my pico de gallo with those!  Debbie graciously agreed to recreate her role from my Ireland days of sending weird American stuff abroad.  This time it was not a Mr. Potato Head and Playgirl--yes, she really did and shocked my roomies--but 6 big bags of Tostitos with a Hint of Lime.  Yes, they were probably the most expensive tortilla chips ever served, but they provided all sorts of amusement since (1) each bag came individually bubble wrapped--I kid you not!--and (2) there was a very Finnish delivery story (see my entry "My Finnish Moments" for the entire saga).  One of the bubble-wrapped bags was displayed at the party and the delivery story was quite the hit!

So here it is, November 18.  I have what I think I will need to spice everything, I have the masa and tortillas I need for tamales and enchiladas, I have the recipe and YouTube video about making tamales (never made them before but I figured I had to try), and I have the guest list and location ready to go.  I've already started lugging wine and unperishable ingredients back from the store--remember, I have to carry everything in my backpack--and have started making up a plan for what to do day by day starting Sunday the 20th for the party on Wednesday the 23rd.  I've even brought a mini-food processor so that I don't go insane chopping tomatoes, onions, and chilis for all this food.  Nothing can go wrong, right?

And that's where I leave you for this entry.

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