Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dispatches from the Grocery Store: Mexican Road Trip Snacks

Map: check. Gas: check. Snacks for the road: check. Guadalajara is well situated for endless excursions, and any good road trip starts with a grocery store run. I just finished unpacking from our most recent trip to the beach, and these tamarind chamoy candies were stuck to the bottom of my purse. Tamarind comes from the tamarind tree. Inside the dried, brittle pods, lives one of my favorite flavors. The sticky dark brown fruit has a tart, sour pruney taste. Mexicans make it into candy, margaritas and a refreshing tamarind water, which is a nice change from lemonade. And chamoy, well, it is hard to explain.... it is vinegar, salt, sugar, chili all in one bite. In this case, it is in the form of a powder, which the tamarind pulp is rolled in. The potent combination of flavors is an acquired taste, but with a huge country like Mexico to explore, there is plenty of time to ponder whether you like it or not, while watching the contorted expressions the tamarind chamoy twists your face into, in the rear view mirror.

It is no mystery why the spreadable marshmallow treat Fluff has made its way to Mexican grocery stores. Or why on a trip to my local store I can satisfy my cravings for home with crunchy American peanut butter and Ben and Jerry's ice cream. You cannot argue the international appeal. Thankfully, when it comes to appeasing appetites the US-Mexico border is fairly open, and the exchange goes both ways. Most respectable grocery stores in the States shelve chiles chilpotles en adobados, and cans of sliced jalapeño en escabeche. Apart from the obvious imports there are some questionable choices being made, like why in the world can you get a bag of snack-able Chicharrónes in the states and not these magnificently amazing Spicy Cheetos?!

I am pretty sure Mexicans invented chips when they fried the first tortilla; since the initial stroke of genius, they have continued to run with the concept. By the amount of space that is dedicated to fried snacks in the grocery store, I can deduce that Mexicans love their chips, and they like them spicy- God bless them. I am not a chip eater, but it is appropriate road trip food, and due to the amount of road tripping we have done over the past few years, I have sampled the lot: Flamin' Hot Tostitos, Cheese and Chili Cheese Puffs and Kettle Chips a la Diabla-- to name a few. Now considering myself an expert, I can assure you the Spicy Cheetos are worth a run for the border. They are the best. Allowing ourselves to only eat them on road trips, I often wonder: Which came first-- the Spicy Cheeto craving or the temptation for a trip?

Come back tomorrow to see what Sniff has pillaged from the German mart.

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