The great Alamo Gulp-n-Blow

Tuesday 9/11/2004

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Diary and Notes

While I'm here in Göttingen I plan to go out for dinner every Tuesday. There's such a range of things on offer that it would be a shame not to sample the local delicacies. I went to a swanky German/French restaurant last week, this week it's the other end of the scale, an all you can eat Mexican fiesta for only 10 Euros. Great!

"But you had Mexican food yesterday, aren't you limiting your future options somewhat?"

No, yesterday I had New Mexican food and today was very different indeed.

I have to confess that apart from the food, I know very little about Mexico and it's culture and seeing as all the Mexican food I've ever eaten has been in Britain or the USA, I probably don't know too much about real Mexican food either. Still I'm going out for a Mexican meal in Germany, so what should authenticity matter?

Now I don't much hold with the 'gulp-n-blow' philosophy of restaurants. I've been to some dodgy Chinese places in London where you got all you could eat for a fiver and couldn't eat a fiver's worth. I was a little anxious about this Mexican night, fearing giant plates of sloppy non-descript meat, boiled for hours with odd vegetables that were found hanging around after the market had closed on Saturday afternoon. I've seen and tasted the steaming vats of grease and the stale, left over, bakery surplus bread that accompanies such a trip. Take care I say to you who would venture to such places, unless like me, you are on a fearless quest to try everything, regardless of the risks to your health.

OK, if you were choosy about what you chose, then the food wasn't that bad. There was variety, some fairly tasty things and some of the dodgy meats I was expecting. Of special mention was something that claimed to be a chicken breast, but if it was a breast, then it was the chickeny equivalent of the sagging breasts seen on one of those old W.H.O. film reels we saw as school children about hunger and disease in the indiginous tribes of the guangara-lurrgara valley. (I think the chicken probably had a bone through it's nose and forty copper rings stretching it's neck so that it wasn't able to drop it's head to peck at scraps of corn). The meatballs were also not made of meat. However: There were tortillas, salsa, sour cream, strange spiced pork steaks (the pork was a bit processed, but not bad), a range of salads, spiced corn soup, a paella type thing, some chilli and I even managed to steal a bottle of tabasco sauce when the waitress wasn't looking. All in all a pleasent evenings noshing, except for being seated so far from the buffet itself, you burned almost as many calories getting there and back as you could fit food on the tiny plates provided.

I do however have to mention the puddings. (I can hear chuckles from the people who were with me at this point). On offer there was rice pudding (I never had this, it looked like snot), some pink stuff (never tried this either, it was pink. It turned out to be yoghurt and was supposedly quite good), sweet tortillas (little crispy fried diamonds with sugar on) and a chocolate dessert. Now I know that getting pudding included in the 10 euros is a bargain and what with there being a choice as well I shouldn't complain but for the first time in my life going for the chocolate option turned out to be a mistake.

I have to confess this has shaken me in a profound and philosophical way - the laws of nature are not what I believed them to be. Never before, in my many years of eating, has picking the chocolate option for dessert been a bad choice. I believed this to be a universal truth, a bit like gravity and cause and effect. Having had this belief shaken, I am now at a loss as to whether I actually exist and whether you, my readers, are even out there. Woe is the man who eats the chocolate thing that tastes bad.

We enquired what it was and the waitress asked the chef, who asked the pot washer to translate the label from Spanish into German, so that the waitress could inform us, in English, it was chocolate and maracuya flavoured. "No it wasn't" said Antonio my Mexican friend who was with us and knew a bit about maracuya. It was however quite strange and while not absolutely disgusting, nobody actually managed to eat more than three spoonfulls.

Afterwards we tootled off home where Antonio described some of the more colourful areas of Mexican culture - his wedding where they ate a whole cow (not each of course), his passion for alibrijes which both he and his wife make (he had some spectacular photos of his work) and we drank some tequila (El Jimador and Corralejo, the Corralejo was the best) with salt and lime.

I will visit Mexico one day and believe it will be lovely, all I have to do is avoid anything that resembles the dreaded chocolate-maracuya horror of today.