Have you ever inhaled a pleasing aroma and it brought back wonderful memories of your childhood or a pleasant event? In addition, have you ever had a craving for a favorite food? When you are in a foreign land that has a very different cuisine, that is bound to happen. Initially for me, I greatly missed lemons and lemon juice, since everything here is flavored with limes. I also missed bagels, lox and cream cheese, so when I last visited my son, he made sure to take me to a deli where I could have them.
Eventually, you get used to the new flavors of your new country of residence, but at times you still wish for “a taste of home.” Since I am from New York, I can understand why we have so many ethnic neighborhoods with their tasty and varied cuisines, such as Indian, Chinese, Italian, Dominican, Afghan and many, many more.
Over time, you get used to the new foods and flavors – though for me it is still difficult to physically tolerate picante/enchiloso food, seasoned with chilis. In any case, I recently had a craving for pizza, and before I go any further I have to describe pizza in Mexico.
Here in Colima, I have seen two pizza establishments, Little Caesar’s and Benedetti’s. I don’t know about the rest of Mexico, but here everyone likes those pizzas with either pepperoni or ham and pineapple. In addition, once they have their slices, they cover them with ketchup and chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri is composed of garlic, peppers, cilantro, parsley, olive oil and salt. I’ll just say it’s okay and leave it at that.
Lourdes’ daughter Nadia made some pizza from scratch, but didn’t like how the crust tasted, so I told her I would ask my son for a recipe, which I did, and then one day we had “pizza day” and made our pizza, which came out pretty good.
Sometimes products available in your home country are not available in your current place of residence, and this is what I was faced with here. My son said if you are going to use bottled sauce, you should use marinara sauce. Well, there is no marinara sauce in Colima, so I settled on Prego brand Tradicional and Prego brand Pizza Sauce. Second problem was onion powder. Besides an abundance of fresh garlic and onions, and dried garlic in every configuration you can think of, such as garlic powder, garlic salt and dried chunks of garlic, there is a definite lack of the equivalent when it comes to onions. As a seasoning, garlic is much more popular here. So I searched through several stores and finally came across onion powder in a very large container. So now I have enough onion powder to probably last me the rest of my life.
So Nadia, her husband Gustavo and I set to work making the sauce, mincing garlic cloves and onion, adding spices to taste and letting it simmer. While it was simmering, we started on the pasta. My son told me he buys the pizza dough already made into balls of dough at the supermarket. Not available here. So he directed me to a web site named “sugarspunrun” and I copied the recipe that was called “The Best Pizza Dough Recipe” and had 5 stars and good reviews. My son also told me it is better if you add a little honey to it. We mixed the dough, put it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and set in on a stool in the sun to rise – it’s currently in the 80 degree range Fahrenheit here during the day (26.7 Celsius) so it only took a half hour to double in size.
We then spread out the dough with our fingers, ladled out the sauce, sprinkled imitation mozzarella cheese (no real mozzarella available at this time) and then topped it all off with pepperoni and ham slices. Popped it in the oven, and the flavor was good, but it needed a thinner crust and not so much sauce. So we made a second pizza and it came out much, much better. Everyone LOVED it and no one even put ketchup or chimichurri on it. YAAAYYYY!!!!!
The other day, I bought a bunch of plum tomatoes and decided to make the sauce from scratch. Sautéed minced garlic and onions, added diced tomatoes and put the whole thing over a low flame for I-don’t-remember-how-long. Seasoned to my taste and then blended it with an immersion blender. Since I want to eat healthy, I now use it as a sauce for my steamed vegetables.
And that is my latest adventure in adapting local produce to my taste. As for the lemons mentioned at the beginning, they were occasionally obtainable in Colima City, and now we see them more frequently. So I buy maybe 10 or 20 of them when available and squeeze and freeze the juice so I don’t run out.
So, wherever you are, I hope you will try and come to love the local cuisine, but when you get nostalgic for something from home, there are ways to prepare a familiar dish that is exactly or close to the original (though I still haven’t managed to find anything close to Stouffer’s Frozen Macaroni and Cheese, which is my comfort food when I am recovering from a migraine headache. If anyone can send me a recipe for that, I will be ETERNALLY grateful….).
So, see you next time and ¡Buen Provecho! and Bon Appétit!