One of the things ex-pats often say about moving to Mexico, is that it's like moving back in time to the fifties, sixties or seventies (or whenever they experienced childhood). It's one of the reasons many people chose to move south of the border, the slower pace of life, the emphasis on family and the new and exotic foods.
When I was corresponding with Malcolm about writing this column, one of the things that occurred to me was that Malcolm and Jillian have probably never lived in a world without prepared curry paste, cake mixes and exotic spice blends like garam masala. If you are used to "time saving" recipes that call for prepared items, and for whatever reason never have made them completely from scratch, living in Mexico would certainly make cooking your favorite dishes a challenge.
I think the secret to cooking here, is to understand that even in the 50s you could bake a cake without Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker to provide you with a mix. Did you know that when they first introduced cake mixes, all you had to do was add water? These mixes made perfectly acceptable cakes, but the public didn't like them, it didn't feel like they were baking, so the mixes changed. Instead of just adding water, you were adding eggs, oil and water. Personally, I liked the instant ones better, if I am going to add all that other stuff, I'd just rather make my cake from scratch. It just isn't that much harder to sift a little flour, and cream some sugar. The cake mix people want you to think it's difficult.
I was stunned when I saw a commercial on TV for microwavable macaroni and cheese. It wasn't the product; I used to make Kraft Mac and Cheese in the microwave all the time. You just add less water and microwave the noodles. What floored me was the cute little girl talking about how hard it was to make Mac & Cheese the traditional way. By the traditional way, she wasn't even talking about grating cheese and making a cheese sauce, she was referring to the blue box! "All that boiling and stirring," I think is how she put it! I could just imagine her target audience listening and absorbing the lesson that cooking is tedious and difficult.
If anyone asked me how to prepare their favorite foods here, I would recommend that they bring with them a good basic cookbook like Fanny Farmers or Good Housekeeping. A cookbook that assumes that you don't know how to cook is essential.
If you really miss having mixes,(personally, I miss Bisquick) have someone bring you a copy of Make A Mix by Katine Eliason or Perfect Mix by Diane Phillips. I found that I would just rather make baking powder biscuits from scratch rather than make up mixes, but lots of people love mixes and prefer to cook that way.
Sometimes recipes call for a cup of some mix, instead of listing the individual items. In those cases, I turn to the internet and see if I can find the list of ingredients or even a recipe to duplicate the item.
For example, my favorite mix is Bisquick, and according to Wikipedia, you can substitute 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon oil or melted butter for one cup of the mix. So you can still make your favorite impossible pie even if you have used up that box of Bisquick your sister brought down for you in her suitcase.
Now, it's your turn, what are you jonesing for that you can't find here? What is your comfort food? Make a comment on this article, and help me find the topic for my next one!