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A Salsa Guy in a Chips-and-Sauce Town (Raw DS Article)

January 20, 2010

A few weeks ago, I read a restaurant review in the Grand Forks Herald from the (all-too-affectionately named by my family) Grand Forks Grandma. The restaurant itself was inconsequential, but the subject matter and greater topic of food and its relation to this city made me cringe. The restaurant, serving Mexican food in a small town outside of Grand Forks, was noted by the GFGrandma as to serving a “selection of gravies” with several dishes. The anger and frustration brought up by this complete disregard for any and all Latin American cooking brought back a flood of culinary memories of my ongoing five year sentence in North Dakota.

First things first: let me correct the all-too-common misconception noted above. Any Mexican restaurant worth its margarita salt would know that there’s no such thing as “gravy.” Instead, this “topping” is normally called “chili.” Unfortunately lost on the Mexican restaurants here, the color has much to do with the ingredients and spiciness of the food and not by which to properly accentuate a poor excuse for enchiladas. An excellent Mexican restaurant would be able to serve this “gravy” on its own, with or without something for it to cover. After experiencing lackluster Mexican at two well-known (and, who the hell knows why–well liked) restaurants here in town, henceforth to be known as Helladiso and Mexican Municipality, I’ve been incredibly disappointed in this city’s judgement skills when it comes to dining–especially from a cultural perspective.

While it would be perfectly easy for me to overly generalize about Grand Forks and its lack of culture, I’d be telling a lie. Grand Forks and the greater region as a whole does have a prevalent Norwegian/Swedish culture. This culture is one of strange foodiness–one that offers a unique blend of a bland copy of the tortilla/pita and fish soaked in poison. Having experienced actual Norwegian and Swedish cuisine on numerous occasions, I’m apt to wonder where we went wrong here in this Norwegian-descended part of the United States. Of course, any countryman that moves from a place with some of the greatest fish in the world (seriously…the salmon I ate in Norway was about the best I’ve ever come across) to a place prevalent with walleye is already handicapping themselves.

Unfortunately, Americanized Norwegian food is not the only thing subject to being bland and potentially poisionous. These terms instead seem to apply to most of the restaurants in this city, which tells us that lacking taste/spice and potentially dangerous foods are in-demand here. This makes sense, especially across the “cultural” restaurant span of the city. Just like Mexican Municipality, the Large Fence buffet and its other Asian-themed restaurants offset foods that would normally be spicy with their blander, inbred cousins. In addition, anyone who’s visited these restaurants is apt to know that they feel closer to death after a few trips through the buffet.

While I’d love to see the city drenched in Siriracha and littered with jalopeno peppers, I doubt it’ll happen in the time I have left in this city. Regardless of what I might want or think, this part of the country seems to be set in its “chips and sauce” ways (sauce? really? There are any number of images conjured up with this name, none of which are very appetizing.). I guess those of us craving food in places where people won’t order the “SALSA RO-JAH” will just have to continue escaping elsewhere. After all, one can dream, can’t they?

One Comment leave one →
  1. ReaderX permalink
    May 7, 2010 8:11 pm

    Here in Texas, I have one particular co-worker who insists on saying “chips and sauce” but the truth is everyone else thinks he’s an obstinant idiot tilting at windmills. Most people who go out of their way to conjure up such bizarre attitude/posturing are simply racist out of ignorance because they’ve never been outside their locality to any substantial degree and just cannot imagine why the rest of the world uses different languages besides English. Yet, they’ve no trouble saying omelette or sauerkraut. Weird.

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