This is my life:
January 2013 marked the 4th annual Byrnes Mexican Challenge. This challenge is embraced whole-heartedly by myself and my younger sister, Erin Byrnes, as a time to fully indulge in our favorite food and give it the credit and respect it deserves. The challenge seems simple enough: Eat Mexican food one time per day for 30 days. No big deal, right? But, what if you live in the Southern Hemisphere where taco trucks haven’t been invented yet, they don’t run for the border for the 4th meal, and salsa consists of marinara with extra onion added? Well then, the challenge gets more challenging.
When we were in the States for Christmas, I was explaining (read: bitching) about the lack of Mexican food in New Zealand and concluded with “I guess I’m not doing Mexi Challenge this year.” I don’t know why I decided to lie to myself and everyone else at that moment; this was just not a possibility. It wouldn’t be a new year without an influx of corn chips, tortillas, salsa, rice, beans, and cheese in my diet. The second Jan 1 rolled around, I was in Mexi mode….craving salsa…brainstorming places to go for a good margarita….planning my day around when I would Mexi. It’s just my natural reaction to January.
Chris and I have tried every Mexican restaurant in Auckland that we’ve stumbled across and have only found one (1!) that can be considered Mexican food. (This is the place. Thanks Darren + Marie!) Since it’s impossible to go there everyday to satisfy the Mexi-challenge requirements, it’s up to me to figure it out at home. Now, 17 days into Mexi challenge (we started a bit late…stupid international dateline), I’m in my groove. Here’s what I’m working with at the grocery store when it comes to pre-made Mexi:
This is the whole section and it’s pretty much all Old El Paso. This is not okay. I’ve tried all of the salsa you see there and it’s all horrible so, I decided to make my own. I do this about every other day. I mean, it’s not Garden Fresh Salsa…
This is my blister from chopping so many salsa ingredients.
I didn’t really know what to do about the spicy part of salsa so I went to the vegetable market and picked up what I thought were just your average-spiced peppers. These little fuckers are fully loaded!
I put 2 into my first batch of salsa and my mouth was on fire. Now I put in one and I try to cut it up as small as humanly possible. I still end up with the occasional hot bite that sets me back but, I think I’m actually getting pretty good at the salsa thing. It still doesn’t hold a candle to Courtney Bryant‘s salsa. If anyone has any salsa tips, I’m all orejas!
Tortillas here are simple: flour. They are usually just called “wraps” here because people don’t know what a tortilla is. I found corn tortillas in one store and they were $7 for a 6 pack and looked about 100 years old. I bought them, tried them, and then threw the other 4 away. No bueno.
Corn chips are weird here too. They all come in flavors like cheese (think Doritos), salsa, jalapeño, and chili-lime. All of those flavors are okay (I’ve tried them all) but when you want a simple tortilla chip, you are out of luck. I found one brand that makes plain tortilla chips but they are unsalted and thicker than your average corn chip (read: they taste like cardboard).
The one saving grace in New Zealand is that Corona is everywhere and usually on sale. I mean, it will come with a lemon instead of a lime but, it counts! And, no one can mess up a Marg as long as they add enough Tequila.
As much as I’ve bitched this month about New Zealand not having Mexican food, my chopping blister, and the endless trips to the vegetable market for tomatoes and onions, turns out I can make Mexi food and I’ve just been depriving myself of it for the past 11 months! Dumb dumb dumb! Mexi Challenge is a little different this year but I love it just as much as I do every year. And, I know that Chris has been really looking forward to 30 straight days of bean farts! :)