I do not typically read my old blog posts, partly because I would rather spend my time writing something new, and also because it smacks of work. Writing new stuff without any constraints: fun; looking up old stuff: research.
But in Eurodining IV, I said that I would return from my trip to CA in April equipped with everything necessary for a massive Mexican feast. Unfortunately, at the time I wrote that, I did not know that my return from CA would be rudely interrupted by 4 days in Brussels. Worse, my hotel there had a little kitchen. And I just mentioned that one dinner sucked up my per diem for almost 3 days. So excellent Mexican food ingredients were indeed transported from San Diego to Brussels by me. The non-perishables (cans of Rosarita refried beans and enchilada sauce) survived. The perishables (good jack and cotija cheese, chips, and 2 dozen corn tortillas) served me well in Brussels, and some even made if back to Bremen, where they fed two eager San Diegans, since Julien Reedhead was visiting. I did get some flour tortillas in Bremen, and enough other ingredients for a carne asada burrito feast: meat, vinegar, paprika, cumin, oregano, black and white pepper, salt, soy sauce, beans, milk, olive oil, limes, lettuce, tomato, garlic, onion, nothing remotely spicy, and cheddar and mexicanisch cheese. The latter is the first time I have heard of 'Mexican cheese' anywhere, including Mexico; this cheese has nothing to do with Mexican food and sucks. German avocados cost 1 euro each and are underripe, and I found no cilantro. But I decided it was go time. With irrepressible sun auguring a glorious BBQ feast, and a crew of Europeans that are not the most discerning burrito eaters, I figured that these minor setbacks could be ignored. More importantly, my outstanding student Indar Sugiarto just finished his MS thesis defense, and some celebration was earned. After I posted my last blog entry with sunny blather about the weather, I told the team to expect a feast, then went shopping. I had carne asada marinating all night. This morning, I put everything I needed in three big bags, totalling €60 of food and charcoal, and went to work.
Not a hard rain, but the usual drizzle, certainly enough to dampen a BBQ. Around 10, I had the following conversation with three people on my team:
Hey! Are you an engineer?
Are you a good engineer?
Can you figure out a way to keep that BBQ outside dry?
Can we get that tent they use for the beer parties?
No, those are rented.
Can we find a tarp somewhere, like the ones on the construction site?
No, they belong to the construction people.
Is there somewhere nearby that sells tarps?
Can we rig something with multiple umbrellas?
Can you think of any other way to prevent rain from hitting a 2 square meter surface?
Can we get a portable grill somewhere?
Can we move the grill that is in front of our building?
What kind of engineer are you?
I am an electrical engineer.
Can you make a portable electric grill?
So I figured we at least have cameraderie, if not Mexican food.
I eventually pulled it off using a portable heater and frying pan. Turned out quite well, although we got nothing done at the meeting. I fed my team, plus several others from the department, which cannot hurt politically. And I still have charcoal for next time I feel confident enough in the weather to try a BBQ. Hm. Hope I have room for all that charcoal in my suitcase.
Just to underscore the alienness of Mexican food here, these are actual questions and answers during the feast.
What is that paste you are putting on that bread?
What are they made of?
beans. Bohnen. These are crushed beans.
Do you have to grind the beans?
No, they sell cans of pre-crushed, refried beans everywhere out there.
Do the Mexicans always that bread?
It is called a tortilla. Yes. They eat tortillas all the time.
Why do you say you need cilantro?
to put in the burrito.
But cilantro is just a garnish.
No. Cilantro is delicious and foundational to Californian and Mexican food.
What is that called?
Is that like a Turkish rollo?
No. Burritos are much better. Carne asada is much better than gyros.
Why is the word for burrito like a burro?
I'll tell you what exactly burrito means after you're done eating.
(Fortunately, the only other Spanish speaker in the lab, Diana Valbuena, was on vacation; otherwise she might have pointed out that it's named after a burro penis. Probably not, though; she has tact.)
I have no tact, but can sometimes tell when a blog entry is getting too long.