Yesterday, my friend Fany and I were trying to make plans to hang out, and I told her I'd be in Mexico for the next two weeks. "Again?" she said. "You know, you haven't arrived." She was right: I hadn't arrived. I'd moved to New York at the end of January, but I'd been gone in Mexico twice already (more than a month in Mexico, if you counted up the days), in San Diego once, and in Portland and San Francisco. Being in New York still felt like an extended business trip. I didn't feel yet like I was here to stay. I kept repeating that little sentence in my head -- I haven't arrived -- and it made me feel better about this anxiousness I'd been feeling lately, this need to establish myself right away, to do something big and important now. Arriving in Mexico City, I'm sure I'd felt the same way, but my freshest memories were of how routine and comfortable everything was. I'm curious: when you moved to a new city for the first time, what little things made you feel like you'd truly arrived? How long did it take you to really feel like you were home?
a lament on how I couldn’t take any of my American pantry goodies with me to Mexico City. Four years later, I run a food tourism business in Mexico (can you believe it?) and my pantry has become an extension of my new passions: dried chiles that smell like campfires, dried corn ready to be nixtamalized in my table-top grinder, indigenous salts, Mexican herbs, hand-ground chocolate picked up on side trips to Oaxaca. My cooking style, more and more, ignores the stuff I grew up and instead relies on using Mexican products in ways that make sense to me. Sprinkling homemade chile morita powder on my mother-in-law's traditional creamy Thanksgiving mushrooms, for instance, sounds completely practical to me, and it turns out its awesome. (The morita adds a touch of smoke and the right kick of heat.) The movers told us that they wouldn’t take any food to New York. So I went to Costco and spent $100 on a vacuum-sealer. Two days ago I picked through my pantry and vacuum-sealed bags of chile pasilla oaxqueño, and a kilo each of dried white and red corn. I vacuum-sealed my Oaxacan oregano, and my pimienta gorda, and my dried cacao flowers, which still smell heavenly even though I bought them in Oaxaca in August. I vacuum-sealed some chile mulato, just in case I’m going to make a mole from scratch (you never know), and a few handfuls of pumpkin seeds, which are meatier and more flavorful than the pumpkin seeds they sell in the U.S. I'm not sure how much of this stuff will make it through customs, by the way. The first trip on Sunday will be a learning experience. All the vacuum-sealing isn't entirely about whether I'll be able to find Mexican ingredients in New York. Deep down -- really deep down -- I'm terrified that once I move, I'm going to forget everything I learned and tasted. I didn't speak Spanish fluently or even know what a tlacoyo was until four years ago. What if in New York I lose my Spanish and my newish longing for the smell of fresh masa on the comal? What if what fed my passion was this crazy, insane city, and once I leave I'm just a regular old American again? These ingredients, carrying them in my suitcase, makes everything feel real. This did happen. It wasn't a dream. Hopefully in New York I'll have the best of both worlds. I'll have the Mexican ingredients I love, and the American and ethnic ingredients I love, and we'll be able to order Thai takeout from our phones. (Dude. Living in the future.) What I'm not sure about yet is this budding Mexican part of me, and how it's going to do in Nueva York. Supongo que verémos. UPDATE: Everything made it through customs. I asked the customs officer whether I could bring cheese the next time around, and he said yes. The only prohibited items were meat, fresh vegetables, plants and seeds for growing plants.My first post for this blog -- almost four years ago to the day -- was