Illustration by Mark Dancy
How is it that Mexicans can eat Mexican food three to four times a day, seven days a week, and 52 weeks a year? And can they eat anything without hot sauce? Are their taste buds that dull?
You mean how can we eat Americanfood, ¿qué no?The much-discussed Mexican reconquistaalready happened—we took over American taste buds long before we did California. The cultivated tomato, the base for ketchup, salads and Italian yummies, came from Mexico. The ancestor of turkeys was Mexican. Chocolate, vanilla, avocado, salsa—each one as Mexican as black caricatures on stamps. And we spray hot sauce over most of our meals, Pozole Pendeja, for health reasons. A 2001 USA Todayarticle examined various medical studies and discovered that a steady diet of hot peppers or salsa helps digestion, fights heart disease, prevents tumors from spreading, acts as a calorie burner andmakes breathing easier. The only thing ketchup is capable of doing, as far as I know, is staining dashboards.
My husband is one-quarter Mexican, so he says he's a Mexican every fourth day! His fondest memories are of Grandma's home-made tamales. Where can a gringa buy her hubby some old-fashioned tamales in OC?
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Summer isn't tamale season—that would be Christmas. But I always stop by Sarinana Tamale Factory in Santa Ana whenever I'm craving corn-husk-wrapped masa love and abuelitaisn't around. Established in 1936, Sarinana is one of the county's oldest restaurants and occupies what used to be someone's home. Their tamales de puerco are piggie bliss: lean pork shreds mixed with a smoldering red-chile paste baked into a tough-but-malleable masa casing. While you're at Sarinana, make sure to buy a bag of their notorious chicharrónes: gnarled cylinders of hog fat baked for hours until each looks like a Precambrian fossil. The first time I chomped into one of them, I could only withstand that one bite—in my mouth, the coal-hard chicharrón immediately transformed into a river of lard. I gagged. "Obviously not a regular," said my companion. Add a sprinkle of lime and salsa as garnish, and you have quite a tasteful angioplasty awaiting you! Sarinana Tamale Factory, 2218 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, (714) 558-8650.
Look for a special-edition ¡Ask a Mexican! in this week's Music section regarding Mexicans and Beck. And if you have other spicy questions about Mexicans, ask the Mexican atGARELLANO@OCWEEKLY.COM. And those of you who do submit questions: include a hilarious pseudonym,por favor, or we'll make one up for you!