August 7, 2017

This Isn’t Ketchup…

I was mortified the day I first tried ketchup in Mexico. The moment the “catsup” landed on my very American burger, I knew something was wrong. There was a translucent (possibly glowing) liquid running over the edge. The mixture tasted sweet, even sweeter than the ketchup back home… and it wasn’t very tomato-y. What I was tasting seemed more like a sweet and sour sauce from a Chinese restaurant than my beloved American ketchup. I began questioning a society that would alter my beloved condiment.

Fast-forward a few weeks, and I’m spending time with Mexican and Spanish friends. One of my amigos from Mexico grew very serious and requested permission to ask a question. I, of course, said go for it expecting some inquiry about American politics or why so many of us are “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”. Instead, he asked bluntly “Do you like Taco Bell?”. I laughed at this as I recalled late-night Taco Bell trips during high school. So, I responded to my friend “Yes, I try not to eat it all the time, but I think it’s delicious” (and better than Amigos, sorry Lincoln friends). He looked at me appalled and went on a rant about how terrible and far-off Taco Bell was from Mexican food. And he’s right. It is a delicious abomination of Mexican food. It’s wrong, but it’s right.

I’ve thought about the parallels between my ketchup and his Taco Bell experience. All cultures have their unique aspects, whether it’s differences in taste pallets, religious beliefs, age at when people get married (or if they choose to at all). When living in or working with another culture, it’s important to note these … almost with a scientific lens. But to abhor every difference makes for a miserable life and complicates business negotiations. The happiest I’ve been in Mexico is when I’ve changed my mindset from thinking “This is not how we do it in America” to looking for what is great about the Mexican way of life. And as my time here winds down, I’m beginning to realize there

is a lot I’ll miss about Mexican culture: the abundance of mom and pop shops, the importance of family, siestas and fiestas, and most of all, salsas. I already asked for recipes in-advance because Nebraska’s selection of salsas is a sad excuse for the magical manna here.

When I return to the U.S., I plan to make homemade salsa. I’ll likely keep some Mexican phrases like “Que fresa” and prefer larger lunches. These pieces of Mexican life will mix with my already established norms and create my own cultural stew. In a way, this is rather American - we are the “melting pot” nation after all.

 Stephen Enke
 U.S Grains Council
Jaime Balmes No. 8-602 "C" Col.
 Los Morales Polanco Mexico, D.F., Mexico 11510
 Office: 011-52-55-5282-0244

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