American Sauce

Food is somewhat of a sensitive subject here in Spain. Or more specifically, here in my apartment.

First of all, when I first arrived here a year ago, I couldn’t cook anything to save my life. I was “constructively criticized” by almost all my roommates: the German girl, the Italian boy, the Spanish girl. All of them. Fortunately they gave me some good cooking tips and I can now successfully whip up lots of things.

However, food, as an essential part of life for anyone, is much more to all of the Europeans. We all know the French are famous for their baguettes, the Italians for their rich pastas, the Spanish for their tapas and jamones, and Americans, well, we aren’t European but I’ve been suffering hamburger jokes for over a year now.

Let me back up with a little story: Last year, my French friend, Ju Lie came over to our place when Carlo had a bunch of his guy friends over to visit from Italy. They had prepared this enormous dish of some Italian pasta. That’s when Ju Lie made her first offense. She scooped up all the pasta she wanted, but failed to finish her plate. All the Italian guys were in an uproar. Apparently not completing a dish of pasta is a major strike to their culture and customs.

Part two, she then proceeded to use said half-eaten plate of pasta as an ashtray. At this point, they all jumped out of there seats and gave her an enormous (but hilarious and very playful and joking) scolding. Then my favorite part: They pinned to our wall, “The Black List.” And guess whose name was the first to go on there? Ju Lie’s. And now she’s prohibido entrar (forbidden to enter.)

Of course these guys were just giving her a hard time, but there really are strict eating rules here. That’s where my American culture comes in (which shines through bright as day with my lack of cooking skills, apparently.) When my friend Kara came to visit, she was added to the Black List as well because my friend Juan slaved over making a wonderful Spanish Tortilla and Kara decided to throw on some American hot sauce all over the top of it, which clearly is a major offense to the Spanish.

As for me, when asked if we have ketchup (which never happens), of course, me, the American, has a bottle of Heinz (I’m sorry I can’t settle for any other brand, I’ve just got to have the best.) Also, last year a bottle of my favorite (and Denver-favorite) Rooster Sauce (Sriracha) was tossed away without acknowledgment.

Now I love all the European dishes. Who doesn’t love a great bowl of Fetuccini? Or some rich French wine? Or some thick Spanish chorizo? But I have to admit, that there are so many flavors from home that I miss and that I love more. We don’t get good Mexican food here at all. If there is a restaurant that somewhat has a clue, it’s really expensive. I’ve searched hundreds of times for a Pho restaurant and they are all completely unheard of. Want Indian food? You have to go to London for that.

So now that I’m back in Spain for the third time, I’ve come prepared: Full bottle of Rooster Sauce, full bottle of Famous Dave’s Devil Spit hot Bar-b-que sauce, and the American necessity of a full bottle of Ranch dressing. When I arrived this month, Marta was quick to notice and commented on all my sauces. Other friends of mine saw them in my cupboard and all pulled them out and read their labels. My buddy Luis saw the bottle of Famous Dave’s and laughed playfully at its subtitle: Devil’s Spit.

So last night, I ended up eating dinner with Carlo and Erika, my two Italian roommates, Alessandro, Carlo’s friend, and Miriam, Erika’s friend. So it was me in a room full of Italians. We cooked side-by-side; me preparing garlic home fry potatoes, pork chops, and some vegetables. They made some creamy mushroom-clad pasta dish and chicken.  I ended up making too many potatoes and shared them with all of them. Everyone gladly tried them and said they were good, but only Carlo dared pour ketchup on his plate.

I couldn’t imagine eating home fries without ketchup; I don’t think any American could. But all the Italians stayed away from it like it was the plague. I asked them all to put just a simple little pinch on their potatoes so that they were, as I said, “authentically American,” which only Erika was brave enough to put a smidge on her forkful.

In the next few meals that I eat here, I know I’ll be making bar-b-que chicken (with my hot sauce), I’ll be putting Rooster Sauce on all my pastas, and throwing Ranch on all the salads I’ll be making. I’m sure I’ll endure more comments from the Europeans, but in the end, it’s honestly the little tastes of home that help get me by. Especially when you’re at dinner with all Italians and you are all alone in the conversation because you don’t speak a lick of their language, the only thing you need in that moment is a reminder of where you come from. And for me, that was something as simple as ketchup to remind me that I’m not the only person in the world that doesn’t speak Italian and that lathers on ketchup all over everything.

Tonight, as I ate alone, I devoured a baked potato drenched in Ranch, and I couldn’t help but think and feel as if I were sitting in Mom and Pop’s kitchen munching away on food slobbered in fat, greasy, slimy American sauces.

I’ll always stand by American cuisine as the being the best, regardless of the complaints all the Europeans will give me.

God Bless America.

10 thoughts on “American Sauce

  1. WTF. Chorizo is not delicate.

    Not eating everything you put in the plate is rude as it’s a waste of food. If you are not going to eat it just don’t serve yourself so much food, for fuck’s sake. And if you served too much you just eat the fuck up the whole thing, and think next time to restrain yourself.

    And, yea, ketchup is not welcome in the continent (it is in the UK), but some europeans we do like ketchup. I like to eat the ketchup bags from McDonalds (true story).

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    1. haha David! Enough with the F-word homie! hahaha

      You are right though, I’m just telling the stories here, not saying people should take more than they can eat. And ketchup is the best thing everrrrrr lol Glad to hear you like the little packets of ketchup from mcD’s

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  2. We add yams to our tortilla when we make it. We’re sure it is sacrilege to Spaniards, but it is so good that way! Ok, so we also might top it with some manchego or gruyere and tapatio. Total rebellion, but still quite tasty!

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    1. haha I love that!!! I’d really like to try your version of the tortilla, no offense to Spain, but I bet it’s really good that way. I’m sure Franco is rolling in his grave at what you’ve done ;-) viva la revolucion!

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  3. LOVED THIS POST!! I admit, I had a bottle of tabasco, and yes, as much as I love tortilla, a dash of tabasco makes it even better. Burn me at the stake, I suppose!

    Hope everything’s going well, and I’m jealous you’re back in España!

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    1. Thanks!! I’m glad you enjoyed it! :D
      I know, Tabasco too is one of those things you just need. I guess we’ll all just burn at the stake haha
      Everything is going great! Come back and practice your castellano ;) Hope Puerto Rico mole un pegote

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  4. My British roommate commented on the fact that we have SO MANY SAUCES…Ranch, buffalo, tabasco…but it really is necessary.

    And our Spanish friends tried ranch on their burgers the other day, and loved it. Btw, have you ever seen the “American Burgeur Sauce” at burger places? It really confuses me, as I am American and have no idea what it is.

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  5. Haha funny post! I just brought back 7 different hot sauces although since moving to Madrid I’ve seen that some (like Siracha) weren’t necessary because they’re sold here. I love appreciating certain foods on their own, the way they are intended to be eaten, but I also love sauces too. I love some hot sauce on a good steak or on a stir-fry, and french fries are made to be dipped! I think that sometimes the Europeans need to chill and respect other cultures too– most people just laugh if we add something bizarre but some make really rude comments… like my friend’s roommates who told her that peanut butter was disgusting and she would be fat for eating it (yet they ate pork fat on their breakfast toast) and another friend’s roommates who told her that eating eggs for breakfast was bad for you (although it’s a much fuller source of protein and something much more likely to hold you until lunchtime than toast or churros)! Anyway… to each his own!

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    1. Yeah I realized later that they sold Siracha, but I’m glad there is someone else out there smuggling in good sauces and showing Europeans that things like yes- French Fries – need to be dunked in some sort of sauce! My roommates give me crap for the sauces but at the end of the day, they don’t really care and nor do I. And you are totally right. They don’t even have breakfast as far as I’m concerned. Churros are something you get as like a dessert on rare occasions, not something to start the day (at least that’s how I see it). I definitely take breakfast much more seriously than they do here :)
      Thanks for the comment, I really enjoyed it :)

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