Saturday, May 12, 2007

Juanny Graine de Pomme

I am here to tell you that the jalapeno pepper addiction is real and can control your life!

If you are from the States and were brought up on some of the finer ethnic cuisines, such as Mexican food, you are in for a world of disappointment in France. As a rule, Mexican food in France is rarer than hens’ teeth which, by the way, you can get anytime at the local market. We’re not just talkin’ normal hens’ teeth, but appellation controlee hens’ teeth!

France is THE country of fabulous food, culinary masterpieces and epicurean delights. No one disputes that fact. Here, where everything is edible; songbirds, snails, unmentionable animal parts, prepared in such exquisite manner that it all tastes like it should be eaten, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme growing like weeds, wild along the side of the road…and not one damn jalapeno pepper.

A couple of weeks ago, Mary Ellen and I were in Paris and stumbled upon a Mexican restaurant near the Place du Bastille, the El Chihuahua. Por moi, it was like dying and going to heaven. We had eaten in other so-called Mexican restaurants when we could find them here, but this place was about as close to Tex Mex as one can get.

I actually had a plate of nachos, with jalapenos, covered with cheese that looked and tasted like it had just been melted from a brick of Kraft Velveeta. Not the kind of stuff you get here, aged for years, daily wiped down with special cloths soaked in secret solutions by cloistered monks, veins of fungal stuff racing through the middle. No, this was the real, heart-stopping, nacho cheese that we have all grown to love!

And the dinner, chicken enchiladas, with all the accoutrements, like rice and refried beans, guacamole and chips with real hot sauce that tasted like real hot sauce, Pico De Gallo, Corona beer with a slice of lime. We’re talkin’ down home A-mer-kin food here.

When I was back in the States over the winter, I ordered a bunch of packages of Burpee’s jalapeno and habanero pepper seeds to plant and raise on the Shenandoah. I would like to announce that the first crop of seedlings has taken root and we are the proud parents of a number of baby pepper plants that will be nurtured, groomed and cared for in planter boxes on the decks.

…and, who knows, someday those peppers’ offspring might be growing, wild, along the country roads of France. The jalapeno pepper addiction can control your life.