Thursday, August 30, 2007


People frequently praise particular ethnic restaurants as "authentic" and criticize others as "Americanized." I used to do this. No more. I have made an uncomfortable discovery: I often prefer the Americanized, inauthentic versions of cuisines to the authentic ones.

I've always suspected that I'd feel this way about Asian cuisines. Although I've probably never had truly authentic Japanese, Chinese, or Thai food, I would bet any amount of money that I would prefer Chicken Teriyaki, Beef with Broccoli, and Phad Thai over what I would actually be served in those countries. I always thought that was just because of my aversion to seafood and to animal parts not commonly eaten in the U.S.

But lately, I've been going to the authentic Mexican restaurants here (which use, at least in many dishes, ingredients I'm fine with), and I don't love them as much as I'm supposed to. They're good, but to be honest, I prefer mission-style burritos (think Chipotle) and taco salads to their enchiladas and tacos. The authentic Mexican dishes I've had are a little too meat-heavy for my taste, they tend not to have enough vegetables, and they favor corn tortillas instead of my preferred flour tortillas. But I am made to feel bad about my desire for burritos, which the Hispanic people in my office dismiss as "white people food." I don't see why I should feel bad.

Don't get me wrong-- I still think there is a benefit to authenticity. Just as I would enjoy visiting Tokyo once or twice to see how people live there, I would enjoy going to an authentic Japanese restaurant once or twice to see how people in Japan eat. But just as I would not want to live on a daily basis the way that people in Tokyo live, I don't want to eat on a weekly basis the way people in Japan eat. Bring on the burritos.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


These tall religious candles are EVERYWHERE in San Antonio. There are big walls of them at the grocery store, at Wal-Mart, wherever. They come with different saints on them (though mostly Mary), and they only cost $1-$2. Their low cost and wide availability suggest that a lot of people use them and that they go through them frequently.

I really like them. I bought one of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I haven't found anything online about their history or use, but I'm curious.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

My new home

As most of you know, I've just moved to San Antonio, Texas for a temporary year-long job. I'm starting to settle in.

Good things:
1. The low cost of living.
2. The abundant and delicious Mexican food.
3. My totally awesome furnished guesthouse, which has more space and nicer stuff than I have ever had/will have in the foreseeable future. Let me tell you that I will NOT be living without a washer and dryer inside my apartment ever again.
4. The Riverwalk downtown-a long walkway one level below street level that goes along the San Antonio River and has shops and restaurants.
5. The presence of a giant, pointless monument in the middle of the city (the Tower of the Americas, pictured above). I refuse to live in any city that doesn't have one.

Bad things:
1. The street system. Why are all the businesses on one-way access roads on either side of the interstate? Why does everyone expect you to get on the interstate to drive to the grocery store that's a mile away? Why are there no through east-west roads for 2 miles in any direction from my house?
2. The lack of coffeeshops with free wi-fi. Fortunately, a Panera is opening up nearby soon.
3. The bugs. All the apartment complexes I looked at advertised their pest control services. I have found dead bugs in my house. Grocery stores have entire aisles labelled "Insecticide." Yuck.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Reflections on moving

Things that have gone up in my estimation during my recent move:
-The Magic Eraser cleaning tool (it is amazing)
-SMALL moving boxes
-Brown paper packing tape, because you can tear it by hand
-Housecleaners (they did in 2 hours what I could not have done in 20, and thanks to them I'm getting back a security deposit worth 8 times what I paid them)

Things that have gone down in my estimation:
-Book purchases (I am going to make friends with the library system in my new city)
-Poorly thought-out clothing purchases (I discovered clothes that I never even took the tags off of)
-Furniture of any kind
-Large moving boxes
-Refrigerator magnets (they can leave marks on a bumpy white fridge; see also Magic Eraser, supra)

Also: I'm never buying anything nonconsumable ever again.