Daniela is from Mexico-city. Three years ago, she moved to the Netherlands to do her Masters in Nijmegen and now she’s doing her PHD. Unless she loves her country, she is not planning to go back to Mexico. She has accommodated to the Dutch culture and even just bought a house here. We ask her about her memories of Mexico and the biggest misconceptions of the Mexican food.
When we ask her what she likes most about the Mexican eating culture, Daniela tells us that she has really nice memories of the Sundays in Mexico, when the family gathers together: “Everyone puts a lot of effort in making meals and then we eat the whole day. I remember my grandma cooking all day and loving it, just to feed us. But maybe the best thing is the ‘Sobremesa’, that’s how we call the time after dinner where you just sit and talk for hours and hours”
After the question about how the Mexican eating culture differs from the Dutch eating culture, she started laughing. “For example, to me it is natural that if people invite me somewhere, I would ask: ‘well what do you want me to prepare?’ But apparently that’s not really common in the Netherlands. Here, they send you a Tikkie afterwards. I have to say that I also do it now, but I really had to get used to it.” She also told us that if they celebrate something in Mexico, let’s say a birthday, they celebrate it with a lot of people. With the invitation, people immediately ask you what they can bring. And then, a few people prepare a main dish, someone else brings a salad, another one cooks a soup, etcetera. Besides, you don’t celebrate your birthday only during dinner or lunch, but it always takes the whole day. You never know at what time people are coming.” Overall, Daniela sees her life as a mix of both of them. With her Dutch friends she interacts in a Dutch way, and with her Latin friends, I can interact in my Latin way. Or how Daniela puts it: “It’s like the best of both worlds.”
‘Sobremesa’ is the time after dinner where you just sit and talk for hours and hours”
The Mexican food is known to be heavy. “We have really heavy breakfast, really heavy lunch and really heavy dinner. And of course, we love pepper!” Daniela explains. Besides, she tells us that when she had just met her Dutch boyfriend, she found out that he only uses salt and pepper. That was really odd to her, so she immediately bought him a lot more spices. However, she says: “actually, I really like the typical Dutch, but I just want to have it more seasoned’. Besides, she gives us a tip to caramelize the onions and carrots first before putting them in the stamppot.
Friends who are not from Mexico often tell Daniela that they had a Mexican dinner, when eating a burrito, but she made us clear that this is not Mexican but TexMex. TexMex are the combined meals of the American and Mexican cuisine. “I’m not saying that we don’t eat burritos in Mexico, it is actually really common near the border with the U.S., but people often think that burritos are the only thing we have. Oh and hard-shell tacos… that really breaks my heart. That’s a typical thing from the U.S.''
Now we are confused. But what are the real tacos? And what’s the difference with tortillas then? Daniela explains: “Tortilla is the literal dish, the round corny thing. You can compare it with a slice of bread with which you can make a lot of other things. It is your base ingredient. And then, if you put something inside it’s a taco. If you deep-fry it, it’s a quesadilla. If you roll them and put sauce on top, it’s an enchilada. If you cut them into pieces and fry it, you call it totopos, and so on. So with the same ingredient you can make an infinity of dishes, but it all tastes different.”
“Hard-shell tacos… that really breaks my heart”
Finally, she tells us that, unless she misses Mexico sometimes, she really likes to live in the Netherlands. In the beginning it was really hard, because of the big cultural differences. Especially, she struggled with how direct Dutch people are. ”I don’t think it's a bad thing. Sometimes it is actually really good and effective to just say what you want to say, but I had to get used to it.” She believes that it’s not realistic to think that someone can replicate your Mexican live here, so she really had to start over and build up her own life here in a way that is doable in the Netherlands. But she is really enjoying her time here and is not planning to go back to Mexico. Of course, she will visit her country often during holidays.