Food and Culture—Local Restaurants: A Focus on Mexico By Ahaana Singh Edited by Ben Sisson The fresh smell of salsa and toasty corn tortilla chips fill your nose as you walk through the brightly decorated front corridor of Acapulcos—a Mexican family restaurant and cantina. Although now a chain within Massachusetts, it still makes sure to capture the essence of Mexican tastes and influence. Because of my ignorance to the reality of Mexican food due to constant familiarity with Chipotle burrito bowls and Taco Bell’s chalupas, I was hesitant to introduce true Mexican flavors to my taste buds. To my surprise, I was more than pleased with my experience and may never turn back to Mexican fast food. Glancing over the large menu of the restaurant, it was nearly impossible to decide what to get. We managed to make one decision quite easily though: virgin margaritas (they do also have alcoholic ones, which I have only heard good things about). I got an original lime margarita while my trusty taste testers got the mango. The salt-rimmed glass not only gave a beautiful presentation but also significantly enhanced the tart-lime flavor of the drink. Native to Mexico, these drinks are often prepared with tequila and served with salt and a wedge of lime. They have become both a Mexican staple and a very popular drink throughout the US. Although the consistency of our virgin margaritas was slightly off (the ice and juice kept separating), the taste did not fail to please us. With our drinks came a basket of freshly baked tortilla chips along with a glass bottle of their house salsa. The cold tanginess of the diced tomatoes and onions was perfect on the toasty crunch of the chips. Salsa sauce first originated during the time of the Inca people. As the Spaniards first encountered tomatoes on their conquest of Mexico in 1519-1521,yhe natives of the land began combining them with chilli peppers and ground squash seeds. They typically ate this condiment on meats and fish, and Alonso de Molina later called it salsa in 1571. Since then, countless types of salsa have emerged: ranging from salsa verde (green salsa) to mango salsa. Not only is this typical of Mexican cuisine, but it has become a staple in American snack foods; chips and salsa are served at nearly any social gathering. Acapulcos kept it original by serving a salsa cruda, a mixture of raw tomatoes, onions, jalapeño peppers, and cilantro. Clearly a well-thought out decision as the three bottles of the salsa they served disappeared within 5 minutes.Next we moved onto appetizers. Still faced with the dilemma of too many options, we went ahead and ordered the fiesta platter—an opportunity to taste a little
bit of everything. A large plate slid in front of us with a mountain of nachos, lined up quesadillas, a row of flautas, and a few crispy Buffalo wings scattered throughout the arrangement. It was served with a small bowl guacamole and sour cream. The quesadillas that we are familiar with at Chipotle and Tango Mango are quite different than the real deal. Basically transformed into a burrito, those quesadillas taste great but fail to capture the true intentions of a quesadilla. Originated in Mexico, a quesadilla in its true identity would be a single tortilla filled with cheese (queso) and an optional variety of vegetables or meat. The tortilla is then folded in half to represent a half moon. The quesadillas served were perfectly crispy, with smooth-melted cheese in each bite. We couldn’t keep our hands off the simple yet complimentary cheese and tortilla pair. Although the guacamole served was nice, this is one area in which I am still loyal to Chipotle. Similar to salsa, guacamole originated in the 16th century by the Aztec people. It is an avocado-based sauce that often includes tomatoes, onions,lemon juice, and various spices. Though not nearly as popular as salsa, guacamole has still become an obsession in the US, with Chipotle introducing some of the best. Acapulcos’ guac did not meet my expectations, but their guacamole still complemented the quesadillas and chips quite nicely. Finally, the most distinguished item on the platter was the flauta. Better known as a taquito, these small, beef-filled, crispy shells were heavenly. Covered in a mole sauce (a generic name for countless sauces used in Mexican cuisine), the crunchy-tortilla shell crumbled in your mouth as the shredded beef melted oh so delicately on your tongue. These petite snacks are essentially a rolled up taco. They originated in the early 1900s in Southwestern US, under heavy Mexican influence.Although they were typically popular as street vendor food, these tiny tacos seem more like a delicacy to me. Next, our entrees arrived. One of my trusty tasters ordered an arroz con pollo—otherwise known as rice with chicken. This dish is very typical of Latin American countries, and each cuisine has its own little variation of it. We were served a large plate with a mountain of rice cooked with several spices including cumin and chili pepper. The rice was topped with chunks of chicken and vegetables marinated in a special house marinade. Thick, spicy gravy doused the already tender chicken and made it even juicier. The vegetables added beautiful color to the dish and a crunchy balance to the rice and chicken. Rice is a staple food in Mexico, found on the dinner tables almost every night, often paired with several meats of choice. Although the commonly found meats include beef and pork, the most feasible and reliable go-to is chicken such as in the famous arroz con pollo. After trying just a few bites, I can definitely say that I would be more than happy to come home to that every night.
My dish arrived with a nice selection of items. I ordered the combination plate with a chimichanga and tamale. They were served with the same mole sauce as the flautas—a slightly nutty taste with a tangy chili kick in the back of your throat. A chimichanga is a novelty item in Mexican cuisine. Essentially a deep-fried burrito, it is comprised of a flour tortilla rolled up with a meat (chicken in my case), rice, and spices. It is then deep fried and served with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese on top. This item is not typical or traditional to Mexican cuisine, but is instead a popular Tex-Mex (a Texan take on Mexican food) dish now found in the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Sonora. As full as I was by this point, I could not bare the thought of wasting any of that deep-fried goodness. Still, I had to get through the tamale sitting adjacent to the chimichanga. Now, I have heard the word tamale countless times—often as a figure of speech—so I had to see what the fuss was all about. This dish was certainly not what I was expecting. It sits there as if it’s just another taco or burrito of some sort, but the tamale truly confuses your mouth when you finally dive into it. Dating all the way back to 1200-250 BC, tamales have been prepared for feasts by the Ancient Mayan people for years in Mesoamerica. The modified tamale that is eaten in Mexico today consists of corn dough called masa. The dough is filled with various meats and salsas. Mine was filled with shredded pork and a light, tangy salsa. The tamales are then typically wrapped and served in a cornhusk, though mine was not. The dough is very thick, and makes up the majority of the dish. It has a very rubbery texture but is complemented by the smoothness of the pork. The mole sauce on top gave it a kick of zest to enhance to plainness of the dough. In Mexico, tamales are considered to be comfort food and are eaten at both breakfast and dinner. Many people also snack on them mid-day. Frankly, I was not a huge fan of this dish. The textures and flavors did not quite make sense to my mouth. It had nice flavor, with the chili peppers and lemon in the sauce, but the overall consistency was difficult for me to digest. Taste tester #2 is a vegetarian, so she ordered the veggie quesadillas. Unfortunately, I was less than pleased with these as well. To differentiate them from the regular quesadillas, the cooks threw in a few pieces of spinach. The spinach really did not add anything to the dish, in fact, it seemed quite strange and forced. There was not much flavor, so the only way to really get any taste out of it was by covering the pieces in guacamole and salt .But have no fear! Dessert came around and saved the day: apple pie burrito. Clearly a non-traditional dish, the sweet, fried goodness pleased me nonetheless. There were two options: cheesecake or apple pie. We decided to take the apple pie route in an effort to be more healthy after that huge meal (apples make it healthy, right?!). A mixture of apples, sugar, and cinnamon was cooked and rolled up into a tortilla. It was then fried golden-brown and drizzled with chocolate syrup. Served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, this dessert was pure heaven. Even after having eaten beyond our physical limits, the three of us devoured the “burrito”. The sweet sugariness filled our taste buds, with the buttery tortilla melted on our tongues. Easily the best apple pie variation I have ever had. Overall, Acapulcos managed to impress me. I was introduced to authentic Mexican dishes and flavor in addition to some new, innovative ones. Although I did not love every dish, I did appreciate the culture and tradition that shone through almost every one of them. A huge aspect of Mexican culture is
their cuisine; it is a big part of several festivals and the flavors are quite distinct to the nation. Almost every meal originates from the practices of the early Inca people inhabiting Mexico, and has Spanish influence from the Spaniards who had colonized the land. The cuisine truly encompasses Mexican history and highlights some very unique tastes. Acapulcos is definitely a worthy stop and change from heavy Mexican fast food. Check out it out: Acapulcos Family Restaurant and Cantina 1st Ave, Needham Heights, MA
The Dream By Amara Regehr Edited by Claire McElduff Remember the good old days when dreams of the future included flying cars and walking on the moon? Even if you are overcome with the craziness of the current generation and this isn’t even a distant memory to you, stick with me here. Now a days, people dream of an apocalypse (zombies optional). They prepare safe houses and plan strategies for survival. While this may seem extreme, there are so many people who have sunk into a mediocre lifestyle lacking fulfilling human connection that the zombie apocalypse is becoming a true (and ideal) future for them. Instead of dreaming of fantastical technology, people long for the complete destruction of society. One reason for this destructive fantasy is based off of new technology. With the invention of cell phones and social media came huge changes in socialization and human connection. With these means of communication, it is becoming more and more common for spending time with friends to be through a computer, rather than face to face. And when people do go as far as to hangout in person, the buzz from an iPhone or an incoming snapchat is never absent. This constant distraction from what is right in front of us feeds into the longing for an apocalypse, because we crave quality time with our loved ones, and our loved ones alone. Another cause is the type of job the average person has. Very few occupations contain any real excitement, at least any comparable to a zombie attack. Most jobs are desk jobs, sitting behind a computer, doing tedious paperwork day after day. Although this can be satisfying to some, most still crave more activity and variety than their simply average life gives them. These reasons and the effects that they have on individuals have lead to many craving the deadly zombie apocalypse. I have a couple of suggestions of how to change this dream for the future. Seriously, we are setting the bar low if our dream is for complete destruction. So in regards to the social media/cell phone/rudeness issue here is my advice: shut it off. When hanging out with someone, do you actually like to spend time with them, or both spend more time on your phones? When phrased like this, the answer seems pretty simple, yet people still don’t do it. Do it. And for the day to day boredom, instead of praying for a zombie outbreak, try something new that you are excited about. Granted it’s not killing rabid humans status, but I’m sure there’s a video game that can mimic the sensation. So instead of dreaming of killing the walking dead, let’s aim higher! Like let's get on that flying car thing and make it a reality, ‘cause that would be awesome.
High school so far By Shiri Pagliuso Edited by Anna Mason Fresh-meat I see: The freaks and the geeks, the Three hours spent writing the last page of the history paper, the Rejection from her so-called best friend, the Pictures on facebook, the Tears, the First F, the B on her math final but, I also see the “Hi what’s your name”, the “Do you want to come sit with us”, the Shits and giggles that would go through the night, the Peer pressure that she wanted to be a part of Soph-MORE I see: The gray mornings nudging her awake, the 30 pound bag she slung on her back, the Alarm waking her up at 4:30 to finish work, the “I’m sorry”s, the Horror on her face when she heard her city had been bombed, the Tight squeeze, the Hopeful hugs, but I also see the Music blaring, her head bobbing to the beat, the Reflection of him and her in the window, the Hands coming together, his squeezed tightly around her’s, the Conversations lasting till 3 in the morning, the Seagulls dancing around in the wind, she playing in the middle, the Pointless laughs, the Quick kisses, the Everlasting summer Junya I see:Stress climbing, the Salty water drops running down her cheeks as she watches a young life lost, and that awful water running out as she buries another classmate, the Tight hugs, the Desperate love, but I also see the Her eyeliner smudging as the morning carries on, the Snow falling on her frozen ears, the
58 on the test, the Post-SAT college emails flooding in, the Dark bags under her eyes, the Pathetic smirk on his face when he said that they should go get burgers, the Freezing night solely illuminated by the moon over the lake, the Bonfires filled with intoxicated laughs and toasted marshmallows, the â€œYouâ€™re beautifulâ€?, the Slide they sat on the night he moved back, the Adrenaline rush she got from running from danger, the Color returning to her cheeks, the Smile
Little Boxes By Katherine Dorfman Edited by Sam Sharon Humans are inherently like boxes; we all experience internal satisfaction when everything can be classified and tucked away in its corresponding place and when there are no exceptions. We like divisions, order, and simplicity. Humans are all built, fundamentally, on groupings. For example, one of the most basic parts of us language- is built on categorization; the human brain creates cutoffs in audio waves and assigns each cutoff a sound (a letter) that the brain can understand. Different languages can have different cutoffs: Japanese, for example, groups the “R” and “L” sounds together while English separates the two. Likewise, colors are also based on arbitrary groups. Many believe that hundreds of years ago, humans saw the world as black, white, and grey, and only later evolved to distinguish colors by grouping ranges of frequencies together and assigning a name to each group. Groups allow societies to grow and prosper. Without groups, people would still be unable to speak or see colors. The concept of good and bad helped ancient societies by fostering a “them vs. us” mentality that kept tribes united and helped them survive. This mentality is still present in our society and manifests in the form of nationalism, devotion to a particular sports team, belief in a particular religions, etc. But is this mentality hurtful or helpful? Does it serve to keep people safe or does it make us close minded, keeping us from every uniting? Our society fosters categorization from childhood. We are read fairy tales in which the characters are either good or evil and where classifying them as such is a necessity. We are shown movies in which the good people prevail and the bad people are punished. We are introduced to a world that is only black and white. As we mature, we are exposed to books with imperfect protagonists and complex characters. However, a strong distinction between the good and the evil still exists. Take two of the most popular books of our time: Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Both of these books have two clear sides and the reader knows from the start on which side all of the characters lie: in The Hunger Games, Katniss is good and the government is bad, and in Harry Potter, Harry is good and Voldemort is bad. Even in classics such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice, it is evident from the start that Romeo and Juliet are good and their parents and society is bad and that Shylock is bad and Antonio is good. There are few popular books in our society that make one question who the “good” and the “bad” people are. I think that it is good to have a balance between categorizing everything and having no categories at all. For instance, we could spend ages listing out all of our ethnicities while it is so much simpler to stick to one. On the flip side, expecting leaders to choose a political party and agree with all of its policies is an unrealistic expectation. We should still have the feeling of “us” but that “us” should also be able to extend to the whole on important matters. We should make conscious strides towards breaking down categories, even if it is at a very small and basic level such as talking to people who have different views or pursuing unconventional interests.
Humans of Global By Margaret Beebe-Center and Julia Hurwit Edited by Sam Sharon
Sebastian Lucena-Farias “I moved here from Venezuela when I was 4 because my parents didn’t like the political status and they wanted more opportunities.” “What didn’t they like about the political status?” “They didn’t like the views of Hugo Chavez, who was the president at the time.” “How do your parents feel now that they’ve moved?” “I think they’re happier here, but still worried about the family we have in Venezuela.” “What is the country like now?” “At the moment there are a lot of riots and protests because people don’t agree with the current politicians.”
“Are you happy that you moved?” “Yeah, I’m happy here.”