It did not take long for Cam to discover that her only flatmate that was currently living in the apartment was a French native with horrid English and no real desire to hang out with Cam. That, combined with the blues of moving so many miles away from home, resulted in Cam spending lots of time in our apartment. It was not long, then, until we started taking her around town, and, when we went to the grocery store, Cam decided she wanted to cook dinner with us.
Have I described the grocery store?
There are two grocery stores we generally shop at. One is annoying and usually has bad produce. The other is located in the basement of a department store. So, just in case you got hungry while trying on your beautiful clothes and new shoes, you can either go to the café on the top floor or the grocery store in the basement. It also features my favorite escalators: they’re like the moving walkways in the airport, but they slope down to the next level. Obviously, we chose to take Cam to this grocery store.
While we wandered around and did our weekly shopping (after one or two days on our own, Cait, Anne, and I started doing a large portion of our shopping together), Cam inspected various ingredients and announced that she would make Salsa Baked Chicken.
Now, in my book, a Salsa Bake is not legit Mexican. On the other hand, who am I to throw stones, as nothing I make is truly authentic–as with most recipes, I adjust it to suit my own tastes. However, buying a can (and not even the stuff in the cold case–the stuff on the shelf in an actual tin can) of salsa and then pouring it over raw chicken and then throwing it in the oven and expecting a miracle to happen is not acceptable in my book. Nevertheless, we agreed, and Cam set off to find salsa.
Oh, apparently we should have warned her. There’s really no such thing as canned Mexican goods. Or any Asian goods. Or anything that might be slightly spicy. Basically, anything I would actually cook is a pain to find ingredients for. About a week later, Maggie introduced me to a small Asian store where they basically spoke no English, but they sold all of the precious peppers and things that I need to cook the foods I am normally used to, but at this point in time, the tiny shop I came to love was only something I dreamed about. Thus, Cam was in the normal store, wandering around, trying to find salsa.
The best thing she managed to find was Doritos Cool Ranch Salsa.
I didn’t know such a thing existed. Apparently it does.
We had a long discussion about the validity of this product. In the end, Cam decided to buy it, positive she could create a wonderful chicken bake from it. I stocked up on more veggies so I could make guacamole and pico de gallo, just in case. We trudged back the apartment, Cam borrowed a pan and threw the chicken and pseudo-salsa in, and I started the tedious process of chopping onions with a dull knife. I even stopped to sharpen it, and in the end concluded we needed a new chef’s knife. Until then, we would have to do with larger chunks of onion.
I was just beginning to make tortillas when Cam pulled it out, checked the meat (it shredded beautifully), and prepped it. In the meanwhile, we texted Christy and Sam and asked if they wanted to join us. They agreed, and popped up just in time for me to burn the last few tortillas. Unfortunately, I still have not managed to make a batch of tortillas without burning some. Now thoroughly hungry after smelling food cooking for so long, we all sat down. We were ready to devour any food, even poorly made and canned (shudder) salsa. Thus, we laid it all out and dug in.
It was beautiful.
Until we tasted the meat.
I’ve never taken the idea of sweetmeats literally. I don’t think anyone else was expecting it, either. Fortunately, Cam was one of the most gracious cooks. She was the first to point out that the chicken tasted like it had been bathed in sugar. We tried a little more, before someone finally got up and went and got the can. The third ingredient was sugar.
Now, I understand that you put sugar in some tomato things, like when you’re making tomato sauce, and a tiny bit in when you make tomato soup. But salsa? Please. That’s like putting black pepper in sweet tea. It is an abomination that should never be done.
We ended up tossing the chicken and breaking up the tortillas to use like naan bread, using it to scoop out portions of pico and guacamole featuring slightly underripe tomatoes. Christy sang a little, and we spent the evening talking and having a generally good time. We had (hopefully) learned our lesson: fresh food is best, and whatever happens, when two California girls fight over how to make Mexican food, it’s probably not going to end up as the dinner you expected.
Also–salsa should never, ever, EVER have sugar in it. Ever.