Mexican Junk Food: A Primer

When I first took Devin to Chihuahua, he noted that my eating habits completely changed as soon as we crossed the border. “What do you mean?,” I asked between sips of my chamoyada, surrounded by empty candy wrappers and bags of chips.

“You eat a lot more junk food,” he responded.

I thought about it for a second and realized he was right, “That’s because U.S. junk food is so terrible.”

I don’t mean that it’s worse for your health or anything. It’s just so basic. When we cross the border I feel an overwhelming sadness for the millions of Americans who are deprived of decent junk-food choices. Sometimes (as recently as this week) I stand forlornly in the chips aisle scanning the shelves for something good before I walk away as the sad Charlie Brown song plays in the background. To be fair, the United States has made some progress (it’s a developing country). There are jalapeño chips and lime-flavored chips in a lot of grocery aisles and sandwich shops, but I fear it will be decades before we get lime AND chili flavors combined. And if I’m being honest with myself I have to admit a sad and scary truth: this country may never catch up.

When Devin and I went to Mexico this summer, I decided to do the world a favor by documenting some of the snack bounty my home has to offer. You already know I could go on and on about elote en vaso and chamoy, but this time I decided to stick to things U.S. readers might be able to find at Mexican-import stores because I am all about bringing the maximum amount of joy to the greatest number of people possible.

bag of cheese rufflesMy first piece of advice, should you find yourself in the glorious presence of Mexican snacks, is to forget EVERYTHING you know. Yes, this looks like an ordinary bag of cheese-flavored Ruffles, but I assure you it is not. While their U.S. counterparts taste vaguely like a cheesy dust, Ruffles de Queso taste like sharp cheddar and that sparkly sound magic wands make in cartoons. This is a great Mexican Junk Food 101 snack for those unaccustomed to spicy food (looking at you, Midwest).

Mexican snack cake (brand-name: Nito by Bimbo) on a store shelfI resisted trying this snack cake for a long time because the branding for it is questionable at best, but I tried it this summer, and it’s delicious. Unlike most snack cakes, the cream filling is chocolate, not that weird overly-sweet whipped cream stuff you might expect, and the chocolate icing has a sugar crystal texture that contrasts perfectly with the softness of the cake. I packed a lot in my suitcase. They are all gone. Send provisions.

Fuego-flavored Chip's brand chipsI know what you are thinking: that apostrophe doesn’t go there! I know, I know, and your second-grade teacher would be so proud, but she probably never gave you a snack that tasted this good, which should be enough to make you question the entire educational system (#staywoke). Fortunately, in the past couple of years, Takis Fuego, a cousin of this chip has appeared in bodegas across Brooklyn (Queens already had them, and I bet the Bronx and Upper Manhattan were similarly ahead of the game. Also, those regions of New York City probably don’t have to deal with the onslaught of different artisanal mayo stores popping up, but that is a topic for a different day). Back to the chip at hand: imagine the flavor of Takis Fuego combined with the unparalleled crunch of kettle chips. It’s enough to make you want to add apostrophe’s to all the word’s.

Gansito snack cake

Gansito’s tagline is “¡Recuérdame!,” which translates to “Remember me!” but who could forget a vanilla cake topped with strawberry jelly and the tiniest bit of white cream wrapped in a beautiful chocolate coating and topped with chocolate sprinkles?  It’s unforgettable.

At this point you might be thinking, “But Kristy, I haven’t been training to subsist on junk food for the past 26 years like you! This is too much! My stomach hurts!”

Fine, go get yourself a green juice, ESPECIALLY if you are in Mexico.

Green Juice

You might be surprised to learn that your green juice doesn’t contain kale, but you’ll feel like a badass when you tell your friends in the States that you drank cactus.

Mexican Junk Food: A Primer

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