Honestly? I’m a gringo. But I grew up near enough to take daytrips into México. And I always had enough friends with big Mexican families to get a taste of—and for—south-of-the-border culture. Which, to me, meant The Two Fs: Family and Food! Their families always found reasons to celebrate, ways to express la alegría de la vida! And, oh, how the second F, their Food, expressed that joy!
I remember watching sisters and aunts chatter as they ground corn into masa on heavy granite stones. And brothers and uncles laughing as they grilled carnitas, pollo, and carne asada. Then tortillas and tamales that were corn-on-the-cob just minutes earlier were filled with wonderfully spiced ingredients and tossed onto grills or into steamers.
Tiempo de fiesta!
Then we moved to Cincinnati. It was a wonderful city with great dining and cultural experiences. But Mexican food? Nada. All we could find were what I called “Midwestican” restaurants selling prefab shells filled with ground beef, shredded lettuce and American cheese, “spiced” with ketchup disguised as salsa.
Then we discovered a little taqueria just 20 minutes out of town in the midst of a bolsillo of Mexican immigrants. Here was a gift from the saints: an authentic Mexican restaurant run by an extended familia! So auténtico was it, in fact, that we were the only English-speakers present. It may sound odd, but the moment we walked in I turned to my wife and said, “We’re home!”
Since then, to my unending felicidad, Cincinnati has gone loco for Mexican food and culture, even hatching an annual celebration called Cincy Cinco. Sí, the Two Fs are alive and well in Cincinnati, and I couldn’t be happier! So…
Happy Cinco de Mayo to all (even grateful gringos like me)!