One of the many surprises writing has offered to me is the joy of research. I never thought I would like researching, although I have to admit a certain affection for odd historical facts and a love of history, the actual researching never appealed to me, certainly not in relation to writing my books. All things change, however, and often it only takes one person to open the door to a new idea and in so doing open a floodgate.
When I first started writing my blog, I had no idea what to write about. Sometimes still, ideas stall in my mind and I sit looking at the page in blank wonder. Usually about the time I'm deciding to log out and call it a day, an idea pops up, like a cartoon light bulb above my head, and I begin to write. It was during these early attempts, however, that a good friend of mine suggested I do a taste test of bourbon in honor of my first book, "A Convoluted Tale". He pointed out that since the story is set mainly in Kentucky and the characters swill a great deal of the lovely liquid it would be good to do some testing myself and write about that. So I did and it was a blast. I hope the blog post was enjoyable to read for the taste testing certainly was a wonderful time.
With this in mind I thought I would embark on another taste test, partly because there is a great deal going on my life right now and I find food comforting, and partly because sometimes writing something different stimulates my writing in my given genres as well. Both my second novel, and my upcoming novella, both take place in the American Southwest so I thought I would a taste test of Southwestern Cuisine. Yes, I know I already did a taste test of huevos rancheros, so I decided to skip that dish and go for the real "meat and potatoes" of Southwestern food. I decided I would visit, and cook, three of my favorite dishes. They were cheese enchiladas, calavasitas, and a staple for my family, tacos (both chicken and beef). I tend to like food extra spicy hot so I picked two restaurants and then cooked the third sample at home.
The results were delicious. In the restaurants, both authentic Mexican restaurants, the cheese enchiladas were brilliant, though lacking in fire. One restaurant did not offer calavasitas, while the other did but the squash was squishy and didn't mingle well with the other flavors. Both restaurants offered pretty middle of the road tacos, not greasy or heavy, but solid, good tasting tacos. I was pleased with the results, the food was really very good and the restaurants were fun, creating a festive and cheerful atmosphere that made up for whatever the food may have lacked.
At home, was another story, however. I do not have pinatas or sombreros every where and although my kids would give a mariachi band a run for their money in the volume department, the atmosphere is a bit less carefree and bubbly at home. The food, however, is better, if I do say so myself. I was able to cook everything just how I like it (with some guidance over the phone from my brilliant mother). Everything was spicy, spicy, spicy and had a plethora of flavors that mixed, mingled, and all but did the salsa in my mouth. Not to mention the fact that the kids and I had a really good time tossing ingredients about and splashing sauce across things with a few sample bites taken in between of course!
At the end of the day, or in this case, the taste test, I preferred the food made at home. Not only did it taste better but it was fun to create with the help of my wily assistants. Of the food taste tested, I loved the calavasitas most, their is something mouth watering about the combination of the squash, onions, and cheese that make it comforting and irresistible. In addition, when I was done, I was completely inspired to sit down and right with my senses filled with the aroma, taste, and texture of the Southwest.