ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Afghanistan Food Supplement: Mexican Food

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AFGHANISTAN VOL_4-2018. Afghanistan Food Supplement: Mexican Food (Disclaimer: Because of of the safety and sensitivities during this deployment, I will not be divulging my exact location or my mission. Nothing spooky, but because there are fewer American's deployed into the Afghan Theater than in 2013, the threat to life and limb is greater. Please do not ask me questions in relation to those issues I require to keep to myself. What I can tell you is that I am safe behind thousands of pounds of concrete somewhere on Bagram Air Force Base.)


A little bit about the food here in Afghanistan. I’ll probably come back to this topic a few times as interesting things come about; people always want to learn how other people eat. Let me also assure you that I am not suffering in Afghanistan. The food provided by the military here is far more than what most folks in the world are able to eat. Please know that I realize that my comments here are purely first world problems, so take them as such.

The last time I had the luxury of an all-expenses-paid tour to Afghanistan, I was stationed in Kabul and had the pleasure (sic) of eating at the Supreme Dining Facility at ISAF Headquarters. My normal meal was to have soup and salad for lunch and then at night, eat something light like baked chicken breast with a vegetable and a salad. I supplemented the food from the dining facility with my absolute favorite brand of canned salmon, fruit, and various crisps (chips for you dorky Americans). The meals were predominantly fine except for Wednesdays, which were deemed Mexican night.

Admission: I might be a Mexican food snob. I think I’ve earned it from living in Southern California and Arizona. Okay. Fine. I am a Mexican food snob.

When I think of Mexican food, I don’t think of the Chimichanga or Fajitas. The Chimichanga was allegedly accidentally invented in Tucson in 1922 at El Charro Restaurant and Fajitas were cattlemen food in South and West Texas at the turn of the 19th Century. These are Tex-Mex dishes and aren’t real Mexican food. Basically, if it’s served at Taco Bell it’s not what I consider Mexican Food; although if someone wanted to open a Taco Bell in Afghanistan, I’d be the first one in line because it’s scrumptious food in general—just not what I consider Mexican.


What do I consider Mexican food? Because I live just north of the Mexican states of Sonora and am close to Baja, consider that those are my major Mexican culinary influences. So think fish tacos and shrimp burritos. Meats including carne barbacoa, cabeza, and adibado (my favorite). Birrierias that specialize in lamb like the ones in Aguascalientes, Mexico, are incredible. My sister’s unbelievable Red Chili Posole is definitely on the list. Any variation of a grilled meat or fish with pickled vegies on a small soft tortilla makes a great street taco, especially the ones at Lechón Mi Güero in Aguascalientes.

Taco from Lechon Mi Guero
Too often we think of Mexican food as heavy, weighed down after a plate of deep fried chimichanga with fries and refried beans. Although platters of green or red sauced enchiladas can be found at virtually every Mexican family get together, these are paired with grilled meats, limes, lemons, various chilis and both fresh and pickled vegetables. I find most Mexican food to be bright, simple, and terrifically tasting.


Even back in 1991, when I was in Beijing, I managed to find the only Mexican restaurant in the city
(maybe the country). Back then (was it 26 years ago?), China was just beginning to throw off its communist yoke and beginning to embrace the parts of Western Culture that would allow it to eventually become the economic superpower it is today. Back then, I hung out a bar called the Mexican Wave. Owned by Peter, son of the exiled crown prince of Uganda, this was a place for expats to come, socialize, let our hair down, and on Friday nights, eat Mexican food cooked by a Mexican woman who spent her days cleaning for diplomats. I remember the tacos tasted like they were in Mexico, small, using soft tortillas, but bright and light and succulent. I never did ask the provenance of the meat. Probably better that way.

My family at Lechon Mi Guero
This is my long way of getting around to talking about eating Mexican food in Afghanistan. For Supreme Dining Facility, Wednesday nights were Mexican food night. Tacos and enchiladas were the mainstay. They also served grilled chicken, which is a universal taste, dependent on what is added to it. In the case of Supreme, they added a homemade salsa/hot sauce that had a weird funk to it. I remember a tang that I could not place that wasn’t at all pleasant. And they poured this salsa on everything, topped with sour cream, and finished with handfuls of shredded cheddar cheese. All of my NATO friends ate this version of Mexican food with gusto. I might have stuck with it had the sauce not had that funk. I could have maybe toughed it out had one night's taste resulted into seventy-three visits to the bathroom.

So Mexican nights became Pizza Nights. We were fortunate to have the Italian PX called Ciano’s on ISAF which imported all of their ingredients from Italy and cooked the best real Italian pizzas. My favorite was their Gorgonzola pizza. I’d order a large, eat about three huge pieces, then take it to the office and leave it for the rest of the folks. Mexican night soon became Weston Is Bringing Pizza Night, because that’s how I rolled. (Except for that time we were traveling and had Cianos in Herat -  I could have moved into the bathroom the amount of time I spent in there. I know. It's the water.) 

Currently, there's a dedicated Mexican night at a nearby dining facility that I can go to. But I've heard that their Mexican lasagna, tacos, and enchiladas were questionable. I've heard the sauce has a funk to it. And alas, there's no Cianos. So, I guess I'll have to wave Mexican nights and let the rest of the folks fake the funk.

Until then, I'll eat the other things on offer. But one thing I will do as a nod to my beloved Mexican food is add metric tons of jalapenos to whatever food I am eating. God bless the folks at the dining facility. They don’t scrimp on fresh jalapenos. I add them to my tuna melts, to my salads, to my spaghetti, and to my soups. I add them to about everything.

I guess until I get back to my corner of the world that’s the closest I will get to Mexican food. Until then, I will pine for a Filliberto’s shrimp burrito, an adibado taco with lemon, my sister's red chili posole, and pork tacos with my family at Lechón Mi Güero.

Those are memories I can culinarily embrace.


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To read the rest of my Afghanistan Posts:

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