Friday, June 12

There Will Be Botanas

If the GRE were all food-related analogies, I would ace that crap blindfolded. Spain: tapas as Mexico: botanas. Duh. The answer should always be botanas.

Is snacking at the root of my love of the Spanish-speaking world? Umm, yes. Definitely yes. Though I've only been to Spain and Mexico, the libation accompaniments I've eaten in these locales have impressed me more than anywhere else.

This time of year (well, this time of year in the States) I'm on the prowl for some quality snacks. Not just any snacks either, I'm looking for small, simple foods that pair well with drinking outdoors in warm weather. Let's face it, summer is the love-child of nature and drinking, obviously.

I love all snacks, but for those lovely June days, a basket of potato chips is not going to cut it. Guacamole, fresh salsa, marinated olives, cheese and fruit, hummus, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto are a few classics that are a little more appropriate for the warm, alcohol drenched days of early summer. Fresh and salty are basically the criteria I'm trying to meet.

Mexico gets it. The botanas here are simple and delicious and are the perfect fit for warm days. If I could modify the Mexican flag, the snake that the eagle is clutching would have "Fresh and Salty" written on its body. Maybe it's already understood that snakes are fresh and salty, but for my taste you never can be too blatant.

The primary snack that accompanies a beer here feels like a no-brainer, but has a couple extra touches that push it up a few notches. Peanuts coated with chili powder and served with a lime wedge may not sound dazzling (they should, but I'll allow that they might not), but they are. Peanuts and beer have always been buddies, but these badboys are a cold Bohemia's soulmate. I'm not sure if they sell these same pre-made spiced up P's in the U.S. (check your local Mexican grocery), but I think some Spanish Peanuts, a little melted butter, a few shakes of chili powder, a tad of minced garlic, a quick toast in the oven, and served with a lime wedge would do just the trick.

Hmmm, I might need to change my Mexican flag slogan to "Chili and Lime," because my next botana favorite is also heavy on these. Or maybe I'll just imagine that the red and green are representative of these. I swear I'm not trying to belittle or offend the entire nation of Mexico by imagining the flag in snack related terms. I think of all flags in food related terms. I think this is a product of my birthday's proximity to the 4th of July and subsequently a lifetime of U.S. flag birthday cakes.

Anyway, moving away from my food-culture broad-brushing and back to the snacks--my favorite bar snack so far is incredibly simple. It is a plate of carrots, jicama, and cucumber cut into strips, topped with fresh lime juice and chili. It is beautiful, fresh, delicious, and light (let the beer bog you down, not the snacks).

This spiced up relish plate, a bowl of chili peanuts, and some guacamole are my botana trio of choice--the perfect way to spend a warm fuzzy-minded afternoon in the sun.

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