Musings of an Englishman who literally quit his life in Devon in mid-2012 to move to Tijuana to love a girl.
They ended up in San Diego where he became a TV anchorman (yes really...), they got married, and now they're living in England together.
Simple as that really.
Follow your heart, who knows where it will lead.

Crazy. Beautiful. Madness.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The great chili hunt

IT took all of five minutes after landing on British soil for Jacky to ask the question: “So… where can we buy chilis?”
Shit got serious minutes after.
Now, readers of this blog may well comment on the fact that I/we talk about ‘chili’ a lot. However nothing is more apparent now in our everyday lives than the apparent lack of heat/spice.
I think I felt the same way when I had my Star Wars toys taken away from me as a child after bullying my brother.
Somehow the Tesco ‘mixed chilis’ pack just doesn’t cut it.
Sure you can get jalapenos in a tin, but apparently it’s just not good enough.
And so begins the great chili hunt.
Just days after arriving back in the UK we began trawling the aisles of high-street supermarkets, corner shops, delicatessens, and even farmers markets.
While Jacks let out a yelp of glee at finding chilis, tortillas and other Mexican-related foods at the supermarket, nothing really completely ticks the box.


Further joy

The look of happiness says it all...

'Very hot' chilis

Chili powder - check

'Sweet' tortillas
The ‘guajillo’ chili – to this day, just over a week after arriving back in England – still eludes us.
Any ideas anyone?!
On one instance this past week I caught Jacky watching a YouTube video on how to make a toffee apple… only with tamarindo and chili rather than toffee.
“Mmmmmm… tacos…” Jacks soon after remarked on seeing a friend’s Facebook post and them devouring the dish.
Our circumstances may have changed dramatically, however mi esposa’s love of chili has not.
It’s only when you’ve been away from the UK for a while that you realize just how different our palates are.
Everything in the UK somehow just tastes sweeter.
Food in the US is incredibly unhealthy, notably for its salt/sugar content.
Eating a bag of chips (crisps) you need a glass of water to make it to the bottom.
But here, everything does appear to taste sweeter (which may well be the reason why Americans think that every Brit has ‘bad teeth’).
The look of pure disgust on Jacky’s face when she bit into an El Paso tortilla a couple of days ago said it all really.
She even remarked on how sweet Doritos taste. And she’s right.
Of course some things are always going to be sweet – and they’re admittedly all the better for it.
You can’t go wrong with a large dollop of jam and clotted cream on a scone. Right?

The controversial cream tea
However, in the process of preparing a scone and uploading a picture of the joyous occasion on Facebook, we started somewhat of an age-old debate about the whole ‘cream or jam first’.
Cornish = jam first.
Devonshire = cream first.
I have to say, controversially, I’m firmly in the ‘cream first’ camp.
Jacks is still undecided.
Further joy has been evident in re-discovering our love of crumpets.
Wowzers. If the rest of the world hasn’t cottoned on yet they’re clearly missing a trick.
Seeing your wife’s face light up at the sight of a freshly toasted crumpet is something to behold.
And a traditional roast dinner…? I.n.c.r.e.d.i.b.l.e.
It’s the simple things which make life better. And food makes EVERYTHING better.
Like eating a good Chinese takeaway for instance.
We take it for granted here in the UK but overseas… well, it’s a different story.
Last year, shortly after first arriving in San Diego, I Googled the words ‘good Chinese takeaway San Diego’.
Seconds later a few gazillion results were found. The first on the list… “there are NO good Chinese takeaways in San Diego”.
And boy, Google was right.
With such a high density of Asians in San Diego, it’s bizarre that Chinese food can be SO bad over there.
So yes, food (and the lack of traditional Mexican chili) has been one of the main talking points and features of our return.
The last few days of our time in California has also been the topic of much discussion.
The visa application/notice at work etc seemed to be going so slowly and then – as fate would have it – everything sped up like a runaway train.
Jacks’ visa arrived in the post, and so began the fervent last minute ‘goodbyes’ and subsequent packing.
I have to admit that we actually started packing months ago. At least I did.
When we knew our time was coming to an end in San Diego I set the wheels in motion for our exit.
And, in the process of doing so, I realized a few further differences between here and there.
You see if you want to sell something second-hand in the UK you list it in the back of a newspaper or on a website.
Things generally take a while to sell, and you may never get a phone call - hence my decision to advertise the things we were selling early.
But I have to tell you, that process in the US is COMPLETELY different.
Within seconds of advertising bits on the website, ‘Craigslist’, people begin phoning.
They come round and they begin asking about other bits you have in the apartment – including things that aren’t actually for sale.
And of course, they also generally offer a 100th of the advertised price.
Still, my naivity of this process caught us out.
Try explaining to your wife where the TV/sofa/stools/TV cabinet/desk/and kitchen utensils and appliances have gone… two months before you’re due to move out!
It’s fair to say I wasn’t in the best books for a while…
Still, I stand by my thinking: Clear the apartment so we know what we have left to take to the UK.
As anyone who’s been in the situation will know, condensing and collecting an ENTIRE apartment into a few suitcases is not easy – especially when your wife is Mexican, and she doesn’t know what the climate at the end destination will actually be like.
Girls really don’t get the concept of packing. Clearly.
At one point I had to remind her: “Um, they do have shops in the UK…”
Yes, this comment didn’t get my out of the bad books.
Knowing that we were facing a fairly hefty excess baggage charge, I attempted to ship a few bits back.
Bad idea. Airline excess baggage fees for up to 23kgs = $100.
One small box containing a couple of books and a picture frame = $180+.

Shipping news
Go figure.
Someone’s clearly making a lot of money.
So in the end we managed to bag everything up ready for our departure.
To this day I’m still not sure how we a). acquired so much stuff in so little time; and b). actually fit all that stuff into our suitcases.
Two years ago I arrived with a guitar and a bag of T-shirts and board shorts.
The day we left… five suitcases, a guitar, an iMac, two additional bags and other bits.

Some of our luggage...
The woman at the check-in desk looked ready to have a fit.
I just gave her my credit card, and then very nearly cried.
And fitting everything in my father’s Volkswagen Golf at the other end…? I personally think we broke some sort of record with that feat.
So yes, we’re back. And it’s beautiful. And Jacks is clearly very happy which makes me happy.
Say what you want about the rainfall in the UK but without it, it wouldn’t look so lovely and green.
Now… where did I leave the brolly ('umbrella' to those outside the UK)?

Twitter: @tristan_nichols

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