The place had an impressive selection of hot sauces.
In lieu of a restaurant, I dreamed up something equally impractical: a magazine for Japanese people who dig Mexican food and have limited access to it. And if you spilled sauce on the cover, the paper would be treated with a glossy coating so you could wipe it off. And it would be a single annual issue, more a book than a zine, though it would have a zine’s dimensions — about the size of a DMV study manual — and a book’s production qualities. I also selfishly wanted a way to transport myself back to Japan in my mind, since I couldn’t afford to return yet in reality, and a magazine that sucked all my time and attention would do just that.In our era of war, xenophobia, and misunderstanding, we needed more sharing, cross-culturation, and compassion, and we needed reminders that we were more alike than different. Maybe it would inspire people in Osaka, Kyoto, and further afield to start their own taquerias. Although I hoped readers would enjoy cooking the dishes in each issue, I wanted to encourage people to go further: take the recipes and modify them.wasn’t meant to impose my way of life on anyone or dilute Japan’s unique culture. Add their own twist ─ some nori, some matcha, maybe dashi or miso — and transform them into something uniquely Japanese.Rather than leftover space, this was standard Tokyo efficiency. Chain donburi automats like , and an abundance of udon, ramen, and sushi. When I climbed the narrow staircase to the fourth floor, the restaurant was closed. A small cook station overlooked a clutter of wooden tables.These places filled my belly with succulent novelties and comforting carbs soaked in fat. Cactus drawings decorated the signs amid Japanese characters.I do.) Substitutions can be creative opportunities rather than deficiencies.When readers invented something delicious, I’d invite them to email and tell me.I wanted to taste their creations and share them on the magazine’s website. “Mexican food” is the vague umbrella term we use for food originally cooked in different parts of Mexico, which is an enormous, diverse country not unlike India.But when you’re eating it in Japan, as told by a white guy/gaijin/gringo who grew up in Arizona, cultural distinctions mattered less.Named after the iconic lonchero lunch truck and Dick Dale’s 1964 instrumental surf song, the magazine would combine elements of a cookbook, guide book, art book, and zine to celebrate food from northern Mexico, southern California and the American Southwest, what people call Sonora- and California-style Mexican food. Whether people loved tacos and burritos and wanted to cook them themselves, or they’d only heard about them and wanted to know more, this magazine would be for them. The debut issue would contain brief sections outlining what I’d call “The Basics” (ie, five pillars of Sonoran style cooking), ten simple recipes from famous restaurants; a feature called “Taco Origami” where perforated paper lets readers create a fold-up taco and fold-up burrito, to practice the art of folding the real thing; an illustrated map of must-eat Mexican restaurants in the US; a history of the lonchero; a glossary of useful terms (verde, rojo, arroz, polo); a short opinion piece called “What Taco Bell Does Wrong: Everything” (providing the sort of guide I wish I had for Japanese restaurant chains); a photo essay of popular hot sauces (including Cholula, Valentina, Tapatío, El Pato, Búfalo Chipotle Mexican Hot Sauce); and a hand-drawn anatomy of a tortilla press (drawn like a cartoon blue print, except with brown ink on tan paper). Even when we shared few words in common, many strangers became friends over plates of fish and vegetables.The issue would also contain a short personal essay I wrote called “Confessions of a Burrito Monomaniac.” Hopefully there was a Japanese word for “monomaniac.” If it was feasible financially, it would include a scratch and sniff page for beans and enchilada sauce, which would be pretty damn cool in any language. Sometimes I failed to get the names or email addresses of the kind strangers I met at bars and cafes, but the Facebook friend requests piled up when I did exchange names, and I would remember those other people forever.