Cheeky little Speedy Gonzales, the fastest mouse in all Mexico, dressed in his large yellow hat with a red kerchief at his neck, began entertaining us in the mid-Fifties when he became Sylvester the Cat’s nemesis (and vice versa). In haste, when I was a kid I skipped off to Saturday afternoon matinees hoping to be amused by his wild antics. Speedy had a leaning towards hot Tabasco Sauce as one of his main weapons of choice. Poor old Sylvester was often outsmarted and humiliated by the nifty Speedy and his liberal lashings of Tabasco. Speedy was hot to trot when it came to helping his own kind, though.
Speedy’s cousin Slowpoke Rodriguez, in turn known as the slowest mouse in all Mexico, often had to be rescued by his fleet of foot, flashy, fearless cousin.
However, in the mid-Sixties Speedy got a rude awakening when Daffy Duck rode into town packing a six-shooter! Daffy probably either waddled or paddled into town, but you get my drift! Daffy wasn’t a duck to muck about with as many a cartoon character from the late-Thirties through to the Sixties discovered. He was a cantankerous fellow when he felt like it; and he felt like it often.
I moseyed onto this subject because I’ve just prepared some guacamole. I’ve not made it for ages; I have no excuse to offer because there are close to a dozen avocado trees on this property here where I roam!
I’m expecting a visit from a friend. The guacamole will play a central role in our grazing platter. While preparing the legendary dip a thought was triggered causing my mind to speedily turn north-east towards Mexico; hence my ramblings. Obviously, it doesn’t take much to start me off!
I missed a ride on a passing burro; so I was a relatively latecomer to the joys Mexican food, I think…maybe not.
For a few months in early1969 I dated an Aussie hombre. Together we regularly visited the Gold Coast on weekends. During our visits said hombre introduced me to a little place hidden away in a street behind the main drag at Mermaid Beach or Miami (one or the other) called “Taco Bill”. The Gold Coast operation opened in 1967. It was the first “Taco Bill” in Australia before expanding to the southern states.
I’ll include here a little bit of the history behind “Taco Bill”:-
“Taco” Bill Chilcote came to Australia in 1967. He originated from the border of Mexico and California, exactly where along that border, I don’t know. It has been said he arrived in Australia with little else other than a corn grinder and tortilla machine under his arms. The first eatery Bill opened was the one we used to visit on the Gold Coast. The lure of Sydney and Melbourne soon enticed him to the south…”Taco” Bill had heard we Queenslanders called those south of the Queensland border as being “Mexicans”. Highly excited by the possibilities, off he sped…to the south! There are no 35 locally-owned and operated “Taco Bill” restaurants operating in Australia…all Australian-owned; and all franchises.
At the time my amigo and I discovered “Taco Bill” – in it’s early days - the eatery was an unadorned, but welcoming “hole in the wall”. It may not have been a fancy establishment, but the Mexican fare they presented in its simplicity was excellent, especially their Chilli Con Carne. I loved Billy’s chilli. Whenever I paid a visit it was what I dined upon...with gusto!
Bill’s prices were reasonable; his product superior. “Taco Bill” wasn’t an elaborately-decorated eatery, but it exuded a relaxed, cosy atmosphere. Si Señor!
With good food and prices what more could two amigos wish for?
Through the Seventies my taste for Mexican food grew.
After living in the States for almost a decade upon my then future husband-to-be Randall’s (now my ex) returned to Australia from the US, he brought with him his love of Mexican food.
Randall had lived and worked in New York City for nigh on a decade as I’ve mentioned previously, but he also travelled extensively, not only through the US, but he also found time to visit the UK, Europe, and even Morocco. Around August/September 1969 he decided he wanted to pay a brief visit to his home country; to catch up with family and friends (including me).
With that purpose in mind Randall's intention was to find a job on a ship heading Down Under. By doing so, it would enable him to work his way home for "free" as such..
Having sub-let his apartment in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Randall found his way down to Mexico. While there the lure of The Yucatan Peninsula was too strong to ignore. He fell in love with The Yucatan. (We made plans in the early Eighties to visit the US, Mexico, The Yucatan and Central America together, but those plans never came unstuck...another story for another day).
Leaving Mexico, Randall then ventured further south to Central America, eventually ending up in Panama where he succeeded in landing himself a job as a deckhand on a German ship that was heading to Australia. He spent most of the journey down on his hands and knees scraping rust of the ship's deck under the stern, watchful eyes of the Germans! It was no pleasure cruise!
Randall’s visit to his homeland only lasted about two months before he headed off to the Northern Hemisphere again, ending up in Manhattan.
During his brief visit he brought with him his love of Mexican food.
When Randall finally arrived back home to Queensland for good in late 1974, he’d not left his love for Mexican food behind. He wasted no time imparting the love of it to me. I soon mastered the culinary art of Mexican fare. It featured on our dinner menu at least twice a week
Mexican cuisine rapidly gained popularity throughout Australia, too, proving I wasn’t the only señorita in the cactus patch.
Long before we’d heard of Huevos Rancheros, Mole Poblano, Enchiladas, Quesadillas etc., Mexico was way ahead of the rest of the world with bombón -de chocolate; chocolate, the unmatchable Elixir of Life; the ambrosia and nectar of the gods. Forget the Greek gods; ignore Zeus and his pals - they’re a myth!
Chocolate is native to Mexico; and chocolate is real! Deliciously decadent, impossible-to-ignore (who wants to?) chocolate is no myth.
Corn maybe the basis of a Mexican diet, but chocolate is the core to our survival, one and all; Aussies, Mexicans - everyone far and wide. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I know this because my second best friend Speedy Gonzales told me.
When I was a kid I wrecked a few of Mum’s beach hats while doing the Mexican Hat Dance around them. She wasn’t impressed; but I believed I was a brilliant exponent of the lively dance! Olé!
Mexican Chilli-Chocolate Red Pork: Cut 1.5kg braising pork into 4cm cubes; pat dry. Heat 1tbs olive oil in casserole; brown pork in batches; remove each batch as it’s done. Then sauté 1 roughly chopped large onion until pale gold; ad 1tsp cumin, 1/2tsp cinnamon, 1/8tsp ground cloves and 4 finely chopped garlic cloves; cook 3mins; then put in blender. Toast 4 whole dried ancho chillis in dry pan over med-heat, 3mins; remove stalks and seeds. Pour 625ml boiling water into pan with 30g dark chocolate pieces, 3 dried chipotle chillis, the anchos and 85g raisins; leave 10mins. Toast 50g unsalted peanuts and 50g blanched almonds in dry pan until just golden. Put in blender; carefully pour choc-chilli mix and further 625ml water; season; blend to puree. Return pork and juices to casserole; pour on choc-chilli mix; combine; bring to just under the boil; turn heat right down; cook gently 1-1/2hrs. If it gets dry, the heat is too high. The pork should be tender and the liquid reduced. Sprinkle with coriander; serve with rice, sour cream and avocado salad.
Speedy Chicken Mole (Rhymes with Olé): Season 600g, boned, skinned chicken thighs. Heat 1tbs oil in large skillet over high heat; add chicken; cook, turning once until browned, about 5mins total; transfer to plate. Reduce heat to medium; add 1tbs oil, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1tbs chilli powder, 1/2tsp each cumin and cinnamon and 1/8tsp salt. Cook, stirring until fragrant; add 1 can crushed tomatoes, 1/2/c chicken stock, 1/4c mini semi-sweet choc chips and 1tbs almond butter or natural peanut butter; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to med-low; return chicken and juices to pan; turn to coat with the sauce. Simmer about 5mins more. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Guacamole: Halve 4 ripe avocados; remove the seeds; scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mash the flesh, leaving it a bit chunky; don’t turn it into a puree. Once you’ve done that, add the juice of 1 lime, ½ a red onion, chopped, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 firm tomato, diced, 2tbs fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped, 1/4tspn cumin, 1/4tsp chilli powder or flakes (or finely-chopped fresh hot chilli); season to taste; mix gently. Cover with plastic wrap; and chill for at least 1 hour before serving. That last instruction is meant for the guacamole, not you!