Spice boys

My in-laws are very nice. They have welcomed me into their home for as long as we need until Cesia and I can move into our flat. There is a cultural misunderstanding, that has shown me what Mexicans think of Brits.

My in-laws are terrified that I will eat something spicy and die.

Yesterday I reheated some leftover chicken in a pan. I threw in some chopped up chili and tomatoes and sprinkled the whole thing with salt. I ate it with a couple of tortillas and it was good. I don’t know the names of the different chilis but this was green about twice as big as a jalapeño. It had a mild kick to it and was a bit sweet. In short, it was fine.

Later that evening Cesia told me that her dad had seen the pan I had used and saw that there were a few seeds in it. The seeds (or the membrane connecting the seeds to the rest of the chili – thanks, QI) are the hottest part of the chili. Cesia’s dad worried that I had eaten these, which I had, and suffered from the heat, which I hadn’t.

I’m not saying this as any kind of macho bravado. I know people that order the hottest thing in an Indian restaurant to prove that they can…provide for their family, I guess? Defend their home from intruders? I don’t know. I enjoy a korma if that’s what I’m in the mood for. I order the medium heat at Nando’s, but I’m not going to panic if they bring me a hotter half-chicken by mistake.

On one of my first days here we barbecued together. My in-laws showed me how to make salsa by grilling tomatoes and onions and chilis and grinding them together in a pestle and mortar. They made a regular salsa, and another one for me, devoid of spice. Cesia’s mum, and then her dad, both showed me which salsa was the none spicy one. Her dad said the regular one is very spicy, too hot, as though forbidding me from trying it.

It was spicy. Spicy enough to make me eat slower, but still barely more than a strong tingle – FYI, Strong Tingle is my signature wrestling move. On my next tortilla, I spooned a smaller serving of spicy salsa and enjoyed it very much. I tried a bit of the none spicy salsa and decided to stick with the regular stuff. This surprised Cesia’s dad. I imagine that he, and many other Mexicans, have this image of British people eating bread and milk, and cowering at anything with so much as a sprinkle of pepper.

I can’t tell whether Cesia’s dad thinks I’m trying to prove something. I made eggs earlier and had them with some of the same green chili I mentioned before. I had a cup of coffee with my food and he warned me against combining the hot flavour of the chili with the hot temperature of the coffee.

Along the same lines they bought a lot of 500ml bottles of water for me. Cesia’s mum was concerned that the water here would be bad for my system which is a valid concern. I made sure to Google it before I came. The last time I was here I drank that water and nothing happened. Nothing. Cesia’s mum has forgotten that, and rather than asking me or Cesia, sent her husband out to buy water bottles. This is after I had been here for two days so I don’t know what she thought I had been drinking that whole time.

Their concerns are kind-hearted but unnecessary. I expect that – in time – whether by experience, or by me learning how to better communicate with them, these weird trivial things will occur less and less. It’s hard to know how to react because if I say thank you I might imply that what they have done is needed, and that they should do it again. If I say nothing then I’ll feel rude. The best way I can think to handle it is to show off some macho bravado and start to eat the hottest things I can find in front of them. And wash it down with a tall glass of tap water.

Cesia’s dad and I can compete, like gorilla’s thumping our chests and bearing our teeth; teeth that will bite into green and red and yellow chilis, to see who is manliest. I could cook for them and claim that the meal is a traditional English recipe, but then load it with chilis and spices to see if they flinch. I won’t do that, but I could. And soon I’ll be out of their house and into my own, with as many chilis and as much tap water as I can handle. And if we invite them round for dinner, I’ll make them a traditional, British, vindaloo.

Legge Day

There’s a countdown on my phone that tells me how many days until our wedding. I know that the pictures from that day will be on display in our home for a long time, so I want to look my best, which right now, means I need to lose weight. I’m a member of a gym that offers a free personal training session so after speaking to Adam, a six-foot tall bicep, we arranged a time and decided to work out my legs.

Without going into detail (you can find a billion other places online for that), if you lift weights you tear your muscles microscopically. Your body uses recources (calories, etc.) to repair the tears, which means those resources can’t be stored as fat. So lift weights to lose weights. And, because legs have more muscle than arms, I can give them more micro-tears, I wanted to learn how to train my legs.

We squatted. We added weight. We squatted. Then we exercised our hamstrings. Adam, would count my reps and saay things like “Only four more,” when there was only four more. Sometimes he’d say “Strong,” like it was a subliminal message. This sounds like I’m making fun of him, or of people that use personal trainers, but actually I thought he was good.

We were doing leg presses when something in my neck popped and my head started pounding like I had a hangover. I tried to leg press one more time but my eyes nearly burst out my skull so I stopped. Adam told me to rest and he set up another exercise.

The pain didn’t go away. I drank water, I stretched, but there was this intense pressure from the bottom of my neck to about half way up the back of my head.

We worked out my calves for a couple of minutes before I had to quit. I was going to pass out, or throw up, or bleed from the ears, or all three. I come here regularly and didn’t want to embarrass myself.

Today my legs hurt, which means Adam did his job. The squats have made it ache when I sit, and the hamstring excersises have made it hard to stand, so whether I sit or stand, I’m in pain. I am choosing to think that is a good thing.

I don’t know what the situation will be like in Mexico, whether I’ll have access to a gym, or have time to workout, or be able to afford a membership. I think I will, but it’s one of many many things that are too far away, through the fog of plans, hopes, ideas, and reality for me to see it clearly.

I came home and had a bath and held an ice pack to my neck. I lay in bed with the ice pack until I was dry and then got up and had some healthy food Cesia had made fo us. It was lentils and onion and tomato all cooked up together. It was good.

If I can’t go to the gym in Mexico then I’m hoping the sun will encourage me to spend more time outside, and jog.

This whole thing is shallow. I could just be more comfortable with myself, and not worry about what I look like, or what others will think. I also realise that Cesia hasn’t said I need to lose weight. But I guess I am shallow, or self critical. I’m not self loathing, but I know I have some work to do, a few miles to go, a few pounds to lift and shed.

My legs hurt.

Wish me luck.



I have a plane ticket for 25th May, about six weeks away, to Monterrey, Mexico. I’ll be there for probably a year if not more and am I ready? Well, I had to double check how to spell Monterrey so that should give you an answer.

Cesia and I were walking home after buying some wine and sausage rolls and we were talking about Mexican food, or as she calls it, “food”. She said that there is a north/south divide as to the definition of quesadillas. To me, a quesadilla is a tortilla with melted cheese in it. That makes sense to me; queso means cheese, so it’s a thing with cheese, and since mexicans have tortillas with everything, queso + tortilla = quesadilla.

It’s not so simple. In the south there are those who believe a quesadilla’s essence lies in the way in which it’s folded. Specifically it is to be folded in half, as opposed to rolled or folded like a taco. The filling is irrelavant. I wondered what the limit would be. I assume it has to be a food item. If you tried to put soup in a folded tortilla would a southerner call it a quesadilla? What about a rack of ribs, or a sushi roll? What about a quesadilla? Northern or southern, could you take a quesadilla, put it in another tortilla and call it a quesadilla? Could you then take that quesadilla, put it in another tortilla and call this triple layered thing a quesadilla?

I don’t know, but I will find out after the 25th of May. Until then I have two university deadlines, a flat to deal with, the various bills that attend it, a job to quit, and a stack of documents to get in order. Oh, and a wedding to plan.

So the next several months might not be filled with sunbathing and sipping tequila, but I bet it’s going to be exciting. And probably scary.

And there will be some tequila.