If Mexico remembers me at all, she must think I’m a pretty huge dork. Not that a sovereign nation has a ton of time to sit around forming judgmental opinions about occasional tourists who ride across the border into Tijuana looking terrified in the passenger seat of a rented red Mustang convertible. But when someone is trying head-explosion hard to look super-cool and casual and not the least bit terrified at all, even a NAFTA member might take notice.
I wasn’t being kidnapped or anything, in case you were wondering. I wasn’t even smuggling any fruit. It’s true I didn’t have a passport with me, but it would be several years before anyone would think to ask for such a thing from an American.
I was tagging along on a detour from a San Diego business trip in search of a hole-in-the wall taco dinner. I had a big presentation to make the following day, and I didn’t much care for the topic. The boss was driving a little too fast. And the border patrol, with their machine guns, looked too young to trust with a Blink decision, even to my 23-year-old eye. That was the full extent of any cause for alarm.
I think I drank a single beer at dinner to try to relax a little, but of course I only succeeded in feeling potentially unfit to re-enter the U.S. on the basis of substance abuse. I was not the most convincing adventure traveler back then. But I would’ve been offended if you’d noticed.
I share these non-informational travel tips from the late 1990’s for one reason only. I want to let you know that when I insist, with a certain, borderline-alarming enthusiasm, that you try these Spicy Skillet-Tossed Pepitas as a bar snack at your next party, my judgment is not being clouded by any overly romantic notions about Mexico. It is not because I long for the four fight-or-flight hours I spent there, or because I ever wish to think of those hours again. It is purely because these little buggers are so addictive that they may leave you with a substance abuse problem. At the very least, they’ll throttle you like a 12-year-old border agent with a machine gun probably wouldn’t actually do for no reason at all.
So. Try these!
Spicy Skillet-Tossed Pepitas
This quick recipe makes a delicious snack that pairs beautifully with beer.
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups pepitas
- 1/4 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- A big pinch ground cayenne pepper, to taste
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