The nacho umbrella is a big one. The nachos you get at the baseball game are not the same as a Nacho Bellgrande from Taco Bell, which isn’t the same as homemade nachos made by melting several pounds of jack cheese onto a handful of broken Doritos and two dessicated slices of jalapeno you found in the back of the fridge.

All of these count as nachos.

But then … there are “not-chos.”

Not-chos are dishes that have have a nacho-like appearance. They’d probably listed in the menu as nachos. And they are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike nachos.

In New Zealand, they only have not-chos. Even if you stumble upon a Mexican restaurant – which are as rare in New Zealand as cheeseburgers in a synagogue – the not-chos are even more heartbreaking. Because they’re so close to being nachos and yet they never manage to cross very thin but infinitely high wall between nachos and not-chos.

Here’s what costitutes nachos:

1. Tortilla chips.

2. Melted cheese or “cheeselike” substance.

That’s all you really need.  Your better nachos will feature refried beans, a savory meat of some kind, salsa, and/or sour cream. If you want to get really fancy, you can add guacamole or olives or, I don’t know, a mariachi band.

But the secret to nachos lies in one word – “savory.” Let that roll around in your mouth a little bit. Savory. Saaaaavory. Salty, hearty, fragrant, full of flavor.

To get all highfalutin about it, savory means “pungently flavorful without sweetness.”

And there, in that last word, is where not-chos go all sorts of wrong.

The typical serving of New Zealand not-chos is this: A big bowl or plate of tortilla chips, with something akin to sloppy joe meat dumped over it, with about half a gallon of sour cream on top.

It’s sweet the way sloppy joes are sweet. It’s like they simmered ground beef in Thai sweet-chili sauce.

I like ground beef. I like Thai sweet-chili sauce. I might even like ground beef simmered in Thai-chili sauce.

But I wouldn’t want you to dump it on some chips and try to tell me they’re nachos. Don’t piss on my head and tell me it’s rainin’.

What’s more, half the time there’s only a token sprinkle of cheese, and that cheese is never the right kind. For a nation that exports two liters of milk product per person per day, you’d think they’d have more than four kinds of cheese. But you’d think wrong. Unless you go to the fancy-cheese aisle and are prepared to take out a personal loan, the four cheeses commonly available in New Zealand are Edam, Colby, “Tasty,” and “Mild.”

(“Tasty” and “Mild” are pretty close to what I would call sharp cheddar and mild cheddar, though more white than yellow in color.)

One thing that all four of these cheeses have in common is that they’re relatively oily. When you melt them, it’s like BP in the Gulf of Mexico all over again. Edam is the least-oily of the lot, so that’s what we use when we make homemade nachos, but it ain’t no Monterey Jack, mi amigos.

So, given the oily cheeses, I suppose it’s understandable why they don’t smother their not-chos with cheese they way you’re supposed to. But that’s just one more reason why they are not-chos and not nachos.

Their version of Mexican is Mexican’t.

Okay, fine, different cultures are all valuable. We’re all like snowflakes, individual and perfect. But come on, if there was ever a reason to open up a huge can of good old fashioned cultural imperialism, this is it. WHO’S WITH ME!?

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