Squatters in a Strange Land

So, the month of April was a crazy one for me and Truman, my husband. We just trekked back across the country from Ontario to Alberta for Truman’s work, which took the entire month (yes, really).


It took the entire month because we first had to make the initial drive to get to Alberta, three days in total — it takes two days to get out of Ontario, in case anyone was wondering. Then it only took one day to get from Winnipeg to Southern Alberta, which was our first stop because we had to check on all of our stuff that had been in storage at my parents’ house for the past year and a half. We were there for four days. Then we drove to Edmonton to visit family — for a week. During which we actually went and saw our new apartment for the first time to make sure we hadn’t just signed a year long lease to live in a hole. We hadn’t, by the way: it’s actually quite a comfortable apartment. Then we drove back to Southern Alberta for another week to prepare all our stuff for the moving company to come pick up, meet with the moving company, watch the moving company pack up all our stuff and leave with it and then drive back up north to our new little abode to wait for the moving company to show up with all our worldly possessions. We listened to the Harry Potter books one through five on audio book during this whole month, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

The moving company didn’t show up for two weeks. We had an air mattress with some lovely new bedding on it…and thats it. We had no dishes, no pots and pans, no appliances. Well, that’s not totally true. We did have one little kettle that I had thoughtfully packed in Ontario and hauled across the country with us. For the first few days the only dish we had was the bowl from Truman’s Biolite camping stove, and we would fight over who got to eat breakfast first. On the condition that whoever ate breakfast first had to make breakfast for everyone.
Cause, you know, making instant oatmeal is such a struggle.
Finally we broke down and bought a couple of stoneware bowls from Walmart for a buck a piece to end the bickering. Those two weeks were a haze of instant oatmeal, ramen noodles and take out. It was the starving student experience I had managed to avoid in my early twenties. I did not enjoy it.
We did take the opportunity, though, to try out some of the local cuisine of our new home. Living in a small Northern Alberta town of 15,000 people, our options are limited, but we did find a few promising places.
For instance there’s a sushi restaurant a couple blocks away from our apartment, which isn’t outstanding, and it isn’t all you can eat. Which is a bummer. However, we’re in Alberta. The frozen North. As landlocked as it can get. So, yeah, I’ve had better sushi. What ev’s. It’s nice to know that when I’m hankering for some Green Dragon rolls they’re only a hop, skip and a jump away.
We found a decent Chinese take out restaurant which is great, because I love me some good Chinese take out. Some times you just need deep fried chicken balls, you know?
But, the best place we found so far is a family run authentic Spanish restaurant called Mamacitas. I have a tentative relationship with any kind of Spanish food. I think it ties back to a horrific trip to California with my family as a kid where we all ended up with food poisoning. The only thing I remember is the never ending line up for the single bathroom in the hotel suite all six of us shared. It was not good, not good at all.
But this place eclipsed that entire experience. Everything, from the salsa to the tortillas, is made in house by hand. I had the grilled chicken with mango salsa, with rice, refried beans and salad on the side. I went to sleep that night dreaming about that mango salsa, my friends. The sweetness of the mango mingling with the acidity of the lime, the juiciness of the tomatoes, the clarity of the cilantro, the sudden heat of the jalapeno. It was magic piled on top of a perfectly grilled chicken breast, placed gently atop two soft, flavourful homemade corn tortillas.
That alone would have been a solid hole in one for me, but the rice and refried beans complimented the meal perfectly, and there was a bright and zippy dressing on the salad that was the perfect compliment to the entire meal.
I texted five different people before the end of the meal to tell them about the new restaurant I’d found. It was just amazing, and then I found out they sell the tortillas to take home and I got a little giddy. The waitress was startled. It was awkward.
Needless to say, we will be going back to Mamacitas as soon as possible. Some things need to be relived regularly.