Random trans-Atlantic claptrap

Don’t order the nachos Charlie Brown!

You will never have good nachos again if you move to Britain.


Anyone who has moved here from the USA can attest to the fact that this is a nacho-deficient country. A sad, lost place where nachos exist in appearance, but their true essence and appeal is somehow lost. We expats shuffle through our lives here, ordering nachos over and over again, knowing we will never be satisfied with the result.

It’s like a nacho-related Greek tragedy

The situation reminds me of Greek mythological figure Tantalus, who is cursed to stand forever in a pool of fresh water that drains away every time he attempts to drink it. Overhead is perfectly ripe fruit that rises out of reach whenever he tries to eat some. That’s what it’s like to live in a nation where nachos are everywhere to be had, but there are none to be enjoyed. We, as Americans living here, are fated to continue to order and to eat Nachos, but to never feel the joy that should come with the experience.

On second thought, forget Tantalus, we’re Americans, perhaps we’re not sophisticated enough to  relate to Greek mythological references (and in any event, it’s my understanding that you can’t find good nachos in Greece either). What this situation calls for, so you, my fellow Americans can really understand my nacho-related pain and frustration – before you consider relocating over here – is a Charlie Brown comparison.

Good Grief

Though not as well-known in the UK, Charlie Brown is America’s ultimate sad-sack cultural icon. Every week, Charlie Brown’s friend Lucy van Pelt offers him the opportunity to kick a football that she claims she will hold in place for him. At the last moment, she spitefully pulls the ball away and Charlie lands on his back, humiliated and hurt.

That’s how we expats feel every time we order nachos – the single greatest Tex-Mex-‘Murican food item to be had. This is our Charlie Brown tragedy:

This time, it’s going to be different

In the last few years, Mexican food has become fairly popular in the UK. Nachos are available in loads of places, and not just Mexican restaurants. Most pubs have them. At Wetherspoon’s – the nation’s most beloved pub chain – you’ll find them on the menu next to the Peri-Peri chicken and the Tandoori skewers.

The menu describes the dish as “Guacamole, melted cheddar cheese, fresh salsa, sour cream.” Not bad, right? I mean, everyone knows you’re meant to use Monterey Jack, but a medium cheddar is acceptable, and in any event, you can’t prevent British people using cheddar, which they put on everything, even Italian food. So it’s probably going to be okay in this case, right? Maybe I should order them? Nachos are the type of thing one orders in a pub, and I am in a pub. Maybe this time, they’ll be good! Maybe this time, the salsa will contain actual tomatoes and not a weird sweet ketchup paste! And maybe they’ll remember the jalapeños! Gosh, what if this time, the nacho chips didn’t taste like plastic- I bet they won’t! Maybe this time I’m really going to have good nachos….. I’m doing it, I’m ordering them, here they come…. I’m….. AUUUGGHH!

Won’t get fooled again. Or will I? 

I don’t know why British people can’t make nachos. Maybe it’s too far from Mexico to import quality ingredients. But I don’t think so – I think the problem is more philosophical than logistical.

I think British people see nachos as nothing more than heated chips, cheese, guac, salsa and sour cream all plopped down together on a plate. Nothing more. They’ve mistaken nachos for junk food – something easy to make with cheap ingredients – something to guarantee a large profit margin for their eating establishments.

But in America, we know Nachos to be so much more. The fresh tomatoes and avocados give us license to gorge on unhealthy cheese and chips. The sharp jalapeños counter-balance the blandness of the other ingredients. The crunch of the chips gives way slightly to the hot cheese as they blend. Good nachos are a balance of flavours, a melting pot of influences and tastes.

There’s something for everyone in a platter of Nachos. Like states in a union, each corner of the plate offers something distinct, while still being recognisably part of a blended whole. In short, Nachos aren’t just a dish – they are a metaphor for American diversity and greatness – all covered in cheese! It’s no wonder they can’t be found to be properly recreated in any other country, much less the one nation that America had to fight two wars to be free of.

Americans are nothing if not optimistic. We will carry on like Charlie Brown, continuing to order nachos in British restaurants and pubs over and over again, regardless of the inevitable and invariable frustration.

Or maybe I could just make them at home? 

Appendix / bonus section

It’s not just nachos. While there are many fine things to recommend relocating The torture of being a Yank in Britain also extends to other American foods that are readily available here, but are in fact cruel, spiteful shadows of their real selves. cupcake_aughice_cream_augh


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4 thoughts on “Don’t order the nachos Charlie Brown!

  1. Dude, if you eat hot dogs from a can you deserve what you get. Nobody’s fooled by that football!

    Good call on the inclusion of popcorn in a bag. Why does that even exist? I cried when I saw the people unloading 10 pound bags of already popped popcorn at the movie theatre.

  2. We need more pics of this British nachos thing. Like a forensic scientist, I am now fascinated by the ingredients they use, and in what proportion. Because how can you fuck up nachos. (I know, leave it to the Brits) Maybe a pic of their Mole Chicken too, which is no doubt some HP Sauce dumped on top of an overcooked bird.

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