Less an ode, more a vigorous, affirmative head-nod.
When I lived in Paris, my friend Frédéric, a film director who’s eaten well around the globe, challenged me to prove that Mexican food can be more than junk, because he’d never experienced otherwise. From this I derived what I call The Frenchman Test, which I use to rate nachos —Can you convince a Frenchmen the plate in front of him is not just food, but cuisine? For nachos to pass The Frenchman Test, there are several rules:
One: Chips are made, not purchased. It’s simpler than you think to make your own chips, and skip restaurants that do not. Restaurants that don’t care enough to make their own chips don’t care enough about other important things, like bathrooms.
Two: Mild cheddar is best. Monterey jack blended with mild cheddar is nice, and Jack with peppers is appealing. But no Swiss, Provolone, or any non-melting cheeses. I recently ordered nachos at a taco shack in Durham, N.C., and the cook served them with cold shredded cheese. “What are these?” I said.
"You ordered nachos," he said.
"I know," I said, "but what are these?"
Three: Chili con Queso is delicious—as a separate appetizer. (Better dipped into than poured over.)
Three and a half: Cheez Whiz is not cheese.
Three and a half, redux: Cheese Whiz degrades life.
Four: Once you depart from chips, cheese and jalapenos, be wary. Sure, steak and chicken can transform nachos into a more socially-accepted meal. Guacamole is delicious, same for pico de gallo and other salsas, but liquid-based sides are dangerous—same for any non-refried beans—since they introduce water. Would you serve fried chicken in soup? In a Pile, they will make your appetizer look like a Death Star trash compactor.
Five: No lettuce. Salads are good; nachos are good; combining them ruins both.
Six: Sour cream, being liquid, should be served on the side. On top, the nachos’ heat transforms it into primer.
Finally, I want to add, there is no right way to eat a nacho (chiefly the last nacho). But if nachos are ordered for a group, it is each person’s responsibility to retrieve their fair share. Those of us who simply love nachos more than other people shouldn’t be penalized for having big hearts.
I didn’t know there was anything sadder than finding out I am obsolete and old but things change all the quicker due to that, I guess. Thanks GQ, Hollywood, CNN, earthquakes. Sad wizards are the saddest thing.
Thanks for making my Friday, McSweeney’s.
Steely Dan: You have snorted cocaine off a copy of Remembrance of Things Past.
Fleetwood Mac: You have snorted cocaine off a copy of The Hobbit.
Blue Oyster Cult: You have snorted cocaine off a copy of Type 2 Diabetes for Dummies.
Mountain: You have snorted cocaine off a Blue Oyster Cult record.
Nazareth: You have snorted cocaine off a member of Mountain.
Hawkwind: You sell cocaine to Nazareth fans.
Molly Hatchet: You sell baking soda to Hawkwind fans and tell them it’s cocaine.
Jethro Tull: You have a favorite rune.