Bunch Of Fives: Amelia Coburn | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Teesside singer-songwriter Amelia Coburn releases The Cheese Song, a track that pays homage to all the culinary delights that she sampled in Mexico when studying there for six months in 2019. The song is an ode, not to fermented milk-products but to the spicy delights she encountered during her language studies there.

This poppy latin jazz offering produced by Paddy Jordan is upbeat, harmonious and has hooks a-plenty. It features musical cameos from Madrid’s Anglo/Irish/American Track Dogs, former Young Rebel Set keyboard player Danny Allinson and a jaw harp cameo buried in the mix from co-writer Andy Johnson.

To mark the release of her new single, Amelia tells us about her top 5 Mexican foods…

So tasty, so cheap, so versatile: the quintessential Mexican food. You could travel across the country and find different fillings in not only each region, but in each city and town. Most of my time in Mexico was spent in a gorgeous colonial city called Puebla, where I was studying at University. Puebla is well known for its ‘tacos al pastor’ (literally ‘shepherd style’), which were brought to the city by Lebanese and Iraqi immigrants and are basically pork shawarma tacos in a pita style bread. It often comes with a slice of pineapple on top, which brings us back to the age-old question: pineapple on tacos – yay or nay? I remember visiting the country’s capital Mexico City where I was greeted by a menu of remarkable fillings: tongue, brain and eyeball. I wasn’t quite brave enough to give them a try. However, the most memorable taco filling I came across was in Oaxaca, with ‘tacos de chapulín’, a.k.a grasshopper tacos.

I fell deeply in love with elotes as soon as I arrived in Mexico. A street food classic, you can find this Mexican style corn on the cob sold on practically every street corner, but usually only at night time. It comes slathered with mayonnaise, chilli, lime juice and cotija cheese. Although this calls to mind many happy memories, and also gets a mention in my upcoming single ‘The Cheese Song’, a dodgy food stand selling this corn-based delight was the source of my first experience of what we like to call Montezuma’s Revenge…so I made sure I didn’t indulge in too many after that.

Pastes pachuqueños
I felt a bit of a cheat using ‘pastes’ as one of my top five Mexican meals, given these are just the Mexicanized version of the Cornish pasty from the days when Cornish miners came over to the mining region of Hidalgo. But these pasties were better than any of the ones I’ve ever had in the UK, even when buying them from a cheap pasty café (I suppose their equivalent of Greggs) in the bus station. My favourite filling was ‘carne y papas’ (meat and potato). I foolishly bought one thinking they wouldn’t be very spicy, like every other food product was in Mexico, but how wrong I was. The ‘tinga’ filling was also a delicious mouthful of shredded chicken stewed in a tomato and chipotle sauce.

Molotes were pretty similar to pastes, but much bigger, and deep fried. There were a couple of molote vendors on my street, and in Mexico eating out was a lot cheaper than cooking at home, so it was a great excuse to grab some street food. I loved the sociable way of eating food in Mexico. You’d stand at the front next to all the other happy customers, and would be given a huge pastry with a filling of your choice, covered in ‘la bandera’: green, white and red sauce, making the flag of Mexico. You would never be given any cutlery, and you’d be lucky if you were given a napkin, so as you can imagine, it’s not the sort of food you can eat gracefully. You just had to forget about the sauce dripping down your hands and the oil and grease smeared across your face while trying to hold a conversation with the customer next to you.

Originally from Puebla, a cemita is a huge (and I’m not exaggerating when I say huge, they were about the size of my head) sesame-seed bun filled to the brim with breaded meat (usually chicken), stringy Oaxaca cheese, chipotle adobado, pápalo (a herb similar to coriander but a bitter, stronger taste) and sliced avocados. Cemitas, for me, were life changing. The Queen of all sandwiches, this was my go-to lunchtime meal. I certainly left Mexico with a very heavy heart, but my stomach was even heavier.

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