To be totally honest, I don’t think American food is bad. Back home I would eat pizza once a month – it was a special event and I loved each and every time I did it. Quality of pizza? Either the same or even better here.
The same happens with a lot of different kind of foods, but I still can’t stand a day without craving for the most simple things I used to have back home: meals as simple as plain white rice with potatoes and chicken, chicken soup made with the bone, sometimes even without the meat. Or recipes that use crushed red peppers to use them as the base of a red sauce that (for me at least) can beat single-handed any BBQ they have here in Kansas, home of the “original” BBQ sauce. Or some things that have made me look like a fool here, like putting beer in the pot where you are boiling beef, onions, peas, tomatoes and carrots at the same time. In a few words, completely different food.
Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder, or maybe I’m just way too used to the type of food I like and I’m never going to get really used to “American” food. That scenario seems very likely after a year where I still give myself some scarce pleasures of culinary art that takes me back home. And I’m not the only one; recently I found a very interesting documentary that shows some theories of why McDonald’s failed to succeed in Bolivia.
Now, a tip for cooking “my” food.
You have to find a very specific kind of red pepper called “aji” (the closest thing I found here is dehydrated Mexican red pepper), crush it really thin and mix it with just a little water. The consistency should be a little watery but somehow dense, to that you add salt and cook it in very low fire while stirring it until you have a thick kind of liquid sauce. That is the base paste of many, but very many, Bolivian dishes. A really simple one is to boil some chicken (chicken with bone, that is essential) in a pot with onions, maybe carrots (that’s optional) and some salt. Once the chicken is boiled use some of the water of the chicken (it should taste actually fine for a soup, in my house we would serve this dish during lunch and the leftover of chicken water/soup for dinner) to mix it with the “aji base paste” while cooking at medium fire. Keep stirring and adding salt (in case of too salty use sugar, actually works) until you like it. Then serve the chicken with this new “aju sauce” and white rice, baked potatoes optional.
And that is simply called “spicy chicken.” How spicy it is depends on who cooks it; I tend to like it pretty hot. I will be in contact with you soon, writing something of my own. Until then, I hope this helps.