Monday, May 10, 2010

The Object of My Desire: A Lucky Strike

Much to my delight (and Veli's displeasure), a dear friend handed me a box of matchbooks that once belonged to his mother. Since I'm not the one to refuse more than 25 years worth memories wrapped around some flame sticks, I happily accepted them and started making my way through what appears to be at least 1,000 books collected from every corner of the world, from Japan to former Yugoslavia, as well as from all over the United States. So many caught my eye, either because they represented a beloved establishment that no longer exists or came from a favorite locale. Some even made me recall childhood destinations, and then others did pretty much everything, oddly enough, like this Chi-Chi's box of matches.

In the mid-1970s when Chi-Chi's went in near Kansas City's Blue Ridge Mall (recently leveled to make room for a Wal-Mart), it marked the beginning of the Mexican food craze in the U.S. Until then, our taste for Mexican had only been satisfied by Old El Paso kits to which my mom added hamburger, or by Taco Bell, which in those days, was inconveniently located clear across town. Chi-Chi's was somewhat more upscale, even though it was a chain. I know we didn't frequent it often, but I seem to recall a baked chimichanga that made quite a fiesta.

But what makes this box even more weirdly special is that it came from the French branch of the Chi-Chi's chain in Paris...yes Paris, France, not Texas!

As a student in France in the mid-1980s, finding Mexican cuisine was a rarity, and if you did, you were likely to be served up a bland, crêpe-ish looking roll-up mocking a burrito or a flimsy taco shell filled with chopped tomatoes, rice and parsley! Oh, and forget about the margaritas that barely had any ice in them and whose flavor resembled a Sweet Tart! I remember going to one place that didn't realize that a margarita was made with tequila, and instead was serving them with vodka. Eeew!

I was vigilant in trying to assimilate into French culture. I stayed away from other Americans at my university and pretty much only socialized with French people. I ate French, studied French, danced French (bouncing in the mirror all in a row to Indochine's Troisième Sexe!) spoke French, and tried as hard as I could to BE French.

As well as I spoke, I never lost my American accent, and as hard as I tried to change my look, I always got called out by my bag or by my shoes. And as much as I adore une coupe de champagne and pâté de fois gras, a tasty margarita and a spicy taco always have, and still do, hit the spot!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

The Elegant Thrifter


  1. Only you could find an exquisite story to tell by looking through an old box of match books, al=beit , indeed, a very precious one! I am delighted you "went French" during your stay in France. What a testimony to your adaptibility and your intelligence; and your sense of style! Bravo et merci.

  2. What a find!

    I so miss those giant "brandy snifters" that sat at the hostess station or check counter filled with book or box matches to take with you. I think you've found a matchbox worthy of a tiny frame to hang as art.

  3. There was actually a Chi-Chi's in FRANCE???
    Wow, who knew!


  4. I didn't know there was a Chi-Chi's in Paris... I have a huge matchbook collection that hubby & I started over 20 years ago. However, these days it is harder to find matches in establishments.

  5. Very interssant to collect matchbox. The reminding us even years to places or restaurants that maybe not exist today. Many regards jürgen



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