Sunday, August 5, 2007

What we eat

$1.50 worth of groceries.

Adam has sliced up quite a lot of pineapples.

People call him Mario, but his name is Gerardo.

After preparing the chicken, Gerardo drove Adam to the airport in his truck.

I had a dream in which I was standing in a crowded kitchen near the stove. I began shoving people out of the way and saying firmly that I needed to get something to eat. After the shrimp tacos in Baja, the agua de alfalfa con limón in San Blas, the tacos de adobado made with fresh tortillas in Puerto Vallarta, even the banana licuados and tortas de pollo in Colimilla—across the lagoon but it feels a world away now—I am hungry. Fortunately, a recent trip to Manzanillo yielded a major purchase of filet mignon (only $6 a pound), along with five different kinds of cheese, two cream-filled chocolate cupcakes, and a bunch of spinach. There were also chicken feet packaged in cling wrap and chayotes con espinas (bland, but covered with hundreds of spikes). At a local grocery store, a swarm of flies buzzed greedily around the celery. I wondered what they had found there. “You Americans eat huge salads—Canadians too!” an older Mexican guy who lives down the street exclaimed in amazement. I pass him on my walks and we speak Spanish and sometimes a little English. He explained hijo de la chingada, and I taught him motherfucker. He told me how I could get more spinach, but instead suggested tuna—the fruit of the nopal cactus. What do you do with it? I asked. “Nothing, nothing!” he told me. You just eat it. I’ve been overcomplicating things. Gringo habits don’t work here. So I’ve begun to embrace nopales, which I sauté with eggs and onions. There’s a table in a nearby grocery covered with boxes of fruit that people seem to have brought from their yards; I bought some carambolos there that I put in the blender with yogurt and mango. New synapses formed in my brain. At another store I found a cherimoya, and the woman behind the counter made me a present of it along with advice on how to eat it. This morning it was ready. I split the rough green oblong and squeezed the black seeds from the white flesh. Standing over the sink, I lifted it to my mouth. The flavor was so intense and even shocking that I couldn’t think in English. Could it be that I am discovering, poco a poco, some of what it means to be Mexican?

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