Nov 262011
 

Our first few attempts to experience some authentic Mexican cuisine were a bit of a failure.  In hindsight it should have been obvious, whether it was the plethora of white faces, the quickly accessible menus in English, or the visible microwave in the kitchen.  To say the least, our first few meals left us wanting.  Luckily, we would quickly wise up and learn to spot the gringo traps.  Before we left the town of Todos Santos we would have a meal that satiated not just our hunger but our desire for an experience to come with it. 

Located off the main drag on a residential street, the place we saddled up to would not be distinguishable from the adjacent house if not for the tiny table with two coca cola branded chairs, the diner style griddle, and a small sign listing the restaurant’s 11 offerings.  Aside from the typical hambuguesa, sopes, and tostadas, neither Jill nor I recognized the remaining items on the menu.  But, after a quick discussion we agreed that most likely everything is going to be delicious, so let’s try something new.  Jill went with the super burro, a somewhat safe choice as she imagined it had to be close to a burrito of some kind (either that or she just ordered donkey meat).  I went with the loco, because anything called crazy has to be good.

The chef working the griddle was an older woman who I imagined has been doing this for years, mostly pro bono, preparing food day in and day out for a household of children bustling around her.  She seems at peace preparing our meal.  As fresh veggies pile on the griddle, the chef looks to Jill and presents a proposition. Since neither of us is familiar with the word she uses, her repeating it didn’t do much good.  Jill looks to me, I shrug, and then responds openly, ”si.”  The chef grabs a yellow bottle, squirts it on the pile of veggies then moves to the next bottle.  With each bottle she grabs Jill pairs it with a quick response of, “si, por favor,” because she figures, when in Rome.  The fourth bottle, which was red, coupled with the Spanish word catsup is one even we knew.  As Jill passes on the ketchup she realizes that her burrito will most likely be coming with mustard.  Maybe not traditional Mexican cuisine, but authentic none the less, Jill expresses a bit of regret, not sure if the mustard was a good choice.  As I get offered the same assortment of dressings, I learn from Jill and get to have what we think to be a more typical arrangement.

“Mostaza?” (Mustard)

“No gracias”

“Crema?”

“Si.”

“Salsa Verde?”

“Si.”

“Catsup?”

“No gracias.”

“Chipotle?”

“Por favor.”

When the food came, it appeared simple enough.   A flour tortilla wrapped around veggie filler and a meat of choice.  Not knowing what Jill had agreed to when we placed the order, hers came with what we imagined was a seasoned pulled pork.  My loco, which was a burro with the addition of mushrooms and cheese, came filled with juicy carne asada.  As we devoured our food, we were both reluctant to share a bite with each other.  As it turns out, we both agreed the best thing about Jill’s dish was the mustard.

It never ceases to amaze me how many different permutations life can be enjoyed in.  We’re catalyzing this in our life right now by travelling to different parts of the world, but I’m starting to get the feeling that travelling is not as essential to the equation as I once thought.  The way I see it, it is a combination of two things: getting outside our comfort zone and keeping an open mind.  I need to remember in future days to come, when travelling isn’t as easily accessible, that being stationary isn’t an excuse to avoid doing either of those things.

We choose to live in small worlds, and although it provides us with a perceived sense of safety, it is inherently coupled with isolation.  For me, I see this as a force that if left unabated can and will debilitate.  By constantly getting outside of my own comfort zone I can actively control it.  And with each new experience, I am reaffirmed.  However, I am learning that counter to my original belief, it does not necessarily get easier.