Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 74: A Lap Full of Ash Wednesday

I travelled from San Miguel de Allende to the city of Guanajuato today. I’ve done this before, but this time was different, way cheaper. I usually hire a driver, Rafael of Raffa Tours. It’s great to rely on the same guys to pick you up when you land and leave Mexico and handle all major travelling in between. I believe it is the safest way, but with safety comes expense. A one way trip from San Miguel to Guanajuato by private car is $65. That’s not a lot to pay for safety, but if I’m going to do this world travelling thing, I’ve got to try a little harder, spend a lot less, and get a whole lot braver. So, today I took the bus. It wasn’t an ordinary bus. Primera Plus is a deluxe, 1st class kind of ride and at 90 pesos, or less than $8, it was a total steal.
I struggled to communicate when buying my ticket, and I admit to being a little intimidated, but I did it. Once aboard, I enjoyed a comfy seat with way more room than any airline. I watched the beautiful Mexican countryside from my high perch. I spotted a farmer tending a field with a horse drawn plow, and a family splashing in a narrow ravine that disappeared into a jagged hillside. Towns with taco stands, beer signs, and children too close to the road flew by my window. And then the bright pinks and blues of Guanajuato signaled me that my stop was near.
With the money saved, I upgraded to a sweet suite at Hotel Luna in the main square. Mariachi music pipes through my balcony window in deep timbers and falsetto yips. It’s really quite lovely. I’m pretty sure I’ll still like it at 2am, as warned by the hotel desk clerk. Guanajuato feels more Mexican than San Miguel, if that makes any sense. Of course both cities are Mexican, but one caters to rich, white expats and the other to rich Mexicans on vacation from the big city. I am neither.

 I took the bus to save money, but splurged on an elegant hotel with marble goddess statues and crystal chandelliers. I guess I’m not quite getting the hang of this thrifty-travel business. To counteract, I decided to forgo restaurants and eat on the street. I couldn’t have been luckier with the decision. I stumbled on a church fundraiser and celebration dinner for Ash Wednesday.
The site of the women preparing food to feed their community made me homesick, but not for my Seabeck home. I felt homesick for my childhood home, and homesick for the kitchen women of Clarkes Methodist Church. I can almost see the ladies with pie laden spatulas and spoons full of green jello-salad with mini marshmallows and pineapple tidbits. Pie and jello salad, that’s what I remember of church.
But in Guanajuato, the church mamas fry up tacos and gorditas. They hold ladles of hot pasole, and heap red rice on a plate to nest a chili relleno or an enchilada. There is no pie, but there are ladies with spatulas loaded with cake and squares of wiggly flan. This must be Methodist heaven, or at least my Methodist heaven.
 The church steps and square were packed with families scrunched together and eating from laps. I didn’t see anyone like me, meaning another Gringa. I might fit in if I never opened mouth, and if I wasn’t taller than most. But I figured my money was welcome as was my soul, at least temporarily. I purchased 100 pesos worth of script to trade for food.

You wouldn't imagine 100 pesos or $7.76 would buy much of a dinner, but some three hours later, I'm still stuffed like the litttle piglet Mexico seems to make me.

 I hit the chili relleno table first. I sat next to a group of ladies and tried my best not to make those grunting sounds that slip out when something tastes so crazy good. Perhaps it is an exaggeration, but I am sure that I have never eaten a relleno so fresh and delicious and probably never will again. The pepper was cooked al a dente. I wrapped it in a handmade tortilla to pick up and eat, because my plastic fork just wouldn’t do the trick.

The chili and rice made more than a meal, but I braved on. A plate of three tacos filled with bean and potato, topped with cabbage shreds, dolloped with crème, sprinkled with fresh cheese, and sauced in salsa verde made an exquisite second course. I was full. But then I found shrimp cocktail looking nothing like I know shrimp cocktail to look. For a moment, I entertained the trace-ability of the shrimp. Were these shrimp wild or farm raised? Were mangrove forests cut down to build aquacultures somewhere in Indonesia? I didn't know how to ask, and the mama serving probably didn't have the answer. I justified. I was eating for Jesus, a fundraiser to keep the church strong. Humans are rational beings entertaining irrational arguements. We often spin in our favor. I put it out of my head and dove in. A zesty tomato broth hosted hunks of avocado, diced onion, sprigs of cilantro, minced chili, and pink shrimp as chubby as my thumbs.

A table of ladies giggled and pointed my way as I slurped the last drip of broth from my plastic cup. My cheeks reddened a little, but they just smiled and waved. It was a welcome of sorts, warm and accepting like the church ladies from home. A come-as-you-are, little piglet noises and all, I waved back and waddled in line for cake.

1 comment:

  1. That looks rediculously delicious wrap me up a tin foil plate i want to go to mexico