I am writing this on Sunday 2-Oct-11. Another volunteer told me that on Sundays you can find great street food right here on the street where I’m staying. I was planning to go out to an internet café around dinner time anyway, so it was a perfect fit. But instead of just grabbing some quick food, I had a wonderful experience.
I saw a food stall up the street – well, a table with food on it. I approached and asked if they had atole. I had a taste for it after having some in Xela and Mexico City. She had a different kind of atole. It wasn’t sweet. Instead, beans and hot sauce were mixed in to the corn-based drink. I gave it a try and it was ok. I like the sweet kind better, but this was fine (and warm!).
Then I tried what they call a “double”. It is filled with potato and you can put vegetables and cheese and sauce on top. I think in Mexico they call it a taco duro (hard taco), but I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, this was amazing!
Lastly, I tried their “enchilada.” This was very different from a Mexican enchilada. It was a fried tortilla with a ton of beets and some other vegetables on top. I didn’t mind eating it, but it’s something I wouldn’t order again.
All three things were 1Q a piece, so the total was 3Q/$0.38. And I was full.
Fine. That was the food and it was great. But now the experience.
The lady who manned the table was really nice and friendly. Some people here smile when they hear my gringo accent. I think people are caught off guard when I open my mouth because I look like I could be Latin American. So sometimes people laugh. I know it’s not in a mean way, but it’s still a bit uncomfortable for me.
This lady smiled and was very friendly, which is very representative of the people in the small town I am staying in. The lady partially cut off on the right side of the picture talked a lot with me as well. At first when I told them I wanted it to be as spicy as possible, they tried to protect me from this “danger.” In reality, in the case of the atole, I told the lady on the right that she had lied to me. Their “spicy” sauce wasn’t spicy at all!
She grabbed the bottle and gave it another big squeeze in my already diminished supply of atole. Yes, I could feel the spiciness then, but it wasn’t too much. She joked that I must eat habaneros for breakfast.
While I was eating, the kids from both of these mothers were playing around and having fun. They were just being kids. One fell and scraped his knee, another was playing the part of some superhero, etc. When I lived alone in Denmark I often used to watch a TV show while I ate to pass the time. They offered far superior entertainment than any show I used to watch, though I wish I could have turned on subtitles so I could understand everything the kids said
I guess it’s not easy to put into words how great the atmosphere felt. To be honest I wasn’t feeling all that positive. I went to Antigua in the morning and it was interesting, but I was tired and ya, just wasn’t feeling 100%. But these people made me feel right at home, welcomed, and valued my patronage/company. In some ways it felt like a normal family sitting down for dinner.
I know it felt that way because I didn’t even think of taking a picture to remember the moment. That is rare. I often want to take pictures, but hold back to conform to social norms. But in a rare twist of fate, the lady on the right said I should take a picture to remember this moment. And that’s exactly what I did and it suggests that she also seemed to think it was a special moment.
Unfortunately, the picture doesn’t show all the food and the lady on the right is partially cut off. But it doesn’t matter. I’ll always remember that wonderful meal with those wonderful people.
About Adam Pervez
In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.