Yes, I have had many blissful food moments in my life, but very few that have actually transformed me. Today, I met a woman, who I believe, was even more passionate about cooking than me (and that is hard to do!). To get there I had to take the first taxi that I’ve had to in Oaxaca because this restaurant was a little far from the main tourist area. I considered this a good sign already. But, when I got there, I arrived to find a big black door and a closed garage door at the address. They didn’t appear to be open. However, my timing was perfect as a woman getting out of a car said a bunch of stuff that I didn’t understand to which I just nodded my head, and then I understood solo, and said, Si!, and voilà, she opened the door to this house/restaurant.
I was led to a dark living room and told “un momento”, and so I started looking at the art on the walls. Of course, the painting which stood out the most had a dragonfly on it which to me is always my sign for being on the right path, fun, and prankster adventure. I was then brought to a beautiful courtyard that made me feel like I was in the jungle with plants with huge leaves on them, colorful flowers, and cascading branches. In fact, soft flowers kept landing on my head as I dined. A woman came out and poured some mescal for me, than brought me a bucket of beer filled with all different kinds, and told me to choose. She then brought a menu, but just started pointing at different things on the menu and saying “un poco, un poco, un poco”,which I interpreted as her telling me that they would bring a little of everything, to which I nodded “yes”. My menu was quickly whisked away and the amazing moments began. While waiting for my food, out came the owner of the restaurant to meet me. She came out all full of joy and smiles, walked over to me and gave me the biggest hug I’ve ever had.
And then the food, starting coming, and coming, and coming again. This was real food, not fancy, but home-cooked hours of simmering on the stove, hands shaping the tamales, grinding the corn, food that you would expect to be prepared by your Mexican Grandmother if you had one. This food didn’t need whimsical foam or special plates, fancy garnishes, or spheres of liquified cheese to heighten the experience. Most of the time I didn’t know what I was eating. All I knew is that I’ve never been more intrigued, and yet content, or tasted the food that I was eating more than I did today.
Eating this food was the difference between the lover who whisks you away on trips to Paris, expensive restaurants, remote beaches and such. It’s all very exciting, but then there is the type of lover who can sit quietly with you in a room, and just look at you, and in that look they know your entire soul. This was that kind of food. Real, the kind of food you have searched and searched for and finally you have found it in this simple transcendental moment.
And to complete the beautiful tastes of this meal, I had for my background music the laughter of the women cooking over the fire in the kitchen, tasting the food, doing the dishes. Oh, how I didn’t want this to end. I even switched to my right hand, my non dominant hand at one point, so that I would eat slower, and make the meal last as long as possible.
Today, I finally knew all of what food could and should be. The only thing missing from the experience? A hammock for after the meal in which to dream….