Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Melting Grill

Breakfast tacos.
We don’t have them in eastern Sedgwick County, and you gotta go quite a ways – at least a mile – to get them if you live in ultra-hipster Westport, Kansas City.

It’s not free enterprise, but it’s reasonable priced.
However, in what the clueless ditto-heads of this red state refer to as the People’s Republic of Austin, one can find that capitalism is alive and well in the form of breakfast tacos made, one at a time, if not lovingly, by small brown hands attached to that great symbol of free enterprise, the undocumented business owner in a small trailer on the side of the road. Back during the heyday of the free enterprise system in the late 1600s, the ancestors of this proud population created a concoction based on the most universal of foodstuffs, the flat grilled bread known as a tortilla. While the Cornish have their pasty, and the Irish have their soda cracker, the mighty mestizos of Vespucciland are prepared to bring the 2006 election cycle of the United States to a tizzy fed largely on what they call el breakfast taco. Stuffed with egg and potato, or bacon and cheese, or barbacoa which is, I assume, some form of native marsupial[1], these fat little mothers are what I like about the local cuisine.
I stopped in a “panaderia”[2] known as “El Churro”[3] and waited in line as everyone ordered in Spanish. There was actually no line; one simply elbowed one’s way up to the counter through the comfortably dressed. Not unlike many college age touring shows, but in this instance one was looking for breakfast, not beer or frottage with a hottie. Fat people, by their sheer ballast, had priority. I was squeezed into place before the counter almost by default, sort of a Brownian[4] motion of bodies that moved me in the direction I needed to go. Other customers were greeted at the counter with a pleasant “bueno?” but I accepted the wordless nod of the proprietress as a sign of respect for my pasty lack of melanin and my vivid freckles.
“I’d like two, potato egg and cheese, and a barbaquaw[5] please,” I said.
¿Quieres tortillas de harine ó masa?” she queried.

I am Taco. I am one with everything.
De farine, s’il vous plaît,” I replied, reasoning that, if one is addressed in a language one can speak but replies in another, then the instigator of the conversation can justifiably assume that all linguistic bets are off and may now speak Esperanto, Polish or Urdu, to the level of one’s own whim and ability.
De farine,” I repeated.
“No, I said ju wann flour tortillas or corn?” she probed.
“A-ha! Caught you!” I said, with triumph. “Yes, please, flour tortillas.”
Her eyes narrowed to slits as she rang up my purchase, but there was a tacit understanding between us now. I knew, she knew, and I knew that she knew that I knew. There would not be another attempt on each other’s culture. From then on she would speak to me in clumsy English, and I would reply in even more atrocious Spanish. It was, after all, how it should be. De colores, and so forth.

[1] I think it’s a member of the “critter” family.

[2] “Place where they cook with pans”.

[3] “The Churlish One”.

[4] Named for its inventor, James Brown, who discovered it in a super-heated crack pipe 50 years ago and based an entire religion on its principles. This religion has many practitioners to this day.

[5] The closest my Irish tongue can approximate barbacoa.

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