I am at the verduleria, channeling all the inner español I can muster to gather veggies for our evening meal, a thank-you gift to our fabulous hosts and to ourselves, for we are eager for a home-cooked dinner after bus fare and restaurant mania.
Which, here, like in old school Europe, means taking a tour of localized vendors, from the carniceria to the panaderia to the supermercado, to gather one’s beef, bread and brews, respectively.
We are in Fed and Frances’ hood, contacts thanks to my favorite Riddle, her cousin Frances the connector, unfortunately en route to Texas as we crash her pad and chill with her musician man, he a pretty rad dude and fabulous host, especially since we meet all of five minutes ago.
Somehow, with the help of the man phone’s GPS, we follow the local bus an hour north to their neck of the woods, guess at our stop, and eject ourselves from the bus, driver already speeding along as my foot exits the step.
Now, we brave the local digs to collect our lentil salad, veggie salad, steak and brews hurrah, racking up a whopping 126 pesos, or $25, a total steal for steak dinner for three people, alcohol included, leftovers guaranteed.
Graham and I are kids in a candy store, a full-functioning kitchen our Christmas morning present, and we dice, slice, sauté, grill our way through this evening’s meal into tomorrow’s brunch of egg and tomato scramble and sock-brewed coffee, hanging laundry for ambiance.
And, the obligatory right of passage–morning maté, a ritual Fed happily walks us through, giving us the child’s version, meaning a touch of azucar and three cups later, maté already diluted from its maximum strength. It’s a diuretic, Fed tells us, and packs a punch that puts caffeine to shame.
Gourd filled with greens, metal straw swimming in a new cup, Graham takes the first pull, me the second, already trespassing in Fed’s golden rule, which is, one must slurp up the entire cup before passing, because maté is a communal beverage, the drinking of which is littered with rituals, rites, and faux pas deep enough to fill countless books on maté etiquette.
It’s alright, I think, but I am happy for my coffee right now.
It’s almost like home, this place, complete with cute little kitchen critter, Fed and Frances’ kitty pie.