It is amazing how one small thing can taint an evening.
Take restaurants, as an example. When I flew back to Mexico on Saturday, Lou picked me up at the Mazanillo airport. Only a true friend would do something like that.
We started a conversation on our way to my house and decided to recess it until Wynn could join us for dinner. Because I am about to join the Barra de Navidad set, we decided to have dinner at a restaurant there that has been a rather inconsistent food and service experience for me.
And Saturday was no exception. The service was indifferent. I always find that unusual in Mexico. In Paris, I have come to expect being treated as a painful reminder to the waiter that life is simply a meaningless existential exercise. But, in Mexico? Where the closest translation for angst is fiesta.
The food was fine. However, because my schnitzel was a bit dry, I requested a bit of the restaurant's celebrated goulash sauce. That night, it was a bit greasier than usual, but, for the first time, I noted a subtle underlying flavor. Wynn thought it was worcestershire. I thought it was sherry.
It didn't really matter. Whatever it was, it did not cut the sauce's oiliness.
On the way out, I saw the owner. Merely out of curiosity, I told her I thought I tasted a hint of sherry in the sauce, and asked her if I was correct. She looked at me as if I had asked her for her bank account numbers and her PIN.
She responded: "There is an ingredient" -- in the same tone that an indulgent mother tells an autistic child that it is time to gather up his crayons.
Of course, I had no intention of trying to duplicate her rather pedestrian sauce. But I would have been very interested in discussing the art of cooking (or the art of managing customer expectations) with her.
I know there are some people who guard even the fact that pork is used in the goulash. But, for a restaurant, it is self-defeating. Unless, of course, your idea of haut cuisine runs to the secret herbs and spices found at KFC.
I am now left with the plausible possibility that "the ingredient" is either ketchup or peanut butter, though, I know it isn't. But she did nothing to stop such wild speculation.
Hers is the only restaurant where I have ever encountered that secretive response. Alex in La Manzanilla loves to discuss the ingredients she uses. A neighborhood cook in Melaque was a bit reluctant to tell me that one of the main ingredients in his Diabla sauce really is ketchup. But he told me. And I still eat there, and enjoy his sauce.
There are plenty of places to eat in this area that offer good food, good service, and even better conversation. I will probably hang out in those places more often.