Wednesday, October 15, 2014

changing my galoshes

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.

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