This week, instead of fiction, I’m sharing some of the holiday traditions and experiences I’m having while visiting my mother in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
There is a store in El Centenario that you get to by turning off the highway at the sign with the flags and the simple descriptor “frutería.”
In English, this is a greengrocer. A produce stand. But Lupita’s frutería is so much more.
First, of course, there is Lupita herself. She’s a small woman with jet black hair and deep berry lipstick, and she talks faster, even, than I do, with a cheery expression that you cannot help but mimic.
Then, there’s her produce. She doesn’t always have everything you want, but what she does have is excellent. Sweet potatos. Bananas. Tomatos. Avocados. Onions. All the staples you need.
But the real reason people visit her store – the not-so-secret, super secret reason – is her pico de gallo.
Now, pico de gallo itself is not a difficult thing to make. It’s just tomatos, onions, chili peppers and cilantro, maybe with a little bit of salt.
Something about Lupita’s pico de gallo, though, is just… effervescent. Not literaly. It doesn’t bubble. But it tastes amazingly fresh, and it seems to carry with it the essence of Lupita herself. We bought a container of it on Thursday afternoon, and by bedtime, we’d finished the container. (I did not measure the container.)
My mother says there was at least one time when she got the last container Lupita had for sale that day, and saw other customers walk away disappointed.
Chips and salsa aren’t something you put out at parties here. It’s considered “cheating” to offer something that simple. But everyone loves them, and everyone eats it.
Especially if it’s the pico de gallo from Lupita’s frutería.