Lupita’s Frutería

Lupita's pico de gallo

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.

Huevos y Tocino (Eggs and Bacon)

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.

The Bacon Guy's Truck

In this episode, I want to tell you about huevos y tocino – eggs and bacon.

While La Paz, and my mother’s suburb, El Centenario, do have grocery stores, mini-marts, and corner stores, just as you find in the states, the locals, and most of the ex-pats who are mindful about where their food comes buy as much as they can from local vendors.

BaconIn El Centenario, that means if you want chicken or eggs, you call Alex. Alex also services the pools for a lot of the people in my mother’s neighborhood, but that’s just because he works hard. At his house, across the highway from my mom’s neighborhood, he raises chickens. You call him and ask if he’ll be around and tell him how many chickens or eggs you want, and then when you show up at his house (it has white gates) and he has harvested the chickens – killed, plucked and cleaned, and cut into parts if you don’t want them whole – or eggs (also cleaned) and you pay him. (It was  100 pesos for a dozen eggs.) When you’ve finished your eggs, you return the egg crates to Alex, for reuse.

Getting bacon (or smoked pork chops, ham, or chorizo) is a similar process. You drive to the bacon guy’s house. (I forgot to ask his first name, and everyone just calls him ‘the bacon guy’) His commercial truck was parked in his driveway. When we went, his wife was in the window of their laundry room, and she gestured us toward the back of the house, where the bacon guy came out in his butcher apron, and asks what you want, how much, and how you’d like it cut.

We asked for a kilo of bacon, sliced thin, and he brought us chunks of freshly smoked ham to taste while we waited. He put on fresh gloves and went to slice and package our order.

More baconThe ham was amazing, juicy and hot, a little salty, a little sweet, just as it should be. I considered asking for some, but we already had an overflowing fridge, and none of us really eat that much ham.

It only took him a few minutes, and when he gave us our precious package of meat candy, he also brought us paper napkins to clean our hands. The cost for a kilo of bacon was $120 mxp, or a bit over six dollars, US.

Truthfully, it’s a little hard to see slabs of raw meat hanging there, some cured, some waiting to be, but I believe that if you’re going to eat meat, you should be familiar with how it’s processed, just as you should be mindful of where it comes from.

Our huevos and tocino purchases allowed us to get the freshest ingredients, while also supporting local small businesses, and that makes me really happy.

DDoP: Polyurethane

Transcript of yesterday’s entry for The Dog Days of Podcasting. Transcript may not match final recording.

Listen to the episode at The Bathtub Mermaid.

PolyurethaneThe first time I heard the word “polyurethane” I was nine years old, and begging my mother for new roller-skates – the kind that have the smooth wheels like the rental skates at the rink. It must have been around my birthday, or maybe Christmas.

Shortly afterward, I received a pair of roller-skates with white leather booties sporting blue stripes, and happy reddish-pinkish polyurethane wheels.

Every day after school, every Saturday after the usual cartoon hour (which I never watched), I would walk sideways down the three floors from our condo to the ground, holding onto the rail so I wouldn’t roll off the edge of a step. My daring friends and I would skate in the local park, racing down the steep hill and across the low bridge over the creek, and then up the gentle slope on the other side.

We never missed the sharp turn onto the bridge, or went careening off the unprotected edge, but sometimes we almost did.

Sometimes I think we secretly wanted to.

The most recent occurrence of the word “polyurethane” in my life was earlier today, when our hired contractors sanded our kitchen cabinets and painted them with a coating of the stuff.

I’m convinced the fumes have made me slightly high.

I’m also convinced nothing was as awesome as being nine years old, and roller-skating down a steep hill and across a bridge.

Polyurethane…it’s everywhere.