Ken Leighton 5 p.m., May 24
Ooh. Don't you just love the smell of tamales in the morning?
Sitting with Marisol Arteaga and her friend Maria Alvarado, here at the tamale stand next to Rancho Fresco (1852 National Avenue, Barrio Logan). I've got a pork Tamal ($1.50), in the Chiapas southern style. Less hot than northern Mexicans prefer but with interesting flavors of the guajillo and ancho chiles and garlic. And it's delicious.
But what I really like is just sitting here, chewing the fat, talking about Chiapas and Pachuca Hidalgo, where Marisol comes from (they like 'em hotter there, too). The owner, Rigoberto, is from Chiapas.
Of course, I'm late. Pork is the only flavor Marisol has left. If I'd come by at seven this morning, she would have had the whole range: Beef, chicken, pork, and the most popular one among Gringos, Marisol says, jalapeño and cheese.
Maria and Marisol
"Americans are about 60 percent of our business," she says. I guess that's partly because they all come to Rancho Fresco here for its south-of-the-border veggies and the prices.
Mine was also the last of the pork. Marisol keeps turning people away. She says she'll be here till three.
"What are you going to be doing for the next three hours?" I say.
"Well, I'm hoping they're going to bring me some more," she says. "Usually we go though 250 to 350 tamales a day. I haven't sold that many yet."
So I get back to appreciating the garlicky flavor of the pork and the sticky masa mess around it and the corn smell of the golden husk it was wrapped in. Eat one of these, and you're eating exactly the same thing as Mayans ate in Palenque, 2000 years ago. And get this: their ancestors were unwrapping the corn leaves and discovering masa with meats just like I am ten thousand years ago. That's 8000 B.C.
Hmm. That's quite a thought to chew on.
Only thing missing is that other ancient drink, coffee. Next time, I'll call in at the organic roaster people just up the block, Cafe Virtuoso, and bring it with me.
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