June 20, 2011 § 3 Comments
“que barbaro” says don carlos in a sort of half-chuckle. he’s hosing down the pigsties as i capture him yet again on camera. it’s difficult not to photograph him. he’s so damn photogenic and interesting. a part of the mystique might have to do with my near inability to understand half of what he says. his voice has a well-worn, guttural quality about; it sounds cool but lends itself to incomprehensibility. he also doesn’t exactly speak grammatically correct. i know this because his daughters often correct his speech with a ruthless sharpness that sons and daughters seem to especially reserve for their parents.
let’s try to humanize the myth of the man.
from what i’m told, he’s had little to no formal education. in fact, he doesn’t know how to read or write, which is a bit of a shame because the time i’ve spent around him clearly suggests that he’s very intelligent. he’s the type of man, perhaps like your father or uncle or grandfather, who refuses to write anything down on paper because he insists his memory is iron clad (and it more or less is).
the story of his life could be read on his clothes and his hands. it’s a hard life of endless work. he wakes everyday by 5am to build homes and returns to work several more hours on the farm. washing does very little to change the appearance of his work clothes and at this point, the dirt of the earth is a part of him, nestled into the cracks and crevices of his rough hands. he’s not an imposing figure, standing somewhere around 5’7″, but he’s strong. years tilling the land and constructing houses demands it of you.
i’ve wanted to work on a farm for a long time, and i’ve had a taste of it. it isn’t easy, never pretty, but it feels honest and satisfying. and maybe now i understand a little better the image of tired don carlos sitting on the couch with a beer in hand.
“quieres cafe?” i ask him.
“no gracias. este es mejor” he responds, holding up the bottle of imperial with a smirk.
yes. yes it is.
June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
a highway runs through
this pueblo once made of mud
and great fields of crops
tabac and cafe
cana maiz and frijole
casas now stand there
four vacas per house
and a well to draw water
i can flush toilets
a boyero, now a don
he still knows the way
(mas o menos, let us say)
begins this story
acuna y morales
y los valverde
with new faces, less jobs, but
heart to find the way
June 5, 2011 § 1 Comment
it was easier when i didn’t know you. when i thought you didn’t exist. my days were consistent, if unremarkable. some days hotter, some colder than others. but the ground was always firmly beneath my feet.
have you ever experienced an earthquake before? they’re jarring at first, sometimes terrifying. the worst ones urge you to question the order of things, force you to look at life in a new way. and it always happens when you least expect it, like a shiver crawling up your back, or finding yourself in a dream and unable to wake.
there you were, at my dining table, an eternal smile glowing golden. i was shy at first because you were with the others. i didn’t know what to do. i couldn’t stop staring at you. in fact, you had everyone’s attention. and after what seemed an eternity held hostage to the moment, someone, i can’t remember who, called me over and introduced me. i sat down across from you, still in a trance, caught in some universal play as though that night had already happened and i was merely an actor trying to remember his lines.
i reached out to you and took you into my hand, softly blowing to cool the warmth of your touch. and then it happened. i took one bite and fell in love. lightly fried and crispy and filled with cheese. and as quickly as you had come into my life, you were gone. never to return. i just want you to know that i miss you, wherever you are. my life has never been the same since that one beautiful night. it’s difficult to look upon that fond memory without longing.
you were the best. the best empanada i’ve ever had. t.q.m.
June 3, 2011 § Leave a comment
for someone who loves food and loves to eat, i’ve largely neglected to share the costa rican fare. much of this can be attributed to the less-than-visually striking nature of the food. often without compelling notes of flavor or a distinctive character, costa rican food (excluding the afro-caribbean influence) is comforting, consistent and hearty.
a good example of this is olla de carne, a pork broth based soup sharing much in common with chinese style pork bone soups. the major difference is the contents. olla de carne features more varieties of vegetables and fruits in the soup, whereas “mahkutong” (i’ve butchered the spelling), the chinese version, never has fruits (unless of course you’re being nitpicky and claim tomatoes for the fruits).the meat and the faceless plants are cooked in separate vats of water. tortillas are often served along with the soup.
CORRECTION: This soup is made with beef bones. I could have sworn it was pork. It tastes so similar.