Observation Intrudes On Indolence

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I have to say that I am becoming quite an expert on the workings of the small butcher shops of Mexico. This time I have seen chorizos made, and then hung up to dry, and have witnessed the creation of carnitas from start to finish. The old saying about not watching the making of sausage if you want to continue enjoying it, is made flesh here, as it were. Chorizos are sausages, so I'll say no more about them. Carnitas start out looking like something in a horror movie and end up as a delicious sandwich. In between there is a copper cauldron filled with suspicious looking bubbling black oil into which is thrown everything from what appears to be osso buco and roasts, to lungs (they have to be pierced or they'll float on top), to organs I can't honestly identify. One thing looks like some kind of sea creature, but Luis swears it comes from a cow. Anyway, all this is boiled together for hours. Salt water and oranges are added, then it is drained and chopped bit by bit as it is sold. People come up and ask for specific things- "Put lots of liver in mine", or "Not so much fat this time', or "More fat this time ", or "Please chop in some pork rinds". The chopping is done on a slice of tree trunk that has obviously seen many years of use.

Being observant is my only constructive activity on this trip. I usually try to associate my peregrinations with my profession but I can't think of a single instance of deliberately having done so on this trip. Mexico may well be the ruin of me. I love societies where it is impossible to detect even the tiniest smidgen of Protestant Work Ethic. I've always preferred Italy and Spain to northern Europe. This is not to say that the people are not industrious. They are. It is just a different kind of industry, and it is accompanied by a useful understanding of the failures of the flesh (there's that word again), that are inevitable.

I love language mix ups. I'm sitting in a cyber-cafe as I write this and I've just asked my astonished waiter for a plate of gatitas (kittens) instead of galletas (cookies).

posted by Bill Smith at 2:20 PM


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