I don’t know what it is about street food that makes it so good. Grills and pans take on a certain patina when they’re not exactly cleaned spotless each night. Lard tastes better than heart healthy sunflower oil. (write this one down kids… fat = flavor) Maybe it’s the thrill of taking a chance on salmonella or hepatitis. Regardless, Anthony Bourdain has it right – you’re more likely to get sick from the hotel breakfast buffet than a street vendor. Accordingly, a friend and I took a chance on a serious dive, hole-in-the-wall, side of the road taqueria the other day.
I had a couple of pork chili verde tacos. Two small homemade tortillas, pork, onions and cilantro, hot oil dripping down my fingers. Simple. Heaven. Makes me ashamed of the American contribution to Mexican culinary history – the Chalupa Nacho Cheese (si, queso!), beef or upgraded to authentic carne asada. Oh, and Cinco de Mayo. Truly sorry about that one. Since I’m apologizing I may as well throw in blended margaritas. If you feel that you must drink your alcohol like a Jamba Juice smoothie, please have the decency to not call it a margarita. Ice cubes (Cubes DAMMIT!), Cointreau, good 100% blue agave tequila, salt. A lime if you must. Anything else and it’s no longer the beautiful drink Don Carlos Orozco gifted us with.
Since we’re talking tequila, we should probably mention a certain Jose Cervo-fueled night when I was in my twenties. Or not. Let’s just say that livestock, downtown high-rise hotels, and base jumping rarely ends well. What is worth talking about is that feeling you have in your youth. Joints don’t hurt and backs don’t ache. There’s no such thing as stretching and warming up before you do something. There’s no hesitation when it comes to running, jumping, or climbing things. You just do it. Afterwards muscles aren’t sore. Sleep often comes easy. You don’t blink an eye at starting your evening at 11pm. Roll in as the sun is rising, go to work and repeat it the next evening.
Sitting here at an age that’s probably closer to the end than the beginning (holy crap, that’s a depressing thought), I wonder where those feelings of youth went? Well, not exactly true – in my head I still “feel” like I’m late twenties. I still listen to loud, obnoxious music that doesn’t fit my age. I feel ridiculous the few times I need to wear a tie or a suit, like I’m pretending to be an adult. The thought of going on a cruise just feels claustrophobic and something grandparents do. I like speed and thrills – skiing, mountain biking, motorcycles. I don’t think twice about going on crazy long hikes or trail runs in the backcountry. Unfortunately most of my activities usually culminate in ibuprofen, ice, and being too sore to walk the next day. I am constantly surprised when I can’t do something that I used to be able to do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up in the morning in pain and been honestly puzzled why I hurt? I never used to have to stretch my hamstrings and calves before spending an afternoon pulling weeds in the garden.
The lesson is that while you can’t stop the physical aging process, there’s no need to grow old mentally. The older I get the less interested I am in becoming a “grown up”. I don’t want to stop riding bikes, going for hikes, or listening to ridiculous gangster rap and 1970’s funk at eardrum damaging volumes. Everyone should resolve to do something youthful this week. Go watch a three stooges film festival. Go-cart racing. Sign up for climbing lessons at the local climbing gym. Wear a baseball hat and flip-flops. Take a spur of the moment trip without planning. Stay up past 10pm. It doesn’t matter what it is… just go do something to prove to yourself that you’re not an old fuddy-duddy.
And resolve to skip a chain restaurant this week in favor of street food. Preferably not in the best part of town. Take a chance. Have a real taco.