Sep 21, 2006

COPAN, Honduras – 
"See that woman?" Gustavo gestures towards a stocky grandmother. "El Pijazo – this atolera y pupuseria – is named for her slap. If you don't clean your plate, she'll smack you."

"She's gonna beat me senseless," I say, gesturing to the table. I'd chawed through three pupsas: spongy tortillas filled with cheese, squash and loroco flower blossoms respectively. With enthusiasm, I'd ladled on the magenta garnish, made from pickled cabbage, beets and cauliflower.

Hot sauce and finger food for breakfast. Like it.

I was full long before the corn gruel arrived in its gourd. "You are a writer, you must try everything," Gustavo says.

"Everything vegetarian," I remind him.

"No meat in this," he sniffs, "just ground pumpkin seeds and black beans."

I blast lime into the bowl, then spoon into the watery beige soup – so much better than it appears. "Excellent, but I can't eat anymore," I moan. "Tengo muchos problemas. I won't survive the abuela attack."

"Here, give me the bowl. I will rescue you."


We pass through the kitchen to rinse at the backyard tap. Sticks char under the tortilla griddle and a gourd floats inside the cauldron of corn. I pause, watching the cast-iron chefs.

Loitering a beat too long, I am put to work. I slap the dough from palm to palm, then the proprietor gobs some chicken and cheese into the center.

My pupusa is lumpy and leaking.

But my grin is flawless.


  1. Anonymous2:23 PM

    Mamma, if you cook like you walk...

  2. No one would let this lurcher near a kitchen.

  3. She does reheat a mean pizza.

  4. My tempe and dead-bee stir fry ain't too shabby either.

    Serve with a generous splash of herbal, organic mozzie spray.

  5. For some reason this reminded me of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. "He's a vegetarian" "A what?" "He doesn't eat meat!" "No meat? No problem! I'll cook lamb!" :)

  6. I've definitively had those moments, including "vegetarian" anchovies (???) and also spaghetti bolognese (when confronted, the Italian waiter patiently explained the carne was "piccolo")!


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