First off, what is a chicharrón?
Or is that one of those questions you really don’t want to know the answer to?
The helping I just ate were fried, and the insides were white, and I’m left thinking maybe it’s tripe?
It was damn tasty.
And I can’t help imagining Tony Bourdain, if he were here, would be proud of my culinary recklessness.
I’m back in La Paz for a few hours this afternoon to deal with the rental car, use the internet, upload this blog, and have a little food. And while en route down the length of the Malecon from the Europcar to the known wifi connection at 7 Crowns Hotel, I happened by the Bismark-Cito Taco stand (named after a ship, as I understand it) I’d heard about.
I’d sought it out once before only to eat at the overpriced so-so restaurant behind it (Ostenaria Bismark-Cito Restaurante). They had oysters done five ways, but I was too scared to try them raw. Maybe I should re-think that?
Again, the cautious part of my digestive system says “Only a crazy person eats raw oysters in Mexico” but then the Tony Bourdain part says, “You’re drinking the water and just ate chicharrón. Why stop now?”
Anyway, I think perhaps the tacos are only made during daylight hours because the stand wasn’t here when I came by before.
But now it is.
So I stopped to read the hand-written chalkboard menu, and the man spent a few minutes showing me the dozen different fillings available today: Octopus, garlic shrimp, fried shrimp, fish in a red sauce, fried fish, pork, beef, lobster, some other saucy meaty things I didn’t understand, and – yes – chicharróns.
Normally, I would avoid the latter simply because of a vague gnawing sense that it’s something I wouldn’t want to be eating if I knew what I were eating, but he gave me a sample, and damn if it wasn’t delicious.
I ended up ordering three tacos – garlic shrimp, octopus, and the chicharrón - and a Coke. And then it got even better.
I don’t know what it is about “do it yourself sauce buffets” but I freaking love them.
Anyone who’s read this blog for a long time or been intrepid enough to go backwards and start from the beginning knows of my deep and abiding obsession with falafel shops. I’m particularly enamored of those where they have hummus and tahini and marinated cucumbers and raw onions and fried cauliflower and pickled beets and whatever other wonderfulness they think you might want to try to stuff into a pita. It’s the ultimate intersection of my love of food and my love of a bargain.
I get happy just thinking about it.
Thus, you can imagine my joy at discovering a wide array of toppings available – and in a proper self-serve buffet setting – for my tacos: avocado sauce, a dozen different salsas, cabbage, limes, pickled cucumbers, peppers and so on. I loaded up and took a seat.
Then, one of the waiters approached and said something very quickly. I thought he was asking if I needed something to drink, and I did my best to explain that another man had already taken my order for a Coca Cola. Then he switched to English and explained that “He” – pointing to Leo, the man running the taco stand – “has paid for your lunch because you are very beautiful.”
So how do you like that?
The hands-down best tacos I have ever had in my entire life (the garlic shrimp being unspeakably good, and the other two close runners up) and bought for in an act of random generosity because, in all honesty, of some good genes?
It’s hard not to feel lucky.
And I do.
So I suppose I’d better make the most of that feeling and go put this blog up for you, and get back to my (truly lovely) little home and finish writing chapter 23.
I ended up redoing three chapters yesterday (and I think the modifications I made were on point and worth the time), but I’m still well on my way to being done before heading home early next week.
And that alone is worth it’s weight in gold.
I’ll miss this place, though.
I really love La Paz.
Love it enough to be having thoughts like “when I get a big advance or paycheck for this book, I’m coming back and buying a little place right away.”
What’s not to love?
It’s hot and sunny and stunningly clear every, single day.
The water is all kinds of shades of turquoise and cerulean and sapphire blue.
The sand is warm and white.
There are incredible cacti and interesting desert plants and noisy birds all around.
The sunsets are spectacular every, single night.
The vibe is mellow.
And once in a while a stranger – with whom you have what was probably a painful on the ears conversation (due to your terrible and consistently sub-par Spanish) to thank him for his kindness - buys you lunch.
Life is good, kids.
Life is good.