Archive for November, 2009

Marilyn Monroe and an authentic burrito

November 22, 2009

I asked the young black man walking up the street whether the Mexican restaurant across the street was any good.  He didn’t pay me much mind.  None at all as a matter of fact.  I was in a heavy Latino area south of Johns Hopkins Hospital and I wondered whether he spoke only Spanish so didn’t understand my question.  It was a warm afternoon, shadows lengthening, and I looked after him as he passed, without giving me the time of day.  Not 20 years old I guessed, wearing tight black nylon around his head and the magical blue jeans so popular.  Magical?  How do they stay up? I don’t get it.  The pants came up to the bottom of his butt revealing most of his white jockey shorts.  Really, how do the pants stay up?  He probably picked up on my thought process.  I mean, are there pins involved? Ok, ok. I’ll get off it.  He probably didn’t know much about the restaurant  named Paisanos across the street.  It didn’t look like much but all I wanted was a burrito, a real burrito.

Inside the restaurant,  two women and a toddler paid me not a whole lot more mind than the mute young man who passed me by outside on the sidewalk.

“Can I get a burrito?”

The younger of the two women pointed straight up at the signs above the counter. Through the yellowing plastic  I could see that one of the selections, No. 5 I think, was a burrito.  The presentation didn’t excite me but I forged ahead.

“With chicken?” she asked.

The young child looked up at me and her brown eyes pulled mine away from the sign and the question.  I smiled, then I saw the poster of Marilyn Monroe on the wall and the shadows of the words on the front window playing across her image. It reminded me of a snowstorm last winter in Rehoboth when I photographed a snowy Rehoboth Avenue sidewalk, looking toward the ocean, and a poster of Marilyn Monroe, sultry and way too hot in her clothes, as she looked out on the wintry scene.

“Yes,”  I answered.  “I’ll have chicken.”

Another poster of Marilyn on the opposite wall, a different one, more tattered and faded, echoed the one defined by the afternoon’s shadows.

Why the owners of Paisanos wanted a poster of Marilyn Monroe in their restaurant was just as much a mystery to me as the magical, gravity-defying jeans.

I worried a little about the burrito being prepared for me until I saw the plump woman cutting slices of avocado and spreading them across the layer of refried beans on the warm tortilla. Such earthy colors; such earthy tastes. And then some hot peppers too.  It was no miss.

When I licked the last bits of the messy concoction off my fingers I wanted to be starting over. How did she make those big fat rice grains balance so well with everything else? And what does Marilyn Monroe have to do with any of it?

Life is filled with questions isn’t it? Surely a lot more questions than there are answers.


The future of Punkin Chunkin records?

November 11, 2009


A wee bit of scotch with this one.  Not too much.  Goldilocks principle: just the right amount. (Writing after hours from home.)

This morning, in the rain that rode in on another nor’easter, I drove to Harbeson to take a picture of Harry Thompson and Winfield Martin.  They’re part of the Iron Tiger punkin chunkin team that took third place in this year’s world championship competition.  Harry grows his own pumpkins and is convinced that the Estrella (or Cuban or Indian variety, it’s called all three) that he uses represents the future of world records.  Read my Barefootin’ column in Friday’s Cape Gazette for the full treatment.

My column runs on a page where color isn’t available so I’m including last week’s   and this week’s column pictures with this blog so you can get a feel for the colors. The top photo shows Harry, left, and Winfield (whose friends call him Butch) with the white pumpkin preferred by many chunkers, and the Cuban variety that Harry likes.  The bottom photo shows world record holder Jake Burton and his mom and dad, Chuck and Dawn Burton, in the family’s garage a few days before last weekend’s 2009 World Championship Punkin Chunkin. Note the trophy Jake won with last year’s 4,483-foot throw and his stash of white pumpkins ready for this year’s competition.  Jake didn’t place in the top three this year but his world record still stands.  Harry and his Iron Tiger team won third place this year. I’m not sure how Chuck fared with his J.D. Lazarus chunker. When I find out I’ll let you know.

Pumpkins are good for so much!  Sam Calagione makes a great Dogfish pumpkin ale and check our Denise Clemons’ food column in Friday’s Gazette for a great way to eat pumpkin.  Sussex County has a great future with agriculture.