Sunday, May 22, 2011

eatso much, peso little

In the style of the finest hacienda, you walk through the front door looking for señoritas and a little well-lit jardín. Instead you find well-child-licked bars similar to a ride at Disney Land. That is where I had this meal.

Don't get me wrong: inside, there are cliff divers, mariachis, treasure hunts, caves, all-in-all it is a magical place. I've been scared, thrilled, and delighted there. I even got to wear a too-big sombrero. This is a place of sheer childhood delight and I will always love it.

So you go through this cattle shoot past the sign, "Eatso Much. Peso Little." Much like the sign, the food is backlit and offensively punned. Perhaps the only choice you are given is beef or cheese, otherwise it doesn't matter. At the end of this ordeal, you have a hot plate on which beans are indistinguishable from enchiladas from rice from queso. Yes, I asked for seconds. When you sit, enjoying the cliff-side entertainment or the puppet show, your table is equipped with a flag that can slide up and down a simple metal pole, indicating when up that you would like a refried bean refill, more enchiladas, some hot sauce, please, or the sopapillas. My flag went up several times for each.

Sopapillas, a delicacy I have yet to find outside of Colorado or New Mexico, similar to Navajo fry bread, are tortillas cut into triangles then deep fried. They puff up and become fillable with whatever you'd put in a taco or topped with powdered sugar then drenched in honey. The latter is the estilo de la casa, the house style. 

Growing up, my aunt and my grandmother admonished the idea of sopapillas for desert. "Hito, have some more sopapillas with your dinner so you can grow up big and strong like Tío Chito." For grandma, this statement was in earnest. For my aunt, I think she liked watching me eat when she could not, after the stomach staples. 

After dinner, there is a lot to see. As a child, I never remembered the food (save the sopapillas) because I was rushing to the hourly piñata, knowing in advance that my older, stronger cousin in his moon boots and Star Wars tee would be the first to crack the thing open as though he could see through the blindfold. The cliff divers wore speedos. If you solved a riddle you would get a Jolly Rancher. I always thought I would discover some forgotten cave and hide there until they closed down and I could break my own piñata without my cousin, and I could have as many sopapillas (with honey, thank-you-very-much) as I wanted. Having returned, having eaten, having pushed through the crowds, I know now that it is just another strip mall amusement in a run-down part of Denver. I'll go back.

1 comment:

  1. i think we all have a history of something like this. For me it was the mid may gathering of my extended family that was called my "birthday party" but was always scheduled on my cousins birthday to save a second visit in the month. Until a surprisingly advanced age i actually thought my birthday was on may 17. This was only broken by the actual birthday cousin throwing my plate of my birthday cake out in the yard because it wasn't really my mother refusing to give me another slice since i was only allowed one.
    This event was always held at our home and catered by a local caterer. The name of which was both indistinguishably european and written in a very large script. We always ordered the lemon chicken and the manicotti. The lemon chicken was very acidic and i could never understand why real lemons weren't as yellow as this sauce. This is to say that it was my favorite.
    Like looking back on a tragedy that shaped us as people and occurred somewhat regularly, i will never forget this. This or the sensation of the corse rug under my bare feet hiding under the dining room table waiting for everyone to pack up into their mini-vans and go back to Staten Island so that i could have some cake.