“Carne, por favor. Mucho carne”
I stealthily approach from the west, hugging storefronts to stay in the shadows, keeping a wary eye out for the guy who offered my ayahuasca from behind a barred storefront last week. Head down, purposefully walking, I’ve no desire to catch eyes with the waiter who likes to stand out front of Donde Maria. He knows me, knows my preferred booth in the back, and I don’t want to hurt his feelings when he sees it’s not his place I’m headed to today.
There are two waiters at Donde Maria. One is a cool cat, calm and collected, who, each time I arrive, offers me a smooth fist-bump and a sluggish English but easily understood “how’s your day?”.
The other has his hat pulled low over his eyes, a shifty and nervous disposition, and upon my request for “mucho heuvos y carne” (which means “lots of eggs and meat”) casually delivered a breakfast casserole featuring eggs, yes, and …parakeet.
I genuinely didn’t mind the dish, but the thought all the time spent deboning the tiny bird gave me an odd feeling. I’m not sure I desire my food to be so thoroughly handled, and so today I duck into the eatery just prior to Donde Maria, finding a wooden-bench booth near the back and simplifying my request to yet another poor Colombian who hears my disclaimer “perdon, my espanol es may malo” (“my Spanish is really bad”) and thinks “no shit.”
She runs off the menu in a voice so quiet and smooth I can only pick out a few words – trout, and chicken. “No trucha, no pollo…Carne, por favor. Mucho carne” I request. The butcher shop is mysteriously closed today, and I need my red meat. That, and I’ve had the trout in other places, which comes “some dis-assembly required”. I’m journaling today, and picking apart greasy fried fish with my fingers is bound to make my pen take on the attributes of a greased pig.
This gal is a not only a listener, she’s got the menu to back it up. My dish arrives, prefaced by a hearty soup featuring corn (still on the cob), potato, the ever-present plantain, and things various green stuff. The main portion has yet to come, but I’m hopeful…and it does not disappoint. Another potato, lentils, rice, salad with an amazing pineapple garnish, and a flank steak half the size of a medium pizza, along with a glass of juice squeezed from a fruit I don’t know. Once I’m deep into, she passes by and lays down a slip of white blank white paper half the size of a playing card – this scrap is my ticket. Fifteen thousand pesos, it reads…about three dollars and forty-one cents.
I’m chuffed, as they say in England, and stuffed, as we say back home. I can’t even finish, and pantomime putting my leftover in a box. Lina (her name on the ticket) brings me a styrofoam container and plastic bag, and I start the forty-seven minute walk back with a full belly, afternoon snack, and peace of mind knowing no tweety birds were harmed in the making of this post.