Project Dissertation

I moved to this fabulous city three years ago mainly to; be near an airport for travel, be able to not trade my stilletos for trainers, and to finish my doctoral studies in four years. Yes, that pretty much sums up my priorities at 30. So now I am ABD with nine months to go and San Francisco is no easy city to ignore. Although, I would argue that each experience that deters my academic writing is really just needed inspiration. Welcome and I hope you enjoy...

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Bilingual, Bicultural, and Dual Citizen. J School B.A., M.A. in High Incidence Disabilities, & ABD in Education.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Belmar y La Gallinita

I parked along Harrison and we walked over to 24th street. We had already been in that part of the Mission earlier in the week for some yummy lunch at Tortas los Picudos. On our way to the Mercado, my mom commented on how good it smelled, even I could recognize the carnitas wafting out the door.

We went to Chavita's Mercado for the fresh produce, queso fresco, and arrachera which I learned is skirt steak best for carne asada. My parents moved deftly through the store, "did you get the rabanos? the cebollitas?" I just held the basket and followed them around taking it all in.

I walked by the meat counter and smelled a distinctive vinegar smell, that took me back to my childhood summers in Mexico at the corner store where I would get an agua de limon and- "cueritos, they have pickled pig skin," I announced. I had been there several times before and never noticed, maybe because I am never at the meat counter. My dad laughed and said, "oh, do you want some?" Hmmm...I laughed, "only if they still have the pelitos on them," which is really gross but rare.

Earlier I had told my mom about the book I had been reading, and how the loss of taste and food is related to the loss of culture. So, even though I did not prepare meat dishes myself, I wanted to know the recipes, to hold on to the taste buds and pass along that tradition. Food is memory.

The first time my family wrote down a recipe it came from my Tia en Aguascalientes, someone finally got her to write down the recipe for her famous home ground mole. It arrived on a torn brown produce bag, written in her handwriting and read more like a story and less like a recipe: I could imagine her standing in the kitchen talking me through the process. The next recipe our family wrote down was for adobo, my mom made it for me on her previous visit and while my friends enjoyed theirs with chicken, we also made tofu with adobo for me.

My dad had joked before the shopping excursion, "mija, why don't we just treat your friends to dinner?" "Noooo...we can all go out to eat what we miss is home cooked food, honestly," I told him. The food in the city is really good actually great, in relation to value and quality, but nothing compares to my parents cooking.

On our way back to the car, my mom announced she was going to have a taco for lunch, we followed her in. I fell in love with the place the moment I walked in, from the front of the store I saw the most beautiful abuelita, reminded me of my great grandmother, moving busily around, her grey hair in a bun, the apron, skirt, it felt familiar. My mom noticed her right away also. They ordered and I wandered again past another meat counter and their I saw perfect nopal palms all ready to grill, the thin thorns and tough exterior already removed.

My mom and dad made conversation over lunch, with the young woman preparing their food. They are from Jalisco, my fathers hometown. The Uncle is the butcher, it is a family affair. In the four years I had been in the city I had never stopped in. The locals kept the place busy buying; fresh masa, fresh chicharones, carnitas by the pound, carne...Belmar y La Gallinita at 24th and Harrison, keeping our taste buds and traditions alive and well in the heart of the Mission.


Blogger tacosam said...

Lorena, great story. The recipes should be treasured just like any family heirloom.

I found a picture of the market to go with your story on google maps streetview. Just type in 2808 Harrison Street, San Francisco and hit "streetview". The photo made your story come to life.

10:37 PM  
Blogger tacosam said...

Lorena, your story about eating/not eating meat reminded me of an interesting article I recently read in the NY Times. Here is the link:

11:04 PM  
Blogger Lorena said...

tacosam- that is exactly the market, gracias...thanks for the link, going to read the nyt article next :)

12:35 PM  

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