Some say there’s nothing good to eat
in Central America.
“The food is bland,” all rice and beans,
and sometimes it can leave you curled up
in fetal position, crying, as stomach cramps
seize you in fierce retaliation against
your brave forays into questionable cuisine.
These people haven’t eaten a pupusa.
In El Salvador, a thick handmade tortilla
stuffed with cheese, refried beans.
Sometimes pork. Sometimes not.
On the side: curtido, a coleslaw substance
made up of fermented cabbage (not to be
Confused with German sauerkraut), and
a tomato salsa to spread generously.
You may try it in El Tunco, on the beach.
While walking through town, an enthusiastic
Salvadorian man will wave you into his restaurant
and you will hesitate.
But he will say, “Free margaritas!” And you’ll
oblige because you like adventure.
You live life on the edge.
This man will claim he is a Cordon Blue chef,
which seems plausible.
His English is perfect.
You will wander what brought him back to
El Salvador, mired in poverty, doling
out cheap drinks and pupusas to surfer kids
just back from the beach.
Perhaps it is his life work.
Pupusas are meant to be shared
with good friends around a table,
Preferably with a cold drink in hand
and a fan blowing hot Salvadorian air
into your face as your breasts sweat
profusely under the relentless sun.
You will eat pupusas often, in El Salvador.
You will find joy in them, a sort of
unexpected attachment to these simple
tortillas stuffed with wonder and magic.
You will grow sick of them.
And yet, when you pass the border into
Guatemala or Honduras
you’ll find a piece of your soul missing.
A longing for those hot days with
new friends (or was it new days with hot friends?)
and a Cordon Bleu chef in
El Tunco, on the beach, as the sun sets.
You will wish for those pupusas.