Book of Marvels
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Menudo for Breakfast

I had to post this picture, even though it's not very good and has nothing to do with menudo. As I was driving along US-80, I had a lot of time to think about corn. Something magical about it-- think of Steven King's The Stand, that baseball movie (can't think of its name--if Kevin Costner built built it, they would come), Children of the Corn...I thought of more examples, but have forgotten. Anyway, corn is somehow mezmerizing, mysterious, mythical. Has this to do with our country's history-- the first gift to Europeans was supposed to have been maize, right? Or is it just that the fields of corn go on and on, covering the land, muffling the earth, hiding...what? We plant all that corn, then seem to be a little uneasy at what we hath wrought.

A few years ago, in another trip cross country, my daughter and I drove from Cleveland to Portland on probably the least direct route: we drove down to Nashville and then took Rte. 40 all the way to Arizona (I think that's where we left 40). The part of our trip that passed through Texas was miserable. A truck had flipped over, spilled fuel, and exploded. Fire spread along the sides of the road and median strip, but we were stuck there, held in place by traffic, not sure if we too were going to catch fire, not sure what had happened to the driver. We were finally able to move on and determined to get out of Texas, but we were too tired and had to spend the night in a horrible town that smelled of oil fire. So we got up early the next morning, got back on 40 and sped towards New Mexico.

Everything seemed to change after we crossed the state line. The landscape turned beautiful, and the sun rising behind us cast a shadow of our car on nearby mesas-- we looked so swift and airy! We were hungry, so we stopped at the first town. Tucumcari, I think. We wanted Mexican food and weren't sure we were going to find any at 7:00 in the morning, but a place called Raul's was open and we became the only customers. On the breakfast menu, there was a listing of the usual assortment--eggs and sausage and potatoes--but also this: "Menudo, Breakfast of Champions!" And even though menudo is a spicy tripe stew and not eggs, it was sort of something we had to do. The waiter came out and asked where we were from, then walked away shaking his head, muttering, "Two girls from Cleveland who want menudo for breakfast!"

Why mention this now? Well, I like thinking about it-- a great memory as well as great menudo--and I hoped something like this would happen on my recent trip. Not so. The food was uniformly bad along the road. I decided that towns should put out a sign listing all the local eateries as well as the big Mac type places for those of us who want to patronize local businesses. I also thought there should be travel books-- like the AAA guides-- that highlight local motels and restaurants, not just the chains.

I wouldn't mind that assignment! Posted by Picasa
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