Friday, March 17, 2006

I have lived in Carmen Pampa for just shy of seven weeks. So when I made my first salad tonight, it was a momentous occasion, worthy of documenting. I've had two or so salads before -- always trying to find a non-insulting way to get the information that I need from my host or waitron to calculate the risk of eating non-peel-able food -- but this was a Capital-S Salad.

It was after 10pm, and I had guided the visiting husband and sons of my comrade Diana on a hike up and down the mountainside, hauled an obscene amount of compost to the heap, helped the crew caring for Diana in the middle of a terribly-timed bout of stomach shenanigans, scrambled to correct all my papers so my students could use them this weekend to study for next week's big exam, fetched a prescription for Diana after putting my WFR-trained medical intuition (and slowly improving Spanish) to use, narrowly avoided being responsible for cutting a chicken's head off, endured the 5th day in a week with no running water, helped unload a truckful of roofing materials for the coffee plant's new offices, hiked back up to teach my class, then came down to help teach two combined classes for colleagues. Not my busiest day by a long shot but salad-deserving all the same.

So Kevin (the visiting son who took care of the chicken's head and innards) and I decided to refresh the lettuce I had soaked in heavily-diluted bleach water the day before. It's from the garden the agronomy students maintain on the upper campus. And it seemed to verily cry out for a smidgen of the highly-prized Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (not in the least fat-free, thankyouverymuch) that Danielle's visiting Mom had brought down earlier in the week. So that merited fresh tomatoes, we decided. Then, after some discussion about protein (I was jonesing for some roasted almonds), Kevin busted out some of the ham the students produce. (Unspeakably fresh -- slaughtered every Monday from the pens I walk by several times a day.) Reinspired then, I got Hugh's permission and Hannah's advice to toast some of the pound of Brazil nuts that sold for US$1.25 total.

By the end of all the preparation, I was able to contain my salivating just long enough to snap this ISO1600 night-kitchen shot. I hope you find it a fraction as satisfying in this two-dimensional digital form and I did in real life.

(Special note to my vegetarian and vegan friends: Um, sorry. I live with carnivores and the meat is really really good. And organic and local and sustainable and it helps students learn, for crying out loud. But mostly it tastes amazing. Like mi amiga Christa McDermott, I believe I'm now a pork-etarian.)


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