Friday, June 18, 2010

Food for Thought: Soul Quesadilla

The day a farmer's market was organized on campus, I rejoiced.

In a partnership between the enviro-business society and Aztec Shops (the non-profit organization in charge of all food services on campus) the farmer's market was scheduled every Thursday 10am-3pm. Committed to giving students a a day of endless possibilities while teaching the green, sustainable movement of the independent seller and grower, the farmer's market was a great step forward for SDSU.

Eating on campus gets old the third week you're on a meal plan. Panda Express can only keep you satisfied up to the 5th time in a row you have it. Orange chicken, as fabulous as it is to so many people's mouth, is highly over-rated. So are most corporate chains in my opinion. Call me a cheerleader for the average joes' and their independent-canopy-mobile-restaurants, but when you got nothing to lose, the food just comes out better-cooked with purpose: to please the paying customer.

However, today's thought is not SDSU Farmer's Market, that anecdote was used in order to explain the inspiration behind my re-falling in love with-food and its farmer's market.

When school ended so did the easy opportunity to a market, but it's summer and the still-time before friends part and grow up, the farmer's market and all its distinctive flavors await you.

Let me recommended Ocean Beach's Farmer's Market: Every Wednesday, 4-8 p.m., the really good quesadilla stand (aka Gourmet Tamales)

The really good quesadilla stand is my path to righteousness. As a full Guatemalan, certain elements in Latin cooking are religiously followed such as the tortilla. The tortilla was my bread-forget the butter-to my childhood.

Frijoles: check.
Huevos: check.
Tortillas-CORN: check.

Corn tortillas readers, not flour. If you want to eat any Latin food right, do not, I repeat, do not puss out and opt for the flour. Flour really is, in this case, unnecessary "bad carb" option. My question to you is why would you fill your stomach up with every heavy flour bite you take and increasingly have less room for the main course: the meat, the spices-the DISH.

My consistent problem with the modern quesadilla is such: flour, flour, flour. Every place I've gone has nothing but. At times, to fight my good Guatemalan fight I want to order the fajitas (which gives you the option for flour or corn), order corn, and ask for a bag of cheese. With that nefty skillet those fajitas come on, I can make do. Plus now I got grilled veggies to add to my impromptu quesadilla.

But Gourmet Tamales had me at hello corn.

Normal sized and simply exquisite, Gourmet Tamales sold three variations: cactus, spicy black bean, and chicken.

Again, as loyal chickentarian, I instinctively chose the chicken. Two please. What occurred after my 4 dollar exchange was 1. I burn my lip from eagerness and 2. had the best quesadilla to date.

Not only was the chicken plentiful, but its flavor was how-do-I-put-it-humbling. Sometimes, in a naive attempt to be "Mexican," the chicken is cooked with too many spices and too many bad decisions. Add too much cheese, and that damn flour tortilla and I shake my head to the chef, or the microwave.

At Gourmet Tamales though, I saw two large flat skillets and a line of quesadillas so neatly stacked, it was as though they were ready to march, diligently into my mouth, and my neighbor's.

The cheese was slight, my guess is Jack, but I'll get back to you on that one. Sometimes, my research gets compromised by savor. But cheese done just right, chicken bubbling in the middle of crispy-bent corn tortilla and I knew I was home. Spicy black bean almost made me cry I thought so much of my mom and my dad.

With age, my palette has grown, expanded and given the confidence to try. I grew up on a great food and in my child's heart I knew it, but my immature taste buds refused to let me enjoy it . In a way, now in my twenties, I'm rediscovering the food of my childhood and recognizing all the familiar smells and realizing all the new elements I never was mature enough to appreciate then.

Biting into these chicken quesadillas, I had another moment of crossing such bridge-me then and me now.

These moments remind me that food is an emotional journey as much as it is a hungry one. Soul food is all around. You just have to spot yours and bite in.


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