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Archive for the ‘God’ Category

It’s just like me to make a flowchart on how to eat out, how to survive really, and go out of my way to ignore it.

Like the Christian Existentialists who explain life’s troubling, irreconcilable paradoxes through the existence (and source) of the greatest irreconcilable paradox–Jesus (God/man? mortal/immortal?–anyone else confused? No? Congratulations–you’re smarter than me.)–sometimes we do things not because they make or don’t make sense, but because we just do them. Some things just are. Their absurdity is in line with the inherent absurdity of the universe and hence, given a certain liberal mindset, we are comforted.

And so was my absurdly comforting dinner at Chavella‘s last night.




I
ordered the chicken enchiladas. Here’s the thing about chicken: I was a vegetarian for 11 years, vegan for two of them and I certainly didn’t start eating meat again to eat factory farmed chicken. But, and I’m not making excuses here as I think factory farm chicken is morally and ecologically reprehensible, in the moral/flavor cost-benefit analysis often at work in my food choices, there’s something about that ambiguously but inarguably delicious American Mexican chicken that I’m a total sucker for. So, as I said, I ordered the chicken enchiladas.

At Chavella’s, a pretty good little Mexican joint a few blocks from my Brooklyn digs, one orders his/her enchiladas with a choice of salsa verde or mole. You don’t need a PhD in Cilantro Hate to know salsa verde is quintessentially dangerous to the cilantro averse. For those of you living in the far reaches of xenophobic denial, speaking so little Spanish that you don’t know verde means green–verde means green. It gets its green moniker from a variety of ingredients, most notably tomatillo, lime, green chili and, yes, cilantro.

But the thing is the gentleman next to me had ordered the chicken enchiladas with salsa verde and he was enjoying them with gusto in a not-subtly audible fashion. I asked, “Sir, excuse me, I can’t help but notice that you’re enjoying those enchiladas.”

“Oh, God yes. They’re so delicious,” he replied.

“Sir, do you have a palate for cilantro? What I mean to say is, would you notice if there was cilantro in your salsa verde there?,” I continued.

A good sport, he confirmed what I already knew: “Well, yes, it’s noticeable but certainly not overwhelming and did I mention how truly delicious they are?”

So then the waitress did what I didn’t even consider asking her to do, which was to bring me the mole and verde to try. The cilantro-hating friend who was with me tried them both too. Strangest thing: I could kind of tell there was cilantro in the verde, but I liked it anyway, not because of the cilantro mind you, but despite it. Now, it’s common knowledge that the cilantro taste is mitigated in the cooking process and in this case it was cooked. There was no extra fresh cilantro chiffonade or fresh cilantro finishing touch of any kind. As such it just sort of became one with the sauce. I don’t know what I’m saying here. This doesn’t make sense! This is so, so, absurd.

So I ordered the enchiladas with the very bright, pleasant, garlicky, limy, spicy sauce. It was perfect with the queso fresco and crema and yummy chicken and delicious house-made tortillas. The mole would have overwhelmed everything as (if you want my opinion) it does most everything it touches. In short, the chicken enchiladas verdes were good.

Now, this is not the post you’ve all been waiting for where I change my ways, start liking cilantro and ruin my blog. No. This is the post where I admit there was once a time in my life when I ate something that had cilantro in it and enjoyed it and much to the chagrin of you polarizing cilantro lovers out there–I’m OK with that. Existence precedes essence, if you know what I’m saying.

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Totally Generic Grocery Store Checkout Girl: This is flat leaf parsley, right?

Cilantro-Loving Birthday Friend: Uh (rolls eyes), no; this is cilantro.

TGGSCG: Right.

~

This is the scene that had taken place in a local grocery store mere hours before my friend’s annual birthday brunch this Saturday past.

We had chilaquiles. We had fresh fruit with chili/cinnamon whipped cream. We had rugelach. We had lots of Champagne. We had, you know, a good time.

Chilaquiles (is/are?) a new dish for me. But like so many things, the moment you become familiar with the thing, the thing is everywhere — how did I not encounter these marvelous, mysterious chilaquiles before? I had my first set last weekend during a lazy, rainy Saturday brunch with a couple of friends. I had my second set at my friend’s birthday brunch on Saturday. Both were very different, both were very delicious and both, surprisingly enough, were cilantro-free.

Chilaquiles, if you aren’t familiar, involve stale corn tortillas, fried and simmered in a somewhat spicy green or red sauce then topped with things. Those things generally include queso fresca, crema, chicken and/or eggs and herbs (read cilantro). The whole dish is often served with refried beans. Variations are obviously limitless; what’s essential is the fried tortilla simmered in sauce part.

My first set of chilaquiles came from an (at least somewhat) authentic Mexican joint, so I’ll attribute the cilantro-free status of their chilaquile salsa verde to divine providence — there is simply no other way to explain such a thing. My second set of chilaquiles — the birthday brunch chilaquiles — now that’s a different story. Or is it…

As I was helping in the final stages of prepping the birthday brunch to end all birthday brunches — I’m telling you: it was great — I noticed a big bag full of green shit. And what I mean is I saw a big bag of cilantro.

~

Erin: Uh, Cilantro-Loving Birthday Friend?

CLBF: Yes, Erin

Erin: What’s the meaning of this? (points to big bag full of green shit).

CLBF: Oh, funniest thing. So (recounts grocery store interaction with TGGSCG) but, get this; it’s flat leaf parsley. Can’t even use it.

Erin: Are you out of your mind? You can put parsley on anything.

~

And so it was that we enjoyed cilantro-free chilaquiles, con parsley. And here’s what I’m thinking. While it’s obvious that Chilaquiles Set 1 was a product of divine providence I’m going to go ahead and argue that Chilaquiles Set 2 was also a product of such divine providence. To clarify, Cilantro-Loving Birthday Friend is a pretty decent cook, knows her way around the kitchen and the produce section if you know what I’m saying. For her to mix-up the two admittedly similar-looking herbs is just too unbelievable.

I’m left with only one possible conclusion to draw: God wants me to enjoy chilaquiles (which are super delicious) and God hates cilantro! More on this later.

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