Pupusas, Pasta & Chocolate Key Lime Pie
After two short weeks with my husband – our first this year – I woke again this morning to an empty bed. In our months apart, I grew to love the morning quiet, my first cup of sweet, milky tea in the garden, slowly putting myself together for the day.
But this morning, the quiet was filled with little reminders of his absence – no clothes strewn around the floor, no glasses on the dresser – and the dull ache of saying goodbye all over again.
I know his trip is shorter this time, but the distance still feels daunting. Watching his footage of Nairobi’s slums, twisting labyrinths of mud walls and tin roofs, I’m struck by how comfortable he’s grown in a place so foreign. His work is impressive; my own photos feel trite. What’s the point of photographing my dinner when he’s documenting the lives of people without any?
Still, when my friends proposed exploring Brookyn’s food by bike, I grabbed my camera, half out of habit. We pedaled through Red Hook’s weathered warehouses to the ball fields, a ring of food carts around a grassy sea of soccer. The carts are famous, and rightfully so, for frying up amazing Latin American street food – pupusas, huaraches, tamales, tacos.
We kicked off with a plate of pupusas, thick Salvadorian corn flatbreads, stuffed with pork and cheese and topped with curtido, bright purple pickled cabbage. We ate our way through several tacos, glorious grilled corn smothered in butter, chili and cheese, and two huaraches, massive burritos bursting with chorizo, grilled vegetables and guacamole.
We washed down our feast with refrescas frescas: tamarind juice, similar to a tart, fruity ice tea; coconut milk, creamy and cool; and horchata, a silky, cinnamon-spiced rice drink.
Stuffed, but not yet sated, we cycled to Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie, a kitschy slice of Key West on the Hudson. The little strip of waterfront Eden, kept lush by a neighboring nursery, overlooks the Statue of Liberty and serves swingles, frozen chocolate-dipped key lime pies on a stick.
Unable to move much further, we made our way to Prospect Park and flopped down in the sunny grass until we could conceive of ever being hungry again. At which point John and Judy proposed an impromptu dinner party, and cycled off to roll fresh tagliatelle. When we reassembled in their back garden at sunset, a delicious tangle of pasta appeared, tossed with sautéed kale, morels and bacon.
As I soaked in the wine and last drops of sun, I mulled over the day and marveled at the ability of shared meals to feed friendships and define a flavor of home. The phone rang. Shravan, about to set off to Kenya on one of the biggest breaks of his photojournalist career, was vibrating with happiness at Dulles Airport, already best friends with half of his high-profile journalist travel companions.
“I just wanted to say thank you. I know what you mean now when you say you love what you do. And I never would have been able to get here without you.”
And with those words, my photos didn’t seem so trivial. Because loving what I do and cooking for people I love is the way I create a foundation for both our lives, a place rich in food and friends. A place, at the end of all travels, to call home.