Turns out everyone wants to be invited to the Foodinsta's Guac-Off this Saturday. My next-door neighbor, Nick, was over yesterday, grabbing food, which is what my neighbors do because I am always trying to get rid of food, and people--especially single men people--seem to like that. Nick is from Saint Louis, his folks own an old school Italian restaurant there, so we are used to talking pesto and piccata. Yesterday, however, he caught me polishing my molcajete (something I've been doing a lot of lately). He had never seen such a thing.

"I guess it's like a mortar, right?" he said, looking at it like some strange sort of beast.

"It is a mortar!" I told him. I explained that its name came from the verb "moler," meaning "to grind," which is the base of the word MOLE, and also guaca-mole. I don't speak Nuhuatl, so really I was talking smack, but I think there might be some truth to what I was saying.

"Will you teach me how to make guacamole?" he said with uncharacteristic humility. I told him I would give him a quick tutorial on my grandmother Josefina's very basic version, which I wrote here and just deleted, having decided not to give it out until after Saturday.

While Nick went back home to get a White Russian he'd just mixed up for himself (go figure!), I put some corn oil in a skillet to heat and when he came back, I handed him a baggie of stale corn tortillas I'd cut into wedges for just such a moment. "Fry these." I said as I began the elbow-greasing task of mashing the beginnings of guacamole.

He overcooked them slightly, but he promised to work on his craft. "Tell your friend I will make warm tortilla chips at her party if I can come." The word "party" sort of stuck in my molcajete--but then a lot of things do.

"This is a competition!" I reminded him, but he was only interested in his late night loot. As he dug into a batch of guacamole with his warm, sea-salty (slightly over-browned) chips, all the while sipping on his White Russian, Nick told me it had never occurred to him that tortilla chips ever started with an actual tortilla. I once had the same eye-opening experience when I discovered that tomato sauce began with actual tomatoes. Somewhere here, I am convinced, is the answer to mutual cultural understanding. Perhaps world peace. Or at least Nick's ticket into the Guac-Off.

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