Monday, June 20, 2005

just trying to get myself some gravity

I would rather starve than eat your bread

During my time in Peru, the most random things would heighten certain senses. I was in a cafe in Arequipa on one early morning. Early by Peruvian standards, that is. It was 9 am on a Sunday, a parade was clogging the Plaza de Armas, and shops were taking their time opening their doors. One of the many things that I loved about being in another country was this relaxed attitude towards time. Stores posted their hours, but they were "more guidelines, really" (TM POTC). Perhaps it would have drove me mad after a time, the lack of reliability, but during my trip, it had a calming effect.

We went into the cafe because one of my travel companions (who I took to calling el gringo numero uno during the course of the trip) has some sort of tapeworm-like condition that requires that he ingest massive amounts of food and coffee on an hourly basis. It is much like having a 185 lb. toddler roaming around the streets under your watch. The up side is that you get to explore a lot of different restaurants and cafes.

The cafe was just opening when we arrived. Casually, the women running the place brought out trays of pastries, exchanged old cakes on display for fresh ones made late the night before, setting out borrichitos and empanadas to tempt your stomach. Tray after tray, the early morning routine. A ordered a cappucino, and, with me at his side asking questions to decipher what was what, he picked pastry after pastry from the other side of the glass.

I had time then, as he chomped away on his spoils, to take it all in. Something in me stirred at the sight of a simple cake, the way it rose, the texture of its top. Something in me wanted to spend the day with these women, making pastries, kneading dough. It's not that I have romantic notions that this is a great and easy way to make living. Just the tangibility of it. I had only been travelling for a few days, but my hands felt idle. It was as though they had always been idle, but I only realized it sitting in that bakery.

Yesterday, I was at the market, and a part of me just wanted to chat with the cashier in Spanish. It's been very strange how the tables have turned back upon arriving back here. There were mangoes for sale, and I bought two even though I have never much cared for mangoes, and had no definite idea of what I would do with them. When I got home, I got to peeling and cutting them. Before I knew it, I was making ginger mango bread.

The experiment failed. The bread had neither enough of the mango flavor I had expected, nor enough of the tang that a healthy amount of ginger should imbue. But it hardly mattered. I would not have eaten it anyway. I just wanted to make mango pulp and make the concoction. I just wanted to see bread rise.

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