Back to the Basics
I live in an urban neighborhood that's trying to turn into an artist's enclave, but it's not quite there yet.
In fact, I am about the only non-100% Mexican American in the 'hood. Still, I like the diversity and all the fucked up, low rider cars and the mix of poverty with Muppies moving in and fixing up their houses.
About a quarter mile from me is the Deco District H-E-B, a supermarket that's part of a huge chain here in Texas.
For fancy groceries, I travel four miles away to H-E-B Central Market, where they have 700 kinds of beer, 20 varieties of apples and 1,000 kinds of cheese. But for bread and soy milk and the usual box of cereal or case of water, the Deco District H-E-B suits me just fine.
I went out for a few groceries this evening, and there in front of the store was a Mexican man, likely illegal, tending a modest silver barbecue barrel. I asked what was in it and the man said, "Roasted corn." I ordered one and he asked what I wanted on it. He had chili powder, lime flavored chili powder, butter, lemon pepper, salt, black pepper and some kind of liquid reddish stuff that probably would take the paint off a car in two seconds flat.
I asked for butter only. No salt, nothing but butter, which was probably margarine anyway.
The man selected a large, perfectly roasted ear, jammed a nice clean stick in one end, cradled it in a piece of foil and squirted butter on one side. I reached out to get it and he said, "No, wait. I have to do the other side."
He painstakingly buttered the other side, folded the foil over it and handed it to me, along with a nice little white paper napkin. I gave him his two bucks, stuck it in my grocery bag and drove home.
Once I arrived home, I removed the foil and sprinkled some nice, grainy sea salt over it.
I bit into it and tasted sunshine and rain and buttery sweetness that can only be found in a perfect ear of spring corn. The kernels popped off the cob and into my mouth in neat rows.
Yeah, big deal, it was an ear of corn bought off a wetback for twenty times what it cost him.
But it represented the ingenuity of a simple man, scraping out a living by selling one modest product at a temporary location, probably breaking ten municipal laws in the process.
A Mexican American wouldn't waste his time selling corn in front of a grocery store, not when he can earn $17 an hour at the local Toyota plant.
With all the hatred from the right aimed toward illegals, it seems clear they've never experienced the innocent pleasure of a perfectly roasted ear of corn, bought off a card table next to a 50-gallon drum turned into a barbecue pit.
They cannot appreciate the entrepreneurial skills of a man with a stake of next-to-nothing.
But I can, and I did.
And for only two bucks, my one-item dinner tonight was absolutely delicious.