It is often surprising how rarely we eat out around Atitlán, as apparently something about this place awakens a commitment to health and personally prepared meals (i.e. Laynni-prepared meals) practically unheard in my life since the Waskesiu summer when approximately 130 of my 150 suppers consisted of 2 barbequed cheeseburgers…period. 7 minutes, no dishes, just a hint of scurvy. Anyway, no danger of that vitamin deficiencies around here. The fruit and vegetables are cheap, abundant and, often to my chagrin, a big part of every meal. We’ve fallen into a bit of a pattern these days (as we so often tend to – creating small patterns in our otherwise structureless existence), with Friday having become shopping day. This mainly came about because it seems that the shops in San Marcos receive their weekly shipment of bags of milk every Friday morning. It is important to get on them quickly since they do not last long. By picking up a couple bags (one litre plastic bags that need to be manually cut open and poured into some type of container) within hours of arrival, carefully freezing the second bag until the very last second before it is needed, I can usually – usually – have enough milk to last the week without separating, or suddenly becoming as unappealingly thick as a jug of Elmer’s Glue. And since we’re making the big 15-minute trek to town anyway, well, we also stock up on bread (generic brown for me, homemade brown loaf weighing close to 10 pounds for Laynni), and other sundries (i.e. soap, Snickers, spaghetti sauce, cereal). Prior to that our vegetable stops follow a strict pattern – friendly, trustworthy Jose first, then for anything he didn’t have we stop at the neighbouring woman who always seems on the verge of being too bored to even bother with us, then if need be the stall along the main path manned by young children who have exponentially better math skills than their mother, and if we still haven’t found everything by then, the shop on the corner on the way out of town that absolutely always has a bunch of watermelons sitting out front. A typical fruit and vegetable (and egg) haul would be as follows:
6 very large carrots
2 pounds of tomatoes
1 pound of potatoes
1 pound of snap peas
2 pounds of strawberries
Approximate cost: 75 quetzales, or about $Cdn 11
Every now and then Jose has something surprising and unusual – the day we picked up an orange pepper was an exciting one indeed. Mind you, even all this cheap and accessible produce isn’t enough to keep Laynni from lamenting daily about the fact it isn’t mango season. Salted butter, good cheddar cheese, meat and brand-name salsa are usually bought in Johanna’s in San Pedro and I usually pick them up somewhat unsteadily after several hours of drinking litres of Extra cerveza at Alegre Pub, right before boarding the last boat of the day back to San Marcos, my bag full of pricey sustenance for the seemingly interminable ride back (in reality it takes about 20 minutes, but with a full bladder and a surreal afternoon buzz…)
On days when I have soccer at 3 pm in San Juan I limp out to the street, politely encourage a young tuk tuk driver to casually overcharge me for the long ride to San Marcos, two towns and 20 struggling, roughly-potholed minutes away, where I then get dropped off next to the basketball court where San Marcos’ resident fried chicken guy sets up shop every afternoon. For the bargain price of 28 quetzales ($Cdn 4) he will provide me with two bags of severely deep-fried chicken and fries, plus one extra leg, extra grease, for the extra hungry soccer player in our life. No extra charge for a squirt of ketchup and pinch of salt, although occasionally I have to argue with chicken man’s son to keep him from giving me too much change (his math skills aren’t quite on par with his salt-pinching skills), and sometimes I have to wait in line behind a large group of kids purchasing tiny bags of fries for a quetzal each (about 15 cents). Then it’s the slow 15-minute trudge back home in the fading twilight, sick of walking but knowing my legs need a little stretching out period before settling in for a night of Game of Thrones and Community episodes, the enticing smell of the ancient deep-fryer oil teasing my desperate stomach the entire way.
But today we’re just going to go for pizza.