Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, and we all know what that means: Mexican food and Americans not having any idea of what the holiday’s about. From my five years in Spanish classes, I remember only two things about Hispanic history: (1) The Puerto Ricans gained American citizenship in 1917 (Yay … ), and (2) Cinco de Mayo really has nothing to do with Mexican independence. I believe the Mexican independence day is actually in September, but since I’m not Mexican, I don’t care enough to double check that with Wikipedia. And if you’d like to know what Cinco de Mayo is really all about, I’m sure Wikipedia’s got that too. I can’t remember what it’s really about.
But while to Mexicans Cinco de Mayo is a holiday about Mexican pride, heritage, and maybe family and turkey (I really don’t have a clue), to Americans it’s a holiday about Mexican food. Or the closest thing we can get to Mexican food in suburban Georgia. For my housemate, that’s Taco Bell. But for my brother-in-law, a missionary kid from Mexico, that’s those little tiendas or taquerías down the road that don’t waste any part of the pig. It’s not in the Bible, but when the Israelites were complaining about being hungry, God gave them tacos and made the mistake of telling them where the meat really came from. Then Moses wrote down some dietary laws and begged God for manna. Thus Leviticus.
Anyway, my brother-in-law Justin took us to one of those American Mexican restaurants. It was one of those that start with El or Los and end with a Spanish-sounding word. El Jabón. Los Calcetines. El Ikea. The menus are always the same. My favorite Mexican food is eleven. This is usually how ordering at a Mexican restaurant goes with my brother-in-law.
“Nos gustaría que la sopa de pollo con limón y un aseo lleno de heces fecales.” (Thank you, Google Translate.)
The waiter will ask questions. He’ll respond. They’ll laugh about something Mexican. The waiter will turn to me.
“I’ll take a big helping of eleven.”
And when they bring out the food, Justin’s food is brought out in pieces because apparently everyone outside of America enjoys assembling their own food. On the other hand, those who grew up in America assume that if it’s on a plate and was placed in front of you, it needs to be shoved into your mouth faster than you can mispronounce la comida.
Since Justin’s a Spanish-speaking MK from Mexico, he usually orders things that make you double-take the menu because it seems nearly impossible that whatever he just ordered could be made in America. Yesterday, Justin’s lunch was served in a literal toilet bowl. But not just any toilet bowl. It was a toilet bowl that was too hot to touch because that was a representation — for the misfortune of his wife — of their toilet bowl the next day after Justin ate the contents of his Mexican toilet bowl. But don’t get me started on the contents because my sister and I spent the next twenty minutes or so alternating between laughing and gagging over what they resembled.
I kid my brother-in-law and his Mexican cuisine because I’m sure it genuinely tasted marvelous, but I’m sure all of this means that I’m not called to do overseas missionary work. I’m pretty comfortable justifying that by calling my future in youth ministry cross-cultural missions. I mean, I don’t think I’d want to eat their food either.