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Deliriums Of Street Food

Deliriums Of Street Food

Hello and good day!

You are shivering cold even though the heater is on, and your house is warm.

Your head feels three times its actual size and is pulsing with fuzzy grey vibrations. You lay on your stomach with your head turned sideways and your arms sticking straight out. You are stuck to the bed as if being pulled down against it by a powerful magnetic force.

"I have to get up. I have to work," you say to yourself.

You tell your body to move but it won't obey.

You are sick. Or rather, I am.

I am the sickest I have been in a long time.

I laid there on our bed, face down, and allowed myself to drift into the soft rhythmic greyness of my mind.

Further and further down I went until the distorted white noise became clear and I could see something in front of me.

It is a man walking down the street. He is calling out.

"Knives! I'm sharpening knives!" He is pushing what looks like a bicycle.

The front wheel is of typical size and make, but the back wheel is small, hard, and lopsided. It appears to be made of stone.

Now I am looking inside a house.

My brother is hustling around in his kitchen gathering knives.

He is on the second floor of the three-story concrete building where he lives with his wife and daughter. His mother-in-law lives on the ground floor.

The top floor is a TV room, built of concrete, enclosed by glass windows, and filled with couches and a treadmill that is covered by mounds of clothing.

My brother calls out from the second-floor window which is inside a concrete stairwell, just outside of his kitchen, through a door.

"Wait for me. I'm coming!" he yells in Spanish.

"I'll wait for you sir!," yells the man in the street.

Brian knocks on his mother in law's door on the way down.

"Alicia! Do you have any knives? The sharpener is here."

Alicia opens the door. Her black hair is messy from doing housework. Her green eyes are luminous.

"Yes, I have knives. Here they are. Thank you, Brian," she says.

In the street, the man has flipped his contraption upside down and put a rectangular metal stand through the wheel spokes of the bicycle wheel.

He is pumping a petal with his foot and the grey stone wheel is spinning.

One at a time, Brian passes knives to the man, and he holds their blades to the grindstone. There is a scraping noise, and white sparks fly off the wheel.

Once the sharpening is complete, Brian carries the knives back inside and cuts a cucumber with a perfectly sharp blade. The knife flows softly through, and the cut piece falls away from the main.

Nothing like a freshly sharpened blade. Why am I seeing that while I lay here in bed? Why now?

It is because Brian told me the other day that he misses having blade sharpeners walking through the neighborhood.

In this way, the United States is behind Peru.

Our knives are mostly dull.

Now I am standing on a corner at night, in front of a bookstore lit by bright white ceiling lights.Light from inside the store floods out and lights up a young man who is standing on the sidewalk with a cart that has a hot griddle on top.

We are next to a busy street with many cars and motorcycles and trucks driving by. On the other side of the street is the Plaza de Armas, a big park lit by streetlamps with a water fountain in the middle.

Many people are resting under lamps, on stone benches, relaxing after a long day. The young man with the griddle squirts oil from a plastic squeeze bottle onto the grill and it sizzles. He slaps thin hamburger patties onto the griddle, and they begin to fry.

I later learned that these hamburger patties are 80% flour and 20% meat. The smell of meat smokes up into the air and a line of people form as if hypnotized by the aroma.

I am one of them.

When I make it to the front of the line, the young man acknowledges me and asks me a question.


He wants to know if I'd like to add a fried egg.

"Si. Huevo por favor."

He cracks an egg onto the hot metal plate and while the egg is frying, he grabs a hamburger bun from a bag on the ground next to his cart. He puts the opened bun into a small white paper bag that crinkles in his hand.

After a moment, he scoops a patty into the bun, then the fried egg, then he throws in a hand full of potato chips.

"Salsas? Do you want sauces?" he asks.

I nod and he grabs squeeze bottles of various colors and squirts them onto my burger.

The cost for the whole thing is sixty cents.

"Burgers. Burgers," I moan still laying in bed.

My wife comes in.

"Are you ok? You were moaning about knives and now you are saying burgers," she says.

It is hard to speak with my head as heavy as it is, but I manage to say a few words.

"I'm ok. I promise."

Then I pull myself off the magnetized bed and sit down to write.

My daily writing streak is still alive, even though today it meant sharing the half delirious visions of a sick man.

One last thing before I sign off to sleep for 16 hours.

I like the street vendors in Peru a lot.

It is the epitome of a small business hustler.

In smaller towns, you will always see women sitting on curbs with buckets of marinated beef hearts.

They skewer the hearts on wooden sticks and charbroil them on hibachis.

These are called anticuchos and they are delicious.

We had a tamale lady in our neighborhood where I grew up and we used to buy tamales from her all the time. They were homemade and fresh and wonderful.

Where I am now, we have no street food and no street vendors.

I bet the police would shut a woman down in a second in most American cities if she were to grill beef hearts for sale on a sidewalk on her own say so.

This is another way in which Peru has a leg up on us.

Sharp knives.

Beef hearts.

It is ultimately a question of freedom.

But I better sign off before I go down a whole other track.

Thank you so much for time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


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