“What a minute. You’re not going to eat that, are you?”
Kathy is staring at my plate.
“That’s half of the pizza.”
“Why, yes, I believe it is.”
“You’ve got half a pizza on your plate and it looks like there’s extra cheese on there.”
“Why, yes, I think you’re right.”
She hasn’t blinked in more than a minute.
“And you are going to eat it?”
“Why, yes,” I say just before delivering the first big bite. “You are correct.”
She still hasn’t blinked. Now, she is staring at me. Hard.
“Let me ask you something: The reason you’re not wearing the new pants I bought you, is you can’t get them on. Correct?”
“Listen, Chubby, don’t play around. You can’t get those new pants on, because you’ve swollen up since the first of the year. True?”
She takes a deliberately tiny bite of her deliberately tiny piece of pizza. With no extra cheese.
I take a deliberately large bite of my massive hunk of pizza. With extra cheese.
“It’s time to put the brakes on, Big Boy.”
I barely hear her. I am headed for the kitchen. I return with another slice. Smaller than the first, but with extra cheese.
“I can’t believe it. More?”
“Why, yes. Very observant of you.”
“Would you move your chair to the right. You’re blocking the sun. It’s so dark over here I can barely see my food. It’s like an eclipse.”
I would respond, but my mouth is full.
“And that’s your second glass of wine, isn’t it?”
“Why, yes, it is. And I intend to have another.”
“Let’s see: How many calories in a glass of wine? Empty calories, at that. This is getting ridiculous. It’s like I’m eating dinner with The Hindenberg. Maybe I’ll call you ‘Hindy.’ Or, better yet … you know, you look like one of those cartoon characters, the fruit with the legs. Like an apple, with little skinny legs. Yep, put a mustache and eyeglasses on the apple, and that’s you. I think I’ll call you ‘Appy.’”
So, “Appy” it is.
Here’s the problem: After the surgeons rummaged around in my lower abdomen and removed a very important part of my male anatomy, I was incapacitated for several months. Granted, ripping out my prostate and surrounding tissues was a better option than allowing a case of prostate cancer to progress, but the procedure laid me low.
What’s a guy to do when he’s down, physically and emotionally?
The answer was pretty clear to me.
True, I had the choice of what to eat but, regardless of physical and mental condition, what kind of guy would opt for seeds, whole grains and soy products (Kathy’s suggestions)? Seeds? When you can have cheese? Soy milk? When there’s a bottle of Malbec calling your name? Tempeh? When you can enjoy a chicken paillard and some pasta with pancetta, capers, basil, butter, garlic, shaved parmesan and grape tomatoes?
Thus, a bit of weight gain.
Well, maybe a lot. It depends on your perspective.
After a month or so of nasty talk from Kathy, I decided I would begin to monitor my intake. I’ve been able to get back to the gym and do some light work; I’m beginning to take longer strolls during the lunch hour. I figure: Why not pay a bit more attention to my diet?
I picked the wrong weekend to change my ways.
Kathy and I hustled down to Santa Fe to see the opera — “La Traviata” — a mighty fine production. We stayed at an out-of-the-way oasis west of las Golondrinas and, when it came to time to have breakfast, I looked at the healthy offerings — yogurt, muffins, etc. — and something became immediately clear to me.
I needed to get out of there and drive to town for a real breakfast.
“Real breakfast,” of course, means something different to Kathy than it does to me. Kathy thinks of tidy portions — a couple strips of bacon, an egg, over medium, whole grain bread toasted just so, some preserves, a lot of empty space on the plate. A couple hits of decaf.
I am driving and we arrive at the ass end of Cerrillos Road, the worst part of what has to be one of the most awful stretches of road anywhere in the U.S. — a several-mile-long strip of hot asphalt loaded with insane motorists, bordered by all manner of ramshackle establishments proffering consumer debris.
And there, squatting next to a decrepit convenience store, I see it.
The Cowboy Corral (I’m changing the name, to protect the innocent. If you see this joint, however, you will know it. Believe me.)
There is a row of Harleys parked in the lot at the front of the café, flanked by a fleet of rusting pickups and primer-spotted ’70s sedans.
My kind of place. I veer across two lanes of traffic and we skid to a dusty halt next to a horse trailer.
Kathy is slumped in her seat, reluctant to join me as I heave my bulk from the car. It takes a minute to convince her to enter the café but, boy, when walk through the front door, I find myself in heaven.
Kathy, on the other hand, is in a far different, far darker place.
True, the tabletop and chair seats are a bit greasy, but one man’s grease is another’s patina. And, yes, the silverware seems a bit crusty. but all will change with the first bite or two.
Our waiter is a friendly gent — about 6-2, maybe 350 pounds. And, indeed, yes Kathy, his Cowboy Corral T-shirt is stained and a bit smelly. Signs of industry, as far as I can tell.
And, yes, there are a few stains on the menus but, if we trade, we can combine words and letters from each and get a pretty good idea of what is offered.
Kathy orders decaf, but she is afraid to drink it. Coffee is generally a brownish color, isn’t it? And seldom reeks of cleaning fluid.
“Don’t forget your diet,” says Kathy, as she glowers at me. “This is the day you are going to start. Remember?”
Yeah, sure. I am zeroed in on one item: the adovada and eggs breakfast. It has me in its thrall. Big time.
What can it hurt?
My breakfast arrives. It is a monster: at least three-quarters of a pound of adovada — dark, spicy, meaty-good — mounded over a bed of potatoes, the heap topped by two fried eggs, over easy. Two fresh, warm tortillas accompany the construction.
And the potatoes: No ordinary hash browns these. The crafty cooks at the Corral have taken French fries straight from the fryer, thrown them on the flat top and crisped them up.
“My god, you are not going to eat all that, are you?”
“Yes, I am.” And, yes, I do
The breakfast opens the flood gates. There is no stopping me the rest of our stay in Adobe Adventure Land. Before we leave town, I plow through oily Thai food at lunch, an incredible dinner involving a perfectly-cooked (medium rare) hunk of salmon served atop Israeli couscous, drenched with beurre blanc (some extra on the side, please); a dinner selection the next night of house-made, ricotta-stuffed tortellini served with a butter-based sauce of sun-dried tomatoes, shaved asparagus, assorted sautéed squash and mushrooms; two remarkable desserts (a peach/berry cobbler and a double lemon cake with lemon curd and berries); and a gigantic chorizo burrito floating in a sea of red and green. Oh, and quite a bit of wine.
After two days, we are ready to return to Siberia With a View.
“Well, Appy, are you going to drive home?”
“Are you sure you can wedge yourself between the seat and the steering wheel? If, you can’t, we’ll put the back seats down and roll you in from the rear of the car.”
OK, so the diet didn’t take.
It was the adovada and egg breakfast’s fault.
And, its effect lingers. I am going to make adovada this week.
To make sure I have the goods, I stop at Romero’s, in Espanola, to pick up a pound of fresh, hot red powder. The place is bustling. They boys have two roasters fired up at the side of the building, cranking out load after load of green. In these parts, there’s none of that Hatch-hype nonsense. The property is crammed with old-fashioned bushel baskets, each full of peppers. A label on each basket identifies the grower and the grade: “Emilio Duran-Hot,” Del Sanchez-Extra.” They don’t mess around at Romero’s; you can blend your roasted green like a wine maker puts together a meritage. If you don’t know your business, don’t take up space.
But, I am after red. This fragrant, fantastic blend will be the base for my marinade, mixed with some chicken stock, oregano, cumin, coriander seed, minced garlic, thinly sliced white onion, salt, pepper, a cinnamon stick. Into the marinade goes a mess of seasoned, cubed pork from the butt (or the loin, if you are too precious for the butt). The meat marinates in the fridge overnight. Into a 350 oven the meat and marinade go, in a heavy, covered casserole. About two to two and a half hours later, when the meat is oh-so tender, I’ll fine tune the seasoning and this corner of protein paradise will be ready for settlement — in a burrito, slopped over aripas, in tacos.
Next morning, it’s adovada and eggs, using the leftovers (which, of course, taste better than ever). And I’ll try the French fry trick for the spud foundation.
Once the adovada is gone, and a new breakfast looms, perhaps I’ll consider granola and soy milk.
I need to start a diet, you know.
Appy has new pants to wear.