Cravings

Spending the holidays away from home year after year hasn't gotten so much easier. One year at a graduate school Thanksgiving celebration, I showed up with tamales - a staple around any holiday back home no matter who you are. Everyone stared and wondered, and at the end of the evening, I had nearly two dozen tamales to take home for myself.

For whatever reason, I've been craving mole, which frankly is a recipe that's more involved than I care to deal with. Growing up, my friend Greg's mother would make mole maybe once a year - usually around Christmas. Rare treats are often the best. In grad school, my friend John made it for us once - he was a chef, an under appreciated genius in kitchen who could tell the nastiest stories over a meal and make you love it. Chefs, he said, told the worst stories, the sickest jokes nightly to make the evenings pass. I thought perhaps he was exaggerating until I read Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, and saw that even back in the early 1900s that tendency was there.

One of the things I like about Thanksgiving is that it is like the best moments of grad school: it's people around each other because they really like each other. Grad school Thanksgivings are the best because everyone chips in what they can - mostly in terms of alcohol - and a good time is had by all. That's how Thanksgiving has always been though. When I was growing up, on the holidays, I'd spend time with my family and then would wander down the street to my best friend's place. We'd spend the day, like all teenage boys, eating our weight and glaring at the world, secretly in love with our own surliness and a world that let us be.

It was when I was a teenager that I discovered one of the truths of my life: that I like a certain amount of suffering with my pleasure, a little spice with my sweetness, some surliness in a world that'll feed me and nod knowingly. Those are the things I'm craving right now.

But like I said, making mole is more than I can deal with.So the closest I've managed to get is brownies with green chilies. What can I say? Something about the combination of sweet and spice just does it right now. And I'll be heading out to see some grad school friends in a few days - not all of 'em, sadly, but it's a start. Maybe I'll take 'em some tamales and chili brownies and see if I can't capture the full experience.

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Notorious Ph.D. said...

A coffee shop near where I live makes the best Mexican chocolate (and mochas) ever: they steam the milk, then put the steamed milk in an industrial blender with a huge chunk of Ibarra chocolate. The frothy mixture is topped (on request) with just a dusting of chili powder.

Mmmmmm....

November 24, 2008 at 1:26 AM
ash said...

ah, we should definitely do thanksgiving together one of these days. i think our tastes run in very similar directions. teel you what: i'll make the mole if you bring the tamales!

November 24, 2008 at 9:10 AM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

I do like Mexican chocolate, and that dusting of chili powder sounds _AMAZING_!

I keep trying to find good tamales up here. I know there has to be someplace that has them. Even the frozen ones they used to keep in the one store that sold Mexican ingredients were better than what I've found at most restaurants. But the minute I find 'em, count me in for some mole.

November 25, 2008 at 11:40 PM