I’ve packed a set of handpainted cups from San Gimignano, a weathered cutting board, two old cork screws, a pair of mismatched dishtowels and assorted kitchen knick knacks no one wanted when my two sisters and I divided our mother’s things after she passed away. My husband has packed his own treasures: his Pavoni coffee machine, his pizza peel and, of course, some basic tools. We’ve packed our hearts in these bags.
I’m on the plane looking down below at Mexico’s majestic mountains, at a land where we will eventually live. Squinting down at the winding roads below, I wonder how many times my family has been back and forth across this forsaken land, led by whatever heart wrenching forces drove them to first leave from north of the Rio Grande to travel south, then from south to north and now, in my case, from north to south once again. The spirits of the women in my family who preceded me, surely must be waiting with a welcoming rebozo in hand to drape around my shoulders for the chilly mountain nights I will encounter. “Hija, por fin has regresado” they’ll whisper to me.
I long to take in the vibrant colors and smells, the riotous noise of the perennial fiesta, the lament of the ubiquitous mariachi, and most of all, a quintessential feeling of belonging. A part of me wants to hold on to what I leave behind, but the pull is strong to look forward and not back. For now, my adrenaline is pumping, thinking about the friends I will visit, the trips to the market I will make, the food I will prepare, and the restaurants I will try in San Miguel de Allende, the place I will someday call home.
I arrive and one of the first things I find are glossy-black, wild avocados. My aunt Gloria used to call them aguacates criollos. They have a thin, aromatic peel that can be eaten along with the creamy green meat. The peel tastes somewhat like Thai basil.
What to make? Wild avocado tacos.
Buy only the smooth black ripe ones. Slice them in long thin slices. Arrange them in warm corn tortillas and top them with fresh cilantro, salt, and finely chopped onion. Squeeze lime juice and sprinkle with salt. Go up to the rooftop with a cold beer and take in the view of the glittering night sky or devote your gaze to the glow of the Parroquia below. And make a wish.
Note: If you don’t have access to wild avocados, use ordinary avocados. (But don’t eat the peel, for heaven’s sake!)