Machaca con huevos in Baja California
Outside of the window behind my left shoulder, a group of men wearing cowboy hats mix and pour cement. To my left, a family enjoys fresh farmer’s cheese—queso fresco—on triangles of house-made tortillas.
A couple of times, they pick up a small spoon from a clay bowl and add a little salsa to the top of the cheese cube. I turn to my bride of 14 years and say, “It kind of feels like being back home.” We both grew up in smallholder farming families.
I tear off another piece of soft, corn tortilla and add a forkful of machaca con huevos to it, folding the tortilla over in a bite-sized bundle of breakfast deliciousness. When I woke a couple of hours earlier, I had the Sonoran dish front and center on my mind. The plate now on the table before me in La Cocina De Doña Esthela is satisfying every craving that I had. It’s a perfect combination of serranos, chile verde, dried and stringy beef jerky, and eggs from the farm. Add I simply could not ask for anything better than the runny, refried beans seasoned with lard.
“ A B C D E F G … “ A girl, about age five, recites in perfect English to a man who appears to be her grandpa sitting across the table. His smile fills his face.
“ … H I J K … L M N O P …” She continues on, dark eyes looking past Grandpa to the woman making tortillas over at the large wood stove.
“ … Q R S … “ His smile is still there. Other family members, seven in all, converse while looking over the menu. It is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. Perhaps part of the family took advantage of the holiday time off to come back down across the border to visit their loved ones.
“ … T U V …” She sits up higher in her chair, and then she reaches across the table for Grandpa’s hands. His hands reach hers on his side of the table.
“ … W X Y Zeee … “ I have a swallow of Café De Olla, and the cinnamon dances across my palate.
“Now I know my ABCs … “ Grandpa lets go of her hands and raises his, offering her a soft round of applause as she completes the lesson.
My wife finishes up her huevos a la Mexicana while I eat the final bites of cheese. The waitress stops by and asks if we need anything else. We ask for the check.
Driving away, I tell my wife that I did not expect when we pulled up to the humble restaurant that I would leave it feeling like I had a little family time on Thanksgiving Day.