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Friday, June 3, 2011

Split Pea Soup & Chicharrón

I should’ve been writing because writers write—even when they have writer’s block or just plain laziness block—they write something. So was I? Nope, not at all. I spent my entire afternoon flipping through pages of an astrology book, fascinated, skeptical, and completely wasting time.
This is what I concluded: I’m a Sagittarius sun, Libra moon, and Scorpio rising. Sag’s are notorious for being infected with a chronic disease called Foot-in-the-Mouth syndrome, leading me to say mindless shit like: “Damn those pants make your ass look huge!” Or “Have you ever noticed how bad your breath stinks after eating curry?” (Hmm…and I’d always just considered myself honest.) Luckily, my Libra-ness can charm my way out of my messes while my Scorpio is supposed to make me silent and cool…Yes, I confess that aside doing laundry, this is how I spent my day.
I picked up the ruca from work later and we got home to find our neighbor blocking our driveway—again. And not by a hair or a couple lousy inches, but literally half of his black SUV’s ass rearing into our garage. The ruca and I looked at each other through clenched teeth—it was the second time this week. She had to run an errand and would be back in an hour. “If his ass ain’t moved by the time we get back, shit’s gonna hit the fan.”
“My Sag wants to get fired up and kick his ass, my Libra wants to politely ask him to move, and my Scorpio wants to flatten all his tires in the middle of the night,” I babbled.
She looked at me as if I was crazy.  “What?
“Nothing,” I shook my head. “Can you hide my astrology when you get home?”
I had an hour to cook dinner and to think about how I would deal with the situation. I hate confrontation. Awhile back, I agonized for days over how to tell a co-worker she’d hurt my feelings by calling me “too sensitive.” (Once I realized the irony of it though, I had a shot of whiskey and drank it off.) Seriously though, I’d rather be taking out the garbage or scrubbing the toilet than dancing around the inevitable awkwardness of, “Uh…we need to talk.” I wondered how I’d cower today as I set the preparations out for dinner.
Now anytime I cook, I pour energy into what I am making and depending how I feel at the moment, it tends to parallel my emotion—very like water for chocolate-ish. If I’m feeling romantic, my spicy shrimp linguini is exquisitely seductive. If I’m sad or doting on a memory, my picadillo is woefully intense. (Once I made the mistake of cooking veggie burgers while arguing, and both me and the ruca got the runs later.) I was still driving myself astrologically neurotic, but was feeling quite powerful as I rehearsed things I would say to our neighbor when the confrontation would go down.
I sautéed garlic and onions and added chiles, oregano and cumin seeds. I would tell our fellow neighbor—a huge towering Samoan man that makes Giants’ Pablo Sandoval look petite—that he had no right to block our driveway. “We’re neighbors and shouldn’t have to ask you to give back what is rightfully ours.” Or: “We pay a lot of money for the garage, and would appreciate being able to park there without asking you to move all the time.” Or: “Dude, seriously? Next time your ass is gettin’ towed.”
Oh, the confrontation!  The butterflies in my stomach that came from sticking up for myself!  Could I do it? Yes! My Sag told my scaredy-cat Libra. Just be blunt and out with the truth! Don’t even think about it so much, I coached myself. I rinsed the green peas and added them to the broth of sautéed onions and garlic, then shredded chunks of chicharrón so the smoky flavor of pork would melt together with the peas. I’m a 30 year old woman, I’ve dealt with harder things in life than how to tell a pesky neighbor to move his stupid car, I concluded, and cut up chunks of potatoes and carrots to toss in the boiling pot.
An hour passed. The spicy smell of peas and grasa tickled the buds of my mouth as I set the comal for tortillas. The ruca would be home any minute.
The peas had softened. The chicharrón had shredded. The carrots and peas added the perfect burst of texture. My soup was a strengthening soup and would give me the power I needed to take charge, to diplomatically “go off”—and to not be such a fucking wuss for god sakes. 
Outside, the ruca honked.
I ran to the door. Her eyebrows were raised, frustrated that the SUV big enough to transport an entire football team was still there. I waved a reassuring hand at her. “I got this.”
Marching upstairs, an entire monologue memorized in my head—“Rightfully ours…our space…appreciate it if…shouldn’t have to ask”—his wife answered the door. She seemed to open it wider for me, as if inviting me in for the first time.
“Uh…parked in our driveway,” I mumbled. 
She called out to her husband as I fled back downstairs to hide my cowardice. Still, I was not giving up. I would stand tall, tell him exactly how I felt. Get everything off my chest and give him a piece of my mind. I made the strengthening soup, damnit!
The neighbor hobbled out the door and down the stairs, an obvious limp dragging at his leg. “Hey there!” he called out, friendly as old chums at a Sunday picnic. “Sorry ‘bout the car!” he said, and got into the SUV.
Sag, Libra, Scorpio pushover…none of it mattered. Because over the roar of his engine, the only thing one could hear that came out of me was a pathetic croak: “It’s alright.”
The ruca tasted the soup.
“Whaddayou think?” I asked her, like I always ask do when I’m extra proud of something.
She rolled her eyes to the back of her head, a mind numbing face to show she approved. “It’s delicious,” she said, dipping her tortilla in it. “Absolutely phenomenal.”
I tasted it myself. It was spicy, strong, a smoky flavor of grasa and a reminiscent breath of cumin. It was my powerful soup—even if I didn’t always feel that way myself. Sure, there are things about me I wish I could change. But even if I could, would I really want to? If I got rid of all the things about myself that drive me nuts—my wussiness, my foot in the mouth-ness, my Sag or Libra-ness or Sarah-ness or whatever you want to call it—would I be here right now, tasting this cathartic and mind blowing soup?
“Should I have made it spicier?” I asked.
“No. It’s perfect as it is.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, slurping down the next spoonful.  “I guess it is.”

© Sarah C. Jimenez 2011, All Rights Reserved


  1. I love ending to this story!

    and all the, don't you change a thing!


  2. waiting for your new piece :)