No one ever forgets their first time. Do they?
Mine was at The Ebony Knight coffee house in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. A place where I used to go to be infatuated by this bucktoothed blonde with flared nostrils and Everest height cheekbones called Joni Anderson. She’d perch a six string Martin on her swollen, unmarried belly and enchant me with The Circle Game, Both Sides Now and, the one I thought she sang just for me, Urge For Going. It was before the world had heard those songs. Before the world knew the bucktoothed blonde who became Joni Mitchell.
My first time wasn’t with Joni. But she had the same look. Long straight hair. Zero make-up. Flowing skirt almost all the way down to her buffalo sandals. An embroidered peasant blouse. A lot like some San Miguel women look today. Especially if you shop at Via Organica.
She was sat alone at the next table. There’s something very alluring about a woman sat alone at a table. Even more so when her hands are cupped around a steaming bowl of cafe au lait.
We chatted between sets. It was one of those rare times (in my life anyway) where the woman made the first move. And before the end of the break, she said to me, “You want to go out back and do a doobie?”
A doobie? Had this woman not seen The Gene Krupa Story? Had she not seen what it did to Sal Mineo? Had she not seen Reefer Madness? And seen how sex-crazed it made Blanche.
“Absolutely,” I replied, hopefully not shivering it out and exposing my innocence.
I guess I’ve always been a follower not a leader when it comes to things that put what John Prine called an illegal smile on your face.
When most of my friends drank beer, I drank beer. But when they switched to smoking pot, I smoked pot. And, thankfully, none of my friends ever discovered the joys of heroin.
These days I don’t have too many friends who get high. Especially in San Miguel. So I can’t blame anyone else but myself for my latest adventure.
Though like almost all of my best adventures, there was, of course, a woman involved. My old friend who never ever looks old Therese was on her annual pilgrimage from Toronto. And I’d told her I was going to take her to lunch, for the town’s best consome.
She agreed, only slightly reluctantly, to do the long trek down Canal, a feat made much more easy since she shelved her red soled shoes. We were going all the way down to where Canal becomes Calzada de la Estacion. All the way to El Pato, that home of great barbacoa, very good mixiote and awesome consome.
But alas. El Pato was closed. Taking a short vacation I discovered later. What to do? Mumble? Tap dance? Actually this time I was fast on my feet. And quick with an answer.
“Let’s back up a block or two, there’s a place on the other side of the boulevard that serves consome.”
“It’s easy to find”, I told her. “There’s a big banner. It’s slightly tattered, a little faded, a lot like me.”
“That one?”, Therese queried. “But what does that mean, De Quen Chon?”
“From which Chinaman”, I told her and then, realizing I wasn’t going to get away with it, I changed horses.
“I don’t know”, I embarassingly answered, but, damn it, I wished I did.
What I did know about De Quen Chon (or De Quien Chon as their other sign, the one just above the entrance says) is that it is one of the two go-to places in San Miguel de Allende for morcilla.
Morcilla or botifarro or mixuegao or boudin noir or Lancashire pud or blutwurst or marag dubh or, the two names I know it most by, black pudding or blood pudding is the royal highness of sausages though there are some…no make that many…who would say it is the illegitimate king, the bastard king. There are some who also say it is an acquired taste but I have tried to lure many a woman…and occasionally a man…into acquiring that taste and have decided, if that is true, the acquisition has to take place prior to the age of ten.
Therese was no different that day at De Quen Chon. And this from a woman who might just prefer congee to bacon before the clock strikes twelve. But, hell, we weren’t there for morcilla, we were there for consome (and yes that’s the way it’s spelled in Mexico), that incredible soup created by the drippings from a lamb being cooked in a hole in the ground.
Speaking of holes in something, De Quen Chon is a bit of a hole in the wall. A place that may have once been a garage. But I like holes in the wall. Maybe it’s because they don’t have ambience or atmosphere to fall back on so the food has to be the headline attraction.
We added a couple of barbacoa tacos to accompany the consome. What could be better to wash lamb down with than lamb. And this consome was full of flavor. I’m sure it’s not a word and Mr. Gates will underline it immediately after I hit the space bar but I can’t say it any better than simply saying it was lamby. Or maybe it’s lammie.
We gulped it down (De Quen Chon is not a place where you linger). We paid the bill (actually I paid the bill as Don Day is very fast to pick up minuscule checks at holes in the wall). We stood up. And then we almost sat down again.
“Whooooooooooo!”, said Therese. “I feel really weird. I’m not sure I can walk.”
“Whooooooooooo!”, said I. “What a buzz. What a glow. What the hell was in that consome?”
I had no idea what it was. I’d had a lot of good consome but never anything quite like this. Obviously lamb doesn’t pack a wallop. So there must have been something else. But what was it? Seer’s sage, banana skins, morning glory seeds, nutmeg, or one of those other types of flora I tried back in the sixties?
Who knows. But I do know we sailed, maybe glided, perhaps soared the three or four blocks down to Walmart (yes, I refuse to call it Bodega Aurrera) and, feeling extremely peckish, I did something I’d vowed I’d never do, I bought a slice of Walmart pizza.
Now I don’t know what you did the first time you smoked grass but I know what I did, I went directly to my best friend’s bedroom window and banged on it at that exact volume that would waken him but not his parents.
“I did it”, I said, “I did pot.”
And that’s what I did fifty plus years later when I did my first intoxicating consome. I didn’t wake them up by banging on their window, but the next day, I had to tell my San Miguel de Allende buddies Rich and Peter about my high.
And not very long after, three old guys were trudging down Canal to De Quen Chon. And shortly after that I was again trying to sway two more guys towards the pleasures of morcilla (and was mildly successful with one of them). And shortly after that there were three bowls of consome in front of us.
We put back a few spoons and looked at the bowl. We put back a few more and looked at each other.
I asked our server what was in it.
“Lamb, garbanzos, a little chipotle, epazote, and a lot of love” was the answer.
“What do you think guys?”, I queried.
“Pretty good soup”, said Richard, with a skeptical look that suggested he wasn’t feeling any buzz.
“Maybe a bit of a warm glow but the kind of warm glow you get from eating any hearty broth,” said Peter.
Me, I was sure I was a little light-headed but not enough this time to skip on down to Walmart.
But we did go on to Walmart. And discovered a statue under the libramiento that we swore wasn’t there before. And spent what seemed like an hour trying to figure out the meaning of the painted lines on the parking lot. And went inside. And Rich bought a pair of jeans. And Peter bought two pairs of jeans. And I bought three. Now would a normal human being really do something like that if he wasn’t stoned?
De Quen Chon is located at Calzada de la Estacion #59 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.