“Motown was about music for all people – black and white, blue and green, cops and robbers. I was reluctant to have our music alienate anyone.” Berry Gordy Jr.
Motown and I have been friends for almost sixty years now. I remember when we first met. There were a lot of brand new things in my life. Deodorant, safety razors and Clearasil. Button down collars, penny loafers and black Adler socks. And a very big change in what I had been listening to.
If it wasn’t for my dad’s frequent playing of Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington on the Electrohome, I don’t think I would have had any exposure to black musicians.
My crowd was listening to guys like Pat Boone. Do you remember him? He was the guy who covered a lot of the great black artists…Ivory Joe Hunter, Fats Domino, Little Richard…and gave us snow white and sterile versions of songs like Long Tall Sally and Tutti Frutti.
Then one day I had a job. I had money. I bought myself a portable Seabreeze. And I heard a song called Shop Around by The Miracles.
I bought the 45. I bought Please Mr. Postman by The Marvelettes. I bought Do You Love Me by The Contours. I bought Stubborn Kind Of Fellow by Marvin Gaye. I bought Fingertips by Little Stevie Wonder. And I bought a Hohner Marine Band harmonica so I could stand in front of the mirror and swing and sway and toss my head just like Stevie.
Motown gave me, a very white boy in a very white town, my first taste of soul and, yes, it was often very poppish soul but it taught me a lot. It taught me about joy, about heartbreak, about romance, about devotion, about passion, about sadness. I’m not sure I’m still learning from Motown music but I’m absolutely sure I’m still listening to it.
“You didn’t eat those pigs legs that were in the fridge did you? That was the dog’s dinner.”
My Mother didn’t say that. But she might have if I had discovered chamorro around the same time that I discovered Motown.
My first taste of pork shanks or chamorro as they’re called in Mexico came almost fifty years after my first taste of Motown. It just wasn’t something that was eaten in Canada or in any of the other countries that I lived. The rear legs of pigs were often cured into hams but tasting one that hadn’t seen salt or smoke had just never happened to me.
My first Mexican exposure was actually in an Italian themed restaurant where the leg was sliced and replaced veal in a recipe for osso buco. My first Mexican exposure where the whole chamorro was served was at La Posadita in San Miguel. And my fondest chamorro memory was at La Sirena Gorda, again in San Miguel de Allende, where on Wednesdays you used to be able to get the whole bone-in shank in a sweet and hot chile sauce plus a bottle of wine for 260 pesos. Never in my life though did I ever have chamorro and Motown at the same meal. But I’m going to.
Last week The Gentlemen Who Lunch all dined at El Coyote Flaco. I asked owner, José Bernardo Luna Martínez, what dishes he was most proud of.
“That would have to be the pork ribs or the chamorro”, said Bernardo.
“Let’s make it the chamorro”, I replied.
At the restaurant just outside San Miguel, they boil the pork shanks in beer for an hour and a half, then place them in an iron skillet, add some potatoes, cover them with a chipotle and cinnamon sauce, finish them in a wood-fired oven, and serve them on a handmade wooden plate.
The chamorro was big. Probably close to a kilo. I wanted to pick mine up. Eat it caveman style. But it had to be knife and fork. The sauce had some nice heat and a gentle sweetness. The meat inside was pink and juicy. El Coyote Flaco knows how to make chamorro.
And what about that Motown?
Well El Coyote Flaco is as noted for its music as it is for its food and at the restaurant last week there was a promotional poster. The Maveriks are regulars at the Coyote and on February 16, their leader and the very best rock ‘n’ roller in this part of the world in my opinion, Kike Kornejo, is adding more musicians to the group.
“We’ll have some horns coming in from Queretaro”, said Kike. “It’ll be all Motown, all night.”
I’ll be at El Coyote Flaco. Eating and dancing the night away. I hope you will too.
The date is Friday, February 16. The time is 6:00 pm. The price for the three course dinner (with chamorro one of the choices for main course), one drink and the show is 500 pesos. El Coyote Flaco is in Atotonilco. Take the road to Dolores Hidalgo (51) until you see the sign to Atotonilco (and the sign to the restaurant). Turn left and it’s about two kilometers on the left just before you get to the village. For reservations call 415 139 7653 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.