The Quest for the Elusive Mung Beans
(A Visit to Abastos)
By Chuck Bolotin
Like an aspiring knight in a medieval fairytale who had been told to bring back the egg of a fire-breathing dragon or a nascent American Indian brave who had been given the task of producing a specific feather from a fearsome bird on some faraway mountaintop, I now had my challenge: bring me the mung beans.
In this case, the one issuing the challenge was none other than my wife, Jet, a devoted cook who sees the world as her laboratory. “Lakeside is a ‘pot luck culture,’ where friends and neighbors share the foods of their heart,” she said. “To participate, I need a breadth of ingredients. Please get me those beans.”
Just like the rites of passage challenges described above, the result of my quest would be binary: I would either succeed and be rewarded not only with the satisfaction of knowing I had achieved The Next Level of Life here at Lakeside and the fabulous culinary creations of my wife; or I would fail, and with that failure would come not only domestic disgrace and disappointment, but it would also put the lie to my off-handed, uninformed assertion: “Of course you can get anything you want here at Lakeside. Guadalajara is right by and it’s a city of five million people.”
Would my previously impetuous and ignorant bravado be rewarded with salvation or with repeated and prolonged ignominy?
We were about to find out.
On top of the request issued by my wife and it’s predicted success foolishly elevated to a point of honor by me, I had added two kickers: the price had to be somewhat reasonable and the sought after ingredients had to be available in larger quantities.
There are some who would say: “You’re in Mexico now. Stop trying to make Mexico like the US! Just use the local ingredients and forget about items like mung beans and moong dahl (also on my list).” To these people I would respond in two ways.
The first is a question: Is that how you lived before you moved to Lakeside? Did you never use any items that were not grown within the immediate vicinity of your home? If this is you, OK, for you, you’re right; do the same here. For the over 95% of us not in this category (just a wild guess) who would like to make their lives richer and more interesting, let’s continue.
The second response is a visual and an observation. Every time that our alternating housekeepers Sol and Gaby come to our home, Jet provides lunch, usually complete with a dessert of some type, exactly what Jet and I ate. Jet delights in offering up items such as Vietnamese pho soup and Sri Lankan eggplant with mustard seed and gingerbread with crystalized ginger, usually foods neither Sol nor Gaby have ever tasted, and all with ingredients not generally used in Jalisco cooking. Sometimes, we’re around as Sol or Gabby try out the special of the day. First the look of anticipation and then, upon her first taste, the joy on Sol’s face, which often lights up like a Christmas tree, is all you need to know. Would you have the heart to deny Sol this pleasure? And what would you say after you found out that right after lunch, Sol or Gaby’s first call is to the other one, so they can talk about what Jet just served them?
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