Last week Dona Mari (wife of Roberto and co-owner of La Bruja restaurant) celebrated her birthday. When we were invited we were told the party would start at 4 pm, and we were reminded several days before the party once again. Miguel asked if it was at 5, but they were adamant it was at 4. So, I was ready to go for 4 pm.
But that day Miguel announced that we would leave the house at 4:30, go to buy lottery tickets, swoop around the north loop, head down the east coast, and arrive by 5 pm. I hate being late for anything, and showing up an hour after the 4 pm start time didn't feel right to me, but I deferred to Miguel's experience with these things.
As we pulled up to the curb across from the restaurant, I was dismayed to see the place empty, and Dona Mari walking up the street back to the restaurant. It looked like she had escorted her final guests home. We were late.
But Dona Mari greeted us and invited us in to sit down, and then proceeded to bring out some delicious appetizers. Hot dogs cut up in a hot spicy sauce, flautas, and creamy spaghetti - along with a beer for Miguel and a coke for me. The hot dogs are called something else - salchichas, and this is the first time I've tasted them - they were great!
The flautas were also called something different - cositos, or something like that, but in my world they were flautas. Topped with homemade tomato sauce and sprinkled with cheese - yum! After we had polished off all the appetizers and thought we were done, out came another plate of flautas. We didn't complain, we ate them. I wish they were on the menu - I would order them every time.
At the only other occupied table was a couple from The Netherlands. They watched as plate after plate was brought out to us. The man asked what the hot dogs were, and if they were good, and how to order them. I told him that they were not on the menu, they were special for the occasion of Dona Mari's birthday. He wanted to know how many kisses were customary to bestow upon the birthday girl - he was thinking three, but Miguel said just one. So the next time Dona Mari passed their table, he wished her happy birthday and planted a kiss on her cheek. And don't you know - out came a plate of flautas for them, even though they were not party guests! How generous of the Bruja family.
People started arriving for the party, and I realized that Miguel had been right - in fact, we were quite early. When I thought we were really done, Dona Mari brought out a knife and fork wrapped in a napkin, along with the second plate of flautas. Hmmm...was more to come that we didn't know about? But our drinks were gone and we were full, so we stood to thank them and say "Adios". Oh no, that wouldn't do...the best was yet to come, couldn't we wait a little longer?
So we sat down again, with the Dutch couple watching us continue to be treated like royalty. Out came plates loaded with shrimp ke-bobs, rice, and veggies. I gave my ke-bob to Miguel since I don't eat shrimp, and I was full anyway. Miguel was also full but managed to eat his portion, and we took the other ke-bob home.
Still more...the cake. By now we were truly stuffed, but I ate the cake anyway. Miguel took his piece home too. Dona Mari was busy serving all her guests even though she was supposed to be the guest of honor...she said she wanted to attend to her guests, and that she would relax later.
We finally left 2 hrs later and by then there was standing room only. Salsa music was playing (I wish they played music like that all the time, it gave the place such a great vibe). We drove by later and the place was still full. "See how Mexicans throw a party?", Miguel said. And if you are going to have a party, you'd better plan on having enough food because everyone will show up and expect to eat.
The next day we went by and Dona Mari told us the last guest arrived at 10 pm, and the party went on until 4 am. She was tired but very happy. And I felt honored to be included in her celebration.
I learned something - that if I am going to throw a party and invite Mexicans, I'd better be well-rested in advance, and have a fridge full of food and drinks, and lots of chairs, and plates and silverware and napkins and music and cake. I'm not sure this old body can do it, but if the occasion presents itself, I'm willing to try.