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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Let's just go out and ride, talk about the things we try...

Herman Melville famously had his character Ishmael in Moby Dick describe the capitol of Peru as "tearless Lima, the strangest, saddest city thou can’st see."

It's too bad he could not come back and see Lima today. Perhaps he would like it better.

Once again I was meeting my friends John and Shuko and their kids for another adventure, this time in a company truck. While Shuko declines to drive in Peru,  John has been at it for awhile, and I must say he nicely avoided what would have been a nasty accident on the way to lunch. Having already been in an accident with John (many of us can claim this slightly dubious honor) I suppose it would have been old hat. Certainly business as usual in Lima. The taxi that he managed not to hit by the smallest of margins when it darted and stopped in front of us owed him big. As in, "not crushed into a tin can and then thrust into oncoming traffic" big.

I rather think Shuko is wise to not take the wheel. Who needs that level of stress? Not I. The role of trusting passenger is perfect for me; I have relaxing in the face of death or dismemberment related to wheeled travel down to a science.

Not that I was really worried about either. See what I mean?

scarlet flourish of bougainvillea

First we were off to the Barranco district of Lima, described in guide books as either bohemian or laid back, depending on which one you pick up. Either way, I like Barranco. It has personality. It's relatively safe, certainly welcoming and beautiful, and it has a restaurant that expats speak of in reverent tones: The Burrito Bar.

I had first heard of the Burrito Bar from my friend April when I asked what I should make sure to do in Lima. She raved. She ranted. She moaned. She tried to give me directions over the phone as I scribbled frantically. These included points such as "there's no sign but it's the only one with red walls inside" and "if you manage to find the street just sniff and you'll smell the burritos and find it."

I had little hope of finding the Burrito Bar by myself, but since every single person I had talked to had insisted it was a "can't miss" meal, I mentioned it to Shuko and John and they were more than on board with the plan.

Oh, yeah, you HAVE to eat at the Burrito Bar, they enthused, we'll take you there.

I couldn't have been happier; a rave review burrito was something I was going to have to investigate further. Better, the place is run by a Brit. What on earth could a British fellow know about making burritos that has the expat community on their knees in supplication to him? I mean, I remember Brits in Dubai who had never heard of tacos.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Sure enough, it was a little hole in the wall, but a very nice hole in the wall. As advertised, it had red walls and smelled wonderful. After ordering at the counter, we waited at a heavy wooden table for the food to arrive. John leaned over and conspiratorially whispered "This is where all the Mormons on their missions come to eat."

I must have looked incredulous because he spread his hands wide and said, "No really. I don't know how they know about it, but you watch, they'll be here."

It wasn't three minutes later that the first clean cut, white-shirted young man came in, followed by a group of his fellows.

John did Groucho Marx eyebrows at me, "See? Told ya!"

I couldn't help but smile.

The burritos arrived with limeade. Not lemonade. Lemons are unknown in Peru. In fact, Mike is determined to take one down there on one of his trips to show to the locals in the office on the job site. Peruvian limes are small and sweet and, in this case, nicely refreshing in a cold drink with mint and sugar. But the burrito...

The burrito was toasty warm and large, tightly wrapped in silver paper. I could get both hands around it, but only just. I unwrapped it to find a corn tortilla rolled around black beans and rice and mildly spicy meat, some peppers, onions in there somewhere. The juices had soaked into the freshly made and perfectly thin, warm tortilla a little. I took a bite.

Sweet Jesus. No wonder the Mormons come here; this was a spiritual experience. Wait, was it? Chewing. Swallowing. My God, it was.  

Another bite, a big bite. Angels singing. Pure heaven. Simple. pure good food. It was going to be hard to eat this thing with any sort of decorum. I wanted to face plant into this burrito; it was that good. I was obsessed with this perfect, amazing burrito.

It was so good, in fact, that well into stuffing this thing bite by divine bite into my mouth I only barely managed to force myself to stop eating it long enough to take a photograph; I realized that if I didn't do so soon my burrito would be gone from this earth entirely.

If Herman Melville had had a bite of that burrito, I think he would have had and entirely different opinion of Lima. In fact, he might not have written Moby Dick at all. He might have written Moby Burrito.


  1. Expats and Asians. The only people on earth who take pictures of their food. :-)

  2. LOL at the previous comment! You are making me drool Natalie. So did you get to talk to the Brit/owner?