It used to take a lot to get me excited, but that was before I moved to Peru.
I hate grocery shopping just as much, if not more, here in Iquitos than I did in Spartanburg. At least in the 'Burg I can enjoy one-stop shopping at my friendly neighborhood Super Wal-Mart. In Iquitos, I make my shopping lists (yes, I said lists, plural) according to the market or supermarket where the necessary items can be found. Fresh fruits and vegetables are best purchased in the open-air markets where the vendors sell their locally grown produce. Spices (the American ones I'm familiar with) are located in a specific mini-market, which is the equivalent of a gas station store in size, only with more variety and options. A tienda (small store) inside the Belen Market has the best prices on toilet paper, paper towels, and household cleaning supplies. Super Mercado Piramides is the closest thing to an American grocery store here; it is a larger store with aisles and real grocery carts to push, and is the best place to find ground beef, fish, and chicken (the locals would disagree with me on that, but I am a gringa and I like to buy such things from a nice, refrigerated display case where I don't have to see the remains lying around from the untimely deaths of said animals while flies hover over the "fresh" meat). If I want a modest selection of imported items I go to Los Portales, a smaller version of Piramides.
It was at Los Portales two weeks ago that I spied, for the first time, actual American hot dogs (as opposed to their Peruvian counterparts whose color alone encourages you to say, 'No thanks, I think I'll pass') and real hot dog buns to boot. It was all I could not to start screaming "HOT DOGS!!!" at the top of my lungs, and start running around in circles doing my best impression of Macauley Culkin in Home Alone. I promptly purchased said hot dogs and buns. Later that day I whipped up some chili, chopped up an onion, made sure I wasn't running low on mustard, and had the biggest, messiest hot dog ever. I thought I was in heaven.
Villa is a human guinea pig, or garbage disposal as the case may be. In his words, "Pamelita, you know I can't say no to food, no matter what kind it is." A couple of days ago I bought more hot dogs and buns. Upon seeing the buns on the kitchen counter, Villa inquired as to what they were for. When I explained, he wasted no time letting me know that he wanted to try an American hot dog, so yesterday we had lunch together. Suffice it to say that Villa has fallen in love with yet another gringo institution (all that's left pretty much is apple pie and Chevrolet, because he already likes baseball and we just crossed hot dogs off the list - for those of you who remember the commercial).
Though I can cook, I am not a cook; but I have often heard it said that a cook loves watching people enjoy her meal as much as she likes preparing it. I have to say, it made my heart swell with pride to see Villa eat hot dogs until he nearly made himself sick. So far his list of foreign foods includes tacos (complete with my homemade guacamole which he loves to eat straight out of the bowl with crackers), Italian style pasta salad (thanks to my mom for mailing me packages of pepperoni), and, now, hot dogs. He informed me today that I should search for a new recipe while I am in the U.S. and bring all the necessary ingredients back to Iquitos and make him a new gringo dish when I return. It is a simple thing, but it makes me happy.
Bon appétite! Oh wait, that's French. How do you say it in Spanish?