I feel I’ve reached a halfway point on my Summer Detox; my body’s trying to adjust to the constant influx of substantial sodium-soaked sausages at the dining halls and the mustard marinated tofu I’ve been making for myself for the past several days in my kitchen. I doubt my stomach will ever fully understand the next and final year of me living on campus; I try to calm it and satisfy the overflowing guilt- by running miles on top of miles and more recently, today, running up steps for nearly fifty minutes. The result was grueling, and I retreated back to my apartment to indulge in some yogurt and the Season One finale of True Blood.
First off; yogurt was decadent. Plain yogurt. Honey. Mashed Banana. Almonds. Sea Salt. I swear to you I’d take that any day of the week on top of Sixteen Handles.
Still though, I’m still sitting. I promised myself I’d take a walk at some point before midnight but I doubt that’s gonna happen. So now I can feel the yogurt and the tofu and the spinach from 11 A.M. salivating in my stomach turning into acidic mush; the sweat’s creeping down my back and I’m unsure if it’s because it’s so warm in my room or because I’m nervous that I’m gaining the water weight back.
Maybe I’ll do a set of a hundred of something.
It reminds me of the last time I had gone home. We had reserved an entire afternoon to Little Havana, to have some espresso at the domino park and to eat a guiltless meal at the proud and true, El Rey De Las Fritas.
With a name that sounds like what it means, El Rey presents the holiest of matrimonies: the Cuban and the Coronary.
My Father’s Cuban and my Ma’s from Jersey so she might as well hail from Cuba as well; I spoke only spanish growing up until the point I was five years old and I was settled into playgrounds and 7-11 slurpees. From then on, I lost the language- for the most part. I’m one of those capital assholes; able to fully understand a conversation through a two-one combo of insinuating the dialogue in between easier to understand nouns that can otherwise be interpreted and understood through a simple study of one’s hand movements and inflection. It’s an art in that it has emerged out of a need, out of depravity. I’ve been longing to hold onto every ounce that I can of my ethnicity, the most immediate and tangible being the food.
Simple. Always moist. Serendipitously greasy and savory and sweet all at once, and El Rey de las Fritas is the premiere Cuban food experience. Aside from my Abuelita’s cooking. Or any of my Tias’. Or my Ma’s picadillo. In fact, I take it back. El Rey is premiere Cuban food for anybody who doesn’t get a chance to take in what my family’s got to offer- and with that said, I’m sure any good Cuban Man or Woman would say the exact same thing about their families. We’re real tight. So if you find yourself outside one of those categories- then sure. Maybe. Yeah. Absolutely. Put El Rey right on in there.
It’s impressive in its simplicity. Lodged inside a dirty strip mall, bleach-white linoleum floors reflect like mirrors and a one hundred-foot long counter snakes its way through the entire dining area. You feel like you’re going under with how bright the lighting is. In the back, there’s a photo spot where diners can pop their heads into holes cut into a painted pair of overweight American tourists with a bag of El Rey to go.
First up on the list; a couple of Matervas. The goblet’s filler. It’s sweet and rushes down your throat like crack or the instances when I was addicted to Diet Coke and had to have it in a cup of ice with a straw and I’d take that first sip.
Following that, tamale with fried pork chunks and a bunch of crispy fried potato straws. The tamale is wicked good and goes down perfectly when topped with a bit of that ketchup. The pork chunks are soft and moist and as oily as you’d never want to imagine. The onion would cut through if it wasn’t for the amount of oil it was fried in. You go in and figure maybe the potato straws will soak it all up- but they don’t; it’s like a sponge in reverse- spewing delicious, hot, and savory oily potato starchiness all over you fingers, and palms, lips, and cheeks. Wash it down with the Materva. That always does the trick.
Next up; the Frita Sandwich and a Cubano:
The cubano is perfect. It was always meant to be thin. It was always meant to be served on lard-soaked bread. The mustard busts out a couple extra parsecs on top of the sweet pickles and warm ham.
Swig that Materva.
Following that; the crown of thorns and giver of all that’s greasy goodness; the frita. Toasted Cuban bread stuffed with a hybrid of fried pork and succulent chorizo; potato shoestring fries too. It’s sloppy and it fits in your hands.
It’s all gone in three minutes. We finish off on our Matervas, pay up, and walk along to the Domino Park where we sit next to an elderly man who shares his insight on the history of Miami for about an hour and a half. The entire time I was sitting, I felt that same sense of bloating that I did ten minutes ago when I started writing the blog. Now it’s fading.
I’m assuming it’s the time. I get scared with the idea that not everything is immediate. It’d be easier. I’d probably have an easier time getting a six-pack as the daily showcase in front of my mirror would easily motivate me. I’d also probably have a better time understanding and speaking Spanish.
But then I wonder, would I be holding onto everything that I still want? Doesn’t that ultimately make me who I am today, if only because I’m holding on to them so tightly?