Picking Grapes and Rolling Trays: Life as a migrant in Central California #3 – Embarrassed by Tortillas

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When it was lunch time in the vineyards we all would gather underneath a vine or in our Ford pickup truck that was parked at the head of the vineyard. If lunch time was in the middle of the vineyards then we had to be careful not to kick up the dust so as not to get it in our beans and rice. There is nothing worse that eating a bean and rice taco and having grains of sand grinding in your teeth.

Like most people, we needed to wash up for lunch. You do not want to waste water on cleaning your hands. If we did that then one of the brothers would have had to go on a trip to refill the gallon jug. And you know what that means! So we used what was available. Grab a bunch of grapes and squeeze them in your hands, rub, scrub and air dry and presto, clean hands. A bit sticky but clean.

Lunch time traditionally was beans, rice and a bit of meat wrapped in a Mexican tortilla, a burrito. I now have to say what type of tortilla because the Spaniards have a tortilla as well. However, their version of a tortilla is what we would call a potato pancake; think of it as a pan sized hash brown. The Mexican tortilla is what is commonly known around the world as flat bread, think pita in Greece or nan in India. Now, I really love food. I have never had any qualms with it. There have only been two foods that I have come across in my life that I have not been able to eat. One is bundegi, steamed silk worm larvae that Koreans eat like Americans eat popcorn. The other food that I could not make myself eat was fried giant grasshoppers. The Cambodian lady that prepared them really took her time on them and truly was offering my wife and me a snack worthy of honored guests. However, they were grasshoppers bigger than my hand. Now the Mexican tortilla is to me, God’s food. I would be a happy man on tortilla alone. I loved to eat tortilla alone or with any stuffing, beans, rice, meat, eggs, jalapeños etc. I felt good eating tortilla. So, why was I embarrassed by them when we took them to school as our lunch? My favorite food in the entire world, the bread of the Toltec’s, Aztec pan embarrassed me.

We did not take them in a metal lunch box covered with the latest transformer action characters but instead wrapped in aluminum foil and kept inside of a brown paper bag with an orange that we plucked from the neighbor’s tree the night before.

The other thing that I hated was waiting in the lunch line in the school cafeteria. You see, my brothers and I received a free lunch; we were part of the reduced or free lunch program. While other students had a yellow ticket that they presented to the lady at the register we had to say our names and the lady crossed them out from a list. Next!

About the Author:
Juan Martinez  contributes regulary on Bukisa, an online community where you earn residual income by sharing your knowledge.  To syndicate this article click “republish article” located at the bottom.


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