I smile. “I like it!” I say and to prove it, take another big bite of the steaming huarache con pollo from Tina’s stand at Breed Street.
As I continue chomping my way through the cheese-coated, fried disk of succulent dough, I feel happy to be there. I’m so glad I came, I think.
Earlier in the evening, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to make the trek east from my WeHo apartment...
“I don’t know if I should go.” I whined to my mother. “My stomach isn’t upset any more, but I’m soooo tired.”
“It probably won’t be a late night.” She reasoned.
I grunted. “True. I just don’t want to overdo it. What if it makes me start to feel sick again? I have to be in tip top eating shape for Ludo Bites tomorrow night!”
“Just get a couple tacos. Those aren’t that heavy.”
“No! If I’m driving all the way out there, I’m going to do it right! With corn fungus quesadillas! And churros!” I protested.
“So are you going to go?”
I sighed. “Yes. I don’t want to miss out!”
I hung up and pulled myself out of bed. My head felt thick and groggy, as though I’d been submerged under a sea of churning ocean water.
Is this what the bends feels like? I wondered. Like getting out of bed too fast?
I called my mom back.
“I just got out of bed, and I’m sort of dizzy. You really think it’s okay to go?”
It was her turn to sigh. “Yes. Go. Have fun. Call me when you get home so I know you made it back safely.”
“Fine. Talk to you later.”
40 minutes later I arrived at Breed Street, off Cesar Chavez Avenue in East LA, armed with my digital camera and a pair of cajones that I didn’t know I had.
“Why are you taking pictures?” Two young girls asked me as I snapped photos of the scene.
“I’m a food blogger. I’m meeting some friends here and we are going to write about the food we eat on the Internet.” I explained with my most disarming smile.
They looked skeptical – of both me and my camera, but encouraged me to try their mother’s tamales and the fried bananas.
I promised I’d make my way over to their stand once the others – Evelina and Wes from Two Hungry Pandas, Cathy from Gastronomy, Marie from Starchy Marie, and our Breed Street leader, Jocie – arrived.
Ten minutes later, Jocie was giving our motley crew of adventurous eaters a tour of the various venders and her favorite dishes at each.
“The pupusas are excellent here.” She said, while my mouth watered over the steaming cornmeal pancakes stuffed with black beans and cheese or pork.
“Can we get them now?” I asked, my formerly queasy stomach now roaring with hunger.
She mistook my impatience for enthusiasm and laughed. “Let’s finish the tour first.”
“They serve goat tacos here.” She announced. My stomach lurched at the mental image of a Billy Goat. It wasn’t quite keen on the idea in its current state.
“… and lengua steamed tacos here.” She continued as she led us by the stand that many consider a must try at Breed Street.
“Can I get horchata?” I interrupted, my mind rapidly leaping from eating tongue to quenching my tongue’s thirst for a cinnamon-flavored rice beverage. “My friend Hank loves horchata and I’ve never tried it!”
Jocie smiled, the ever patient hostess for the loud hungry American. “Yes, they sell it here.”
I grinned and continued to plot my feast in my head. First horchata, then pork pupusa, then tamale, then a taco? And finally, the huarache con pollo from Tina’s that the regular Breed Streeter recommended when I got a confused look on my face at all the options available there. And, of course, muchos churros for dessert.
After we finished making our way around the overburdened parking lot, our group of hungry eaters made a bee-line for the pupusa stand. Hot from the grill, they nearly scalded our overly aggressive mouths. The almost overbearing heat disguised the pork flavor, as did the thick encasement of cornmeal flatbread. It was good, but didn’t make me think, “Gee, I’m glad I’m risking my stomach health with this.”
I was also less enamored with the pork tamale.
“It’s kind of gelatinous.” I whispered to Cathy as I discretely spit a piece of fatty pork into my napkin. While the unfatty strips of tender Wilbur were a compelling contrast to their cornmeal cover, they were unfortunately not as prolific as I’d hoped.
She rolled her eyes, saddened that I haven’t yet come around to enjoying the fatty bits that many consider the best part. “Oh Diana.”
“You can finish the rest.” I said apologetically, somewhat ashamed of the pickiness of my palate and began to set my eyes on other (less jiggly) pastures.
Cathy and her crew of Astronomer and Astronomer’s sister and I moved on from the tamale to share an oversized sticky grilled sandwich that was bathed in red sauce and stuffed with unidentifiable, yet deliciously goopy ingredients.
I found Wes and Evelina near the goat taco stand, and at their recommendation, attempted a lamb taco that unfortunately contained more of the gelatinous substances that my mouth frowns upon. One bite in and I decided it was time for Tina’s – the hub of the Breed Street space.
“So you really like it?” The young girl asks, smiling at the white sauce that is dribbling down my chin from the hot mess of the huarache con pollo.
I grin. “Soooo good.”
As are the two churros that I devour a moment later. The freshly made fried pastries are the best I’ve ever had, and blow anything I’ve encountered at Disneyland out of the water.
It’s a happy groan – I’m glad to have made the trek outside my comfort zone. Even if I did fail to try the corn fungus.