Anita Mechler: Gabriel García Márquez Eats a Sandwich

Many years later, as he lounged in the small terracotta courtyard of his hacienda in the warm sun, Gabriel García Márquez remembered that distant afternoon when he tasted his first torta. At the time, Mexico City, D. F. was a bustling city, built with cobblestone streets and the ruins of battlements. The world was continually awakening around it, welcoming in a new era of change. That summer, when he was no longer a young man and rapidly leaving behind his mid-30s, he found himself surrounded by a parade marching through El Zócalo. There was a great uproar of merriment, the jangling and jingling of costumed revelers dressed in majestic rags and torn silks brandishing their various brass instruments.

Among the throngs were carts filled with tinctures, scarves, leather bags, and steaming food. On one wheeled stage, a large pot-bellied gypsy with a glint in his heavily-lined eyes, who introduced himself as El Rey Feo, was making a great show of his gleaming knife collection to a rapt audience. He looked from face to face of those in his trance and everyone was amazed to see his wares as if they were from a land of an ancient and forgotten people. The stage creaked and sagged under his great weight but none of the magic of his display was lost on that blindingly hot afternoon by those who had already fallen under his spell.

Gabo was instead entranced by another of his senses. The sight of the gypsy’s healthy girth incited a rumble from his own belly and the scent of food left a visible trace in the air. It was as if his feet had a life of their own and his growing hunger awoke his soul. He approached one food cart and behind the counter saw one of the most beautiful Indian girls in the plaza. The sight of her large, clear, brown eyes and thick, shining, plaited hair sent his mind immediately to his home and only increased his ravenous hunger. She smiled shyly at his wanting gaze and without words handed him a torta the size of a plate. He nodded and gave more coins than he may have intended, so full of anticipation for this long-awaited meal.

In order to avoid the crowd, he slipped into the Palacio Nacional, to sit under his favorite Diego Rivera mural, depicting the history of Mexico. He felt the warmth of the flat, round, doughy bread through his fingertips into his rib cage and down to his broad feet. Positioned within clear sight of the movement of the workers of the mural he sat in a shaded spot to marvel at his treasure and to devour it away from prying eyes.

He bit into the soft outer layer and almost audibly moaned as his teeth crunched into the firm and succulent lettuce through to the soft sweet aquacate. There was the sharpness of the poblano pepper and the cool relief of the tomato. The adobado sang directly into his heart as he worked his way into the sandwich, his eyes taking in all that his could. In that instant, he was transported forward in time, to his hacienda and his growling stomach.

gabo

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