Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Cinco de What?
I hope you’re all reading this with a cold, frothy, margarita in your hand, or at the very least a Dos Equis or Tecate. I won’t wish a Corona on you, since our household isn’t big on that one. Maybe you’re eating chips and salsa. If you live in AZ perhaps you have plans to head to Aunt Chiladas or Gardunos for a fabulous dinner and mariachi music.
Things here on the East Coast are quiet. People are mowing their lawn. Kids are playing outside. We celebrated the holiday last Saturday (which of course was Una de Mayo) and have been eating the leftover machaca beef and refried beans, tacos, and nachos for days. Tonight we are grilling hamburgers.
One of the things we missed when we moved to the East Coast was the lack of celebration regarding this festive holiday. Trying to explain the magnitude of Cinco de Mayo to East Coast natives is like trying to explain to Arizonans the holiday significance of Patriots Day. They just don’t get it. They are regional celebrations that don’t transfer unless you’ve lived there. To bring our friends up to speed on the holiday and to share a little bit of our fondness for the Hispanic culture, we throw a big Cinco de Mayo event at our house the first Saturday of May. I know that’s a little bit like celebrating Christmas a week early, but when you’re back here in the Commonwealth, you work with what you’ve got. People here don’t party in the middle of the week (or whenever Cinco de Mayo may fall) unless the Sox, Bruins, Patriots, or Celtics are playing. Yes, we have to compete with baseball schedules. Yes, we compete with First Communion parties. But we have two things that those events do not: a frozen drink machine and an inflatable jumper.
This year I made green chili chicken, machaca beef, refried beans, rice, and three different kinds of salsa-served up of course with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream and guacamole. The one nice thing about celebrating with a bunch of Cinco de Mayo virgins is that the food expectations are low. The East Coast idea of salsa is Chi Chi’s in a jar and Taco Bell dinner kits from the super market. In fact a new Mexican restaurant just opened around the corner from my house (the irony!) and everyone in town is raving about it. I’ve eaten there twice, which was good both times, but not stellar. Then again, I have a wealth of memories of Arizona Mexican food which greys my opinion a little bit. I have to say that when eating at the restaurant I think it is actually owned by a Hispanic. Our waitress was so sweet and had a very thick accent. This is a bit of an oddity out here in Wonderbread Town, but made me feel at home. In fact perhaps they’ve relocated from Arizona to escape harassment, looking to set up a thriving business where they’ll be appreciate and revered for their ethnic cooking. Since there aren’t any other options at all in a 25-mile radius, they’ve come to the right place.
At our party, the kids celebrated by hitting three piñatas (one for 6 and under, one for boys, and one for girls, the only fair way to do it), and smashing 200 cascarones over people’s heads. These are fabulously fun items, even if they leave your yard looking like the streets of Manhattan after the Thanksgiving Day parade. Another side benefit to cascarones is that you’ll find colored paper in places you never knew would look cute with rainbowed bits, like your underwear. It’s not a real party until there is confetti in your underwear.
The drink machine is the favorite party staple, and if you’re going to throw a large party with frozen drinks, I highly recommend renting one. No babysitting the blender. Much less clean up. And frozen salty goodness for hours and hours. The day after the party I emptied the alcoholic stuff, rinsed it out, and made slushes for the kids. I’m all about getting my money’s worth.
Overall I think about 75 people (I’m including kids in that number) came and went. It has taken me two days to pack up and de-litter the yard from beer bottles, candy wrappers, soda cans, and piñata filler, and there are still items on my back porch and kitchen table. Maybe I’ll tackle those tomorrow.
Tonight I’m going to grill burgers, sit outside, and swill a cold beer, while reminiscing on Cinco de Mayo’s past—times celebrated with family and friends in our home state.