Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mystic Taco

In his wonderful book Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans, Alan Riding says that if you scratch a Mexican, you will find a mystic. In our travels in Mexico, we have found this generalization to be true. A conversation with a stranger can quickly turn philosophical or spiritual.

When we were in a Mexico City neighborhood recently, Nancy and I discovered a taco joint with an unexpected mystical flavor. We sat at one of the three tiny tables while the beaming middle-aged couple who ran Al Portal served up large, flavorful tacos. On the next table, I noticed a well-thumbed copy of the Kabbalah, the Jewish book of mysticism. The man said the book belonged to their son, an artist. One of his beautiful still-life paintings was hanging on the wall.
The Al Portal Family with fresh herbs and fruit
When we returned to Al Portal the next morning, the son, Martin Tristan, was cooking. While preparing the Fuente de Energia (Fountain of Energy) breakfast special, Martin told us he was painting 20 pictures based on the Kabbalah. He also mentioned his love for the Kybalion, one of our favorite books of esoteric wisdom. As we ate delicious eggs, beans, potatoes, and tortillas, Martin went to his Ipod and put on New Age singer/songwriter Loreena McKennitt, the last album we would have expected to hear in a Mexican  restaurant. Meanwhile, Dad refilled our cups with foaming hot chocolate.
One of Martin's paintings

As we were leaving, Martin invited us to a special three-course meal he was cooking for friends that night at the restaurant. He motioned to the mounds of fresh herbs his mother was cleaning for an infusion (tea) that would be served with white wine. He also would show some of his paintings. We jumped at the opportunity.
For a description of that memorable evening, please see our review on Trip Advisor:

Nancy, Martin, & Becky in a Mexico City neighborhood

Al Portal turned out to be a real portal for us--an entry into good meals, mysticism, and music. Plus a delightful new friend, Martin. Nourishment all the way around!