Monday, March 28, 2011

Friends, Fajitas, and Feeding

There is a man named Jorge Munoz who, for the past 7 years, has been cooking and delivering hot, fresh, and free meals to migrant workers in Jackson Heights, Queens every single night at 9:30PM. My fiancé Andrew, our friend Jon, and I have visited him a few times with donations of rice, oil, sugar, pasta, and other staples in bulk. Since he cooks upwards to 140 meals a day, Jorge is in constant need of donations.

It’s been a few months since we’ve brought any donations to Jorge so last Tuesday night, Andrew, Jon, and I went to visit him. Jon, who also happens to be an amazing photographer, just returned from nearly 3 months in Central America working with several NGOs. Since Jon just got back and I wanted to hear his stories (and compare, since I studied abroad for a semester in Central America), I had them over for dinner beforehand.

Andrew came up with the genius idea of FAJITA NIGHT and we all simultaneously salivated over the idea and got really excited. I sent the guys a grocery list and by 5:30PM my stomach was grumbling with anticipation and hunger. Andrew and Jon pulled up to the front of my office just as I was leaving and when I got in, I remembered that my friend JC (also my best friend in the Peace Corps) had just gotten back from her Spring Break trip to Guatemala that morning at 3AM. I figured she must be exhausted and not at all in the mood for cooking dinner, plus it would be fun for all of us to talk about our shared experiences. So I called her and it worked out perfectly, she was just leaving work and walking on the street that we were going to drive down. We managed to scoop her off the street and brought her to my apartment for the commencement of Fajita Night.

It. Was. Amazing. Andrew marinated the steak in soy sauce, pepper, fresh garlic, garlic powder, cornstarch, and fresh lime juice. That sat for about an hour in the fridge while I prepared the rest. For the pico de gallo, I threw together chopped tomatoes (with the pulp removed), chopped red onion, a few cloves of garlic (minced), cilantro, sweet yellow corn, and a finely chopped hot pepper. I added some salt, ground black pepper, and because I simply cannot resist the allure of Asian ingredients, two capfuls of Marukan sweetened rice vinegar. I served my guests some Jameson on the rocks and demanded JC stir the pico de gallo. I think she was okay with that.

Then I thinly sliced up white onion, green peppers, and red peppers. This was thrown into a pan of hot olive oil and cooked until the onions were translucent. I sprinkled a generous amount of cumin and Korean red pepper and salted to taste. Shortly afterwards, Andrew cubed the steak and cooked the steak to perfection using the skillet I had cooked the onions and peppers in. Meanwhile, we heated up the authentic soft corn tortillas – it is so essential to a successful fajita night to have proper corn tortillas.

(thanks for the photo, jon!)

The house was alive with chatter about our travels, shared experiences, unique experiences, and just a general, happy camaraderie. There is such joy and satisfaction in having a nice, lovely home full of wonderful, interesting people while the rooms fill up with the smells of homemade meal. When everything was ready, we gathered round my tiny table and gobbled fajita after fajita, relishing in the fresh ingredients, the perfectly tender and marinated beef, authentic corn tortillas, and the sheer bliss and privilege of being able to make good, wonderful food in abundance. In the end we could have all eaten 5 more but alas, the food came to an end.

With great satiated effort, we cleaned up, wiped down, and then packed ourselves into Andrew's truck. We dropped (an exhausted) JC off and then headed out to Jackson Heights to help out Jorge, the man who remembers how food feeds not only the hungry belly but also the weary soul. His cooking has united him with these men and because I know that they are here to eat, not to make conversation, I stand aside and watch the way food and feeding unites people, ties them together, shows our universality.