Sunday, January 22, 2017


I was the dishwasher at a small Mexican restaurant.
This restaurant made excellent cheese enchiladas and chile verde.
The secret was in the sauces.
These “secret” recipes came from the parents of the owner’s wife Suzy.
Rafael was the owner.
Ralph told me that he was once offered a million dollars for these secret recipes.

I began my mornings at the restaurant by shredding a couple boxes of lettuce.
While I shredded lettuce, two of the owner’s cousins and a waitress were doing other things.
Rafael usually arrived an hour or so after our arrival.
Paula was the name of the waitress.
Jesse and Jesus were the two cousins.

Jesse, a former boxer, was the older of the two cousins.
Jesse liked to drink, and he did so every night.
Consequently, he was groggy and slow-moving in the mornings, but always good-humored.

One morning while I was shredding lettuce there was a loud explosion.
I saw red (bean) steam roiling from the kitchen, and cousin Jesse was “roiling” in the same path as the red steam, screaming that he was burning from hot steam that had just issued from the exploding pot.
The larger of two bean pots exploded because its safety valve couldn’t open.
The valve couldn’t open because the exhaust fan hood was not high enough for the tall pot and its safety valve to fit under it.

Cousin Jesus had turned off the burner where the big bean pot was sitting, but cousin Jesse had turned the burner back on.
Jesse thought that he had turned the stove burner off, when in fact he had turned the flame back on.
Pressure continued to build and build until the pot exploded.
The top of the big bean pot is what blew off, and it shot like a missile through the exhaust fan hood and through the two-by-four rafters.
The big bean pot had nearly gone through the roof itself.
The roof of the restaurant was lifted, and all of the windows had shattered.
Fortunately, except for Jesse’s third-degree burns, no one was injured.

Pot pan handles were sticking out of stereo speakers.
All the dishes were broken.
Rice and beans plastered the walls.

Right after I had thrown cold water on Jesse’s steaming back---(I had yelled at him to remove his shirt, and when the water hit him he yelled that it was too cold!)---I started looking for Paula, calling out her name,
Where are you?”

I looked up at the ceiling to see if she had gotten stuck there from the explosion, but she was next door at a gas station, calling the fire department.

The restaurant was condemned.

I came in the next day to help clean up the mess, but
I stepped on a big nail, and so couldn’t work any longer.
Ralph the owner was kind enough to go with me to sign the unemployment papers that said I was separated from my employment through no fault of my own.

I returned to the restaurant many years later.
It had been rebuilt and was three times larger than the original.
The chile verde and enchiladas were still quite excellent.

I imagine the bean pots were safer, too.


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