Updated: Mar 8
By Leeming Wordsman
Here is a food memory that won't stop haunting me. I was 18 and it was spring break of my freshman year in college. My family drove from San Francisco to Baja California making stops along the way. It was a horrible trip. My sister and I weren't getting along and my dad was an active alcoholic drinking all the time, even when we were driving. The furthest point south that we got to was Ensenada, No Cabo or Puerto Vallarta for me. Ensenada was sort of renowned as a fishing port. One afternoon my mom and sister went one way and my dad and I went the other. We found ourselves hungry and walking around a foreign city. We came upon a street vendor that was selling fish tacos. I had never had or heard of a fish taco but it sounded good to me. As I waited, the vendor would drop pieces of battered fish into what looked like a wok filled with hot oil. The fish would brown and crisp in no time and then he would slap the pieces into a tortilla and hand them to me. There was a fixings bar along the side of the vendor's stand (think NYC hot dog vendor). The fixings were salsa, onion, cilantro, lime, queso, tomato, pepper, and what I think must have been crema mexicana or maybe sour cream (but lighter). One bite and I was transported to heaven. When I tell you that this was one of the top five meals that I have ever had, I am completely serious. I have eaten at Le Bernadin (which many consider the best seafood restaurant in the U.S.) and the meal that I had that day on the sidewalk with my dad was easily better. Fresher, more flavorful and substantially cheaper. Mexico had only recently devalued the peso and as a result, U.S. dollars were worth a lot. My dad and I each had seven tacos and memory tells me that we spent about 75 cents that afternoon (5 cents per taco). While that trip is one that I never recall fondly (I don't remember much else that happened) and my relationship with my dad was beginning to fall off the cliff,
that day we had an experience that we both remember and recall frequently. I can remember standing on the sidewalk and what the stand looked like but I don't recall anything else that we did that afternoon.
by Leeming Wordsman, Yonkers, N.Y.
I grew up in Westchester County and went to college in California in the early eighties. After college, I returned to N.Y. and have spent the last 30 something years employed in the environmental science/disaster recovery field. I'm a father of three wonderful daughters and I love being their dad more than anything in the world. P.S. my dad got sober and died in 2014 with over 20 years sobriety. I've been sober myself for the past 7+ years.