Food that soothes the soul, friendly chatter, and a place to escape
At neighborhood Latin restaurants throughout the Hispanic world, there is a lunch special called the menú del día. The exact contents change according to the particular restaurant and cuisine, but the format is typically this: A bowl of meaty soup suitable as a whole meal, followed by a main course of meat or fish and a giant portion of rice and beans. You also get a side of something like plantains or yuca, and a forgettable salad. If you’re lucky, it will start with an appetizer and end with coffee and dessert. In the States, this will usually cost you around twelve or fourteen dollars. A meal like this, eaten slowly at a good lunch counter, is revitalizing.
I’m not sure why this hasn’t become a mainstream part of American lunch culture, but it’s probably due to two things. One: Chefs and food writers have shone a spotlight on every kind of restaurant and cuisine in The United States, but many people still stereotype authentic Latin restaurants as dives. Two: In The United States, most people aim for speed and convenience at lunch rather than the full revitalization that comes from a long, multi-course meal. Something quick and portable, like a sandwich, better serves this purpose. But I think this is a mistake, because most of us could benefit enormously from a long lunch. We are all stressed, and when it comes to self-care we are a lot more likely to sit and eat than to meditate. I know I am.
We produce reported pieces, profiles, interviews, and rants about what’s broken in the food world (there’s a lot) and how to change things for the better. People sometimes tell me to just keep politics out of it. Respectfully: No. Food is political. We can’t and won’t ignore that.