July 10, 2020
Greetings from Carrboro,
Week after week he made the drive. All the way there and back. Lord knows how long it took. The van he drove was beleaguered and brown and the engine sounded as if just making it to Sanford would be a reach. But like clockwork he’d arrive. Late Friday night. People waited beneath street lamps in the Carrboro parking lot a good hour before he pulled in, some with children asleep in their arms.
The work light inside the van was plugged into the socket for the lighter. He hung the caged yellow light on one of the back doors of the van. A hand-written sign that read “solo dólares” was taped to the other one. Music played from the car speakers. Inside there were coolers with fresh tortillas wrapped in paper towels, hammered copper pots for carnitas, boxes of brightly colored Mexican candies, cases of hot sauce and sodas, dried chiles and corn husks and buckets of lard. You name it. Sales were brisk.
This was the first Mexican tienda in the state. Or close to it. 1993ish. I drove a guy that I worked with – Antonio Lopez – there every Friday after work. He would buy a few things but he was really there for the flip-side of the business. When the van was emptied of all its wares driven all the way from Guanajuato, it was re-filled with heavily taped boxes with names boldly written on all sides for the trip back to Mexico. Antonio shipped shoes and electronics and pretty much everything back to his wife and children in Celaya. It was $35 a box. He jokingly called it Mexican UPS. After paying the guy, Antonio put his package on the pavement next to the van with all the other home-bound boxes. The parking lot was full of people talking and laughing when we left.
I feel lucky that Mexico came to Carrboro. Its’ culture made this town a better place. No doubt. And made me a better person. This week’s staycation is some way of paying that luck forward to all of you. The Acme Staycation World Tour is setting down for a delicious repast in Mexico. One meal could never do justice to all the great food from our southern neighbor – but we can try. And let me just say that using all of our great local produce and seafood will certainly make that a whole lot easier. Shrimp ceviche with tostadas. Spicy street corn-off-the-cob with queso fresco. Blue crab and grouper enchiladas with green molé pipian. Poblano chile en nogada with house cured pork belly and peaches. Smoked chicken empanadas with chiles and refried beans. Tres Leches cake with fresh blackberries. And there’s housemade horchata, muy delicioso sangría, and a piña colada cocktail kit so you won’t forget that it’s the weekend.
¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva Carrboro!
Well, that’s all the news from Carrboro. The staff at Acme look forward to serving you soon.
The Staff at Acme