My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 6: My Love Language is Tacos

I am barefoot. This isn’t new. I love being barefoot. Whenever my feet touch a new surface, grass, pavement, dirt, gravel, my body enjoys the new sensations, being these pleasant or challenging. In this particular scenario, I’m in a town I don’t know. It feels like Cuba these days, faded colors and old roads. The ground under my feet feel warm and welcoming. There’s no one around me but that doesn’t bother me. I take my first steps when my phone wakes me up. It’s 7AM.

I stretched like a lanky cat in a large bed, trying to shake away my tiredness. We call this in México “desmodorrarse.” The word makes a purring sound you can’t invoke it without having the desire to stretch yourself until you feel satisfied. Use this word wisely.

I’m scheduled to meet my new kitchen elf Linda around 9AM but I wanted to have a walk around the block, see the area where we were staying and maybe grab something for breakfast. I saw a couple of Mexican markets nearby but opted for a croissant at the nearby Rollo’s Donut, a local institution.

I also had a donut

I came back to the house while Rick and Vania were getting ready for the day. We were very excited about the first day and what John had planned. I was too, but for other reasons.

John had planned something during the opening ceremony. All the Mexicanx recipients in attendance would be present for it. That caused some issues with my timing, specifically getting the food ready for the reception. “A couple of degrees more in the oven will be needed,” I mused.

Linda arrived and we headed straight to the Cardenas Market that’s next to the Emma Prusch Farm Park. Their tortilleria was already popping delightful warm corn tortillas. I immediately asked for the 500 tortillas I reserved the previous day and came out from there with my arms wrapping my little bundles of joy. I should have picked up a cart at the entrance.

The main goal before 3 PM was to finish both the carnitas and the mushrooms. Linda had the wonderful idea of naming the mushroom carnitas Fungitas, which was genius. The name stuck.

Crispy, tasty fungitas

To finish both, it was necessary to put these under the broiler and adding salt to add their characteristic savory flavor. It was a long process but thankfully Doc Doyle’s kitchen had a double oven. I loved it.

Delicious carnitas

The next tricky part was keeping everything, carnitas, fungitas, tortillas, beans, warm. Oh! Did I forget to mention that I made a pot of refried black beans? I did. I thought that it would be a great way to round up the meal. Sorry for forgetting these.

The salsas were all packaged, the decor sorted out, the dishes all set. I grabbed a quick ride to the Fairmont to get a 5-minutes shower at Doc Doyle’s suite and get ready for the opening ceremony.

After getting to the main ballroom I met, just by luck, David Bowles, another Mexicanx recipient. He’s a writer, poet and Nahuatl expert. We chatted briefly while approaching the scenario. We were almost immediately joined by other recipients and we immediately started talking and sharing stories. Someone from the ceremony told us that John was waiting for us with the rest of the Mexicanx nearby. We walked to the area behind the scenario and saw the other recipeints. It was amazing looking at all these talented people together. John mentioned what he had in mind. We practiced for a minute, just to see we got it right.

The ceremony started with the charming Kevin Roche’s speech, followed by John Picacio, the guest of honor. He spoke how some of the Mexicanx recipients decided to not attend, in protest to the barbaric family separation policy of the current administration. At that point, we joined John, crossing our arms with each other, while he read the following statement crafted by Lauren Snow. The crowd cheered. We felt accepted and welcomed.

Emotive

We walked off-stage happy and quite excited. I wanted to stay but I had very limited time. Once I was out of sight from the crowd and hit SEND to a text I have prepared for Diane Osborne “Running there!” She was waiting for me at the Marriot’s valet parking. We had just a few minutes before the Mexicanx recipients got to the Fairmont suite and the party got started.

Photo Credit: Rick Canfield

We got to Doc Doyle’s kitchen in record time and like that, we left. I remember how we stacked everything we could in a valet cart at the Fairmont and brought the food upstairs. The suite was already full of people. “Stay cool,” I thought. “Just bring out the food and all will be OK.”

I barely had time to take photos but I was happy with the results. The tortillas were hot, the carnitas were fragrant and the fungitas looked crispy. The 7 salsas were laid out, from mildest to spiciest:

  • Picard de Gallo, Make It Salsa — A pico de gallo with French accents
  • Soylent Verde — Salsa verde made out of… avocados. Promise
  • Obi Juan Chipotle — Roasted tomatoes with decadent chipotle peppers
  • Ankh-Morpork’s Finest Sauce — A spicy sludge for the famed city
  • Melange/Spice — A blue salsa inspired on Dune
  • Tears in the Rain — A green salsa with spicy accents, thanks to ghost peppers
  • Dracarys — Made with Carolina reapers. The hottest of the bunch.
Table set. Ready for action.

I did a quick speech about the food. When talking about Dracarys, John asked me to do it on the other room. George R. R. Martin was sitting there, surrounded by fans. I spoke how the salsa was so hot that we might need waivers from people before they tried it. Everybody laughed.

Confession: I barely ate anything. Between being worried about the food being good enough and just mingling with the crowd, I was a bit anxious. “HEY!” someone approached me. It was CTEIN, a very talented photographer that I admire. I might be dense because I saw him as one of the Mexicanx Initiative supporters but I didn’t know he would be here! “I love the reference” he said, while pointing to the Ankh-Morpork salsa. He was also a Terry Pratchet’s Discworld fan! Like I were to be surprised to find another one at Worldcon. We chatted a little bit while I saw what felt as droves of people grabbing plates and eating tacos with gusto.

Little by little, I started getting feedback from everyone. My Mexicanx siblings were enjoying everything, from the carnitas to the frijoles. The salsas were a hit also! Doc Doyle was there and took a few candid photos of me, finally relaxing.

Internal thoughts “Héctor, please don’t food poison him”

This feast was the culmination of many things for me. It was my way to prove myself to John, for his trust. I felt accepted by this new Worldcon crowd, but also importantly, by my Mexicanx crowd. Who better than them to know what good carnitas were?! I didn’t want to let them down. If they felt the flavors weren’t there, it would be as if I had forgotten the Mexican flavors I grew up with and sometimes miss.

Happy

I recall bits and pieces of the rest of the night. The lack of food with the alcohol got me tipsy. I’m a lightweight, by the way. I remember hanging out with the other Mexicanx, visiting other parties around the Fairmont, then ending at the bar, with John and other recipients. Around midnight Rick and Vania were heading back to our AirBnB and I joined them.

“It was a good day,” I thought. “Tomorrow, time to talk about food and fiction.” I think I forgot to mention this. I was speaking in a PANEL! Time to update my LinkedIn.