I couldn’t sleep. It happens very often when I’m about to travel. It was already 1:32 AM on August, 15th. My flight by Southwest was scheduled to leave at 6AM from Austin and arrive to San Jose at 8:30AM. I had my itinerary planned. I had my bags close to fully packed. I even made a small breakfast bento for the flight.
I was bringing to San Jose for cooking:
- 12 lbs of sous vide carnitas, frozen
- 15 different dried peppers, all home preserved
- Several 4 oz Mexriracha jars, as goodwill tokens
- Assorted spices and powders. TSA will have a field day
- 2 Joules, my favorite sous vide toy
- Knives, tools and aprons
I was a little bit nervous, as we already had experienced a setback. I mentioned I would use Safeway’s food delivery system to order some items ahead of time. The order went through and was delivered the previous Sunday. However, Diane contacted me with bad news. The extra pork I ordered wasn’t delivered and they made other substitutions. “No problem, I thought. San Jose will have more than enough Mexican markets to get some of the missing things.” I didn’t want to end up going to stores every 4 hours just to sort out missing items.
I triple-weighted my luggage and finally went to sleep at 2:59 AM. I woke up at 4:20AM and got ready for the rideshare I had scheduled to pick me up at 4:35AM.
Everything was going well. My luggage went in without a hitch and the flight wasn’t fully booked, so I would bet some space to stretch. Thirty minutes after my we took off, I see the cabin crew moving a lot around the middle of the plane. A few minutes later we are informed that due to a passenger’s medical emergency, we have to land in El Paso so the person can be taken to the ER. No more details were shared but after chatting with one of the crew, the person just recently had eye surgery and the flight caused some painful consequences. Anyways, instead of arriving at 8:30AM in San Jose my new time was 10:45AM. I was a bit grumpy and informed Diane of the changes. “No te preocupes,” she said, trying to calm me down “We will manage.”
The rest of the flight was, thankfully, uneventful. I had my breakfast and took a micronap before landing. I quickly grabbed my bags and Diane was outside, just waiting for me. A brief hug and a we were out, heading towards the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, to pick up Christina D, a friend of Diane’s and my first kitchen elf for the day. It was interesting seeing the main convention floor before the event, bare and just getting ready for the following days. I was introduced to many people, among them Emmanuel Valtierra, the first Mexicanx recipient I’ve met. We chatted briefly about our common experiences and what to expect from the convention.
A few minutes later we headed to Doc Doyle’s home to get our work started. Her beautiful kitchen was perfect and I got started making one of the salsas with the ingredients I had brought with me. I had the chance to meet Diane had to run a quick errand and after that we headed to her place to have lunch, pick up the things I ordered through Safeway and discuss our strategy for the day.
The plan was set to bring the items to the main kitchen, get the mushrooms carnitas started, then work on the salsas. The pork will cook overnight and things will be ready in the morning. All seemed perfect. However, Mexican Pollyanna counted her chickens too soon. When we got to Doc Doyle’s home I discovered the besides missing some of the pork I needed for the carnitas, they had shopped dramatically wrong on different things I required, namely tomatoes, tomatillos, and onions. I asked for 8 lbs of tomatoes and only bought EIGHT TOMATOES. This meant another trip to the store, which bothered me. The least time I had at the kitchen, the longer this would take. It was already 2:30PM.
I prioritized our workflow. The mushrooms will go into the sous vide first for 1.5 hours. During that time, we could go quickly to get the rest of the ingredients. Diane and Christine diligently chopped, diced and sliced like champs. I was putting what we had under the broiler to get things going. The whole kitchen became an exhibit of bowls with different ingredients and lots of roasted aromas. A quick trip to the store helped me round up some of the other items needed but there was a critical issue: the store didn’t have enough tortillas available. I’m also picky about tortillas and the options were bad, in my Mexican opinion (IMMO). A few calls later and I reserved 500 freshly made tortillas at a Mexican store north of San Jose.
We got to the kitchen and things got back on track. 6 out of the 7 salsas were prepared, the mushrooms were fully cooked, the carnitas went into the sous vide and would be ready the next day at 9AM. I briefly recall sitting down around 10PM while Diane was explaining something. I must have dozed off because she said something along the lines of “Let’s drop you to your AirBnB.” I was running on fumes.
We got to the house, which was a granny flat on a backyard. I finally meet my roommates Rick and Vania before crawling into bed and finally falling asleep. “Tomorrow will be interesting.” I thought. Interesting wouldn’t even start covering how amazing the next day was.