My favorite restaurant was El Azteco. No matter how broke I was, I could always afford a bean burrito. They were REALLY good bean burritos. I’ve never had one as good as theirs. I think it was the cheese they used, and their perfect ratio of bean to onion to cheese. If I had a friend who was willing to share one with me, I would also splurge on a Topopo Salad. I scored their recipe shortly after I was married – still make them every now and then. SO GOOD!
I didn’t say they were neat or well presented, I said they were GOOD.
The food at El Az was great, the prices were just right for a college student’s budget and the place was kind of funky. Long lines always crowded the steep, narrow stairs that descended to the basement restaurant. Lines that often formed all the way up the stairs, out the door and down the street.
I contracted salmonella from that restaurant and landed in the hospital. My mom was called because my blood pressure was almost non-existent, wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. But I did. And I kept trying to go back. I would open the door to go in, get a noseful of the food being prepared below and start to wretch. Quick, close the door and move on. It continued like that for a couple of years.
When I could finally stomach the aromas and the food, I became a regular again. I dated a boy briefly. A bad boy, which was completely uncharacteristic of me because I don’t like bad boys. My sister called him my walk on the wild side. He was a bus boy/dishwasher at El Az and he mentioned that they were hiring. I needed some extra cash so I said maybe I would apply.
“You aren’t funky enough,” he said.
Not funky enough? I wasn’t sure what he meant but I knew he was right. I started thinking maybe I wanted to be funky enough. And as I was wondering that, he invited me to a party thrown by one of his El Az co-workers. Practically the whole restaurant staff was there.
As I stood among them feeling conspicuously un-funky and wondering what it would take to be sufficiently funky to fit in, I had a sudden, distinct vision. I saw those funky souls desperately clamoring and clawing, trying to emerge from a pit. Looking around at them in that living room, they seemed to be having a good time. Yet the thousand words that God spoke with that picture clearly said, “Don’t want to be like them because they desperately want to be like you.”
That moment was the abrupt end of wanting to be funky, the end of going to El Az parties and near the end of the boy.
I didn’t even know God yet, but He knew me. And He knew the plans He had for me.
P.S. I’m not necessarily recommending El Az. When I was there a couple of years ago the food seemed to have gone waaay downhill. It could be me or it could be them. All I know is that my husband peeked into the kitchen as we were leaving and saw nothing but row after row of microwave ovens. Call me a snob.