Beginnings #9: Chorizo y Mahou

First, rub the ripe, just sliced tomato onto the crisp, fresh bread. Smear in some olive oil. Pick some chorizo from the big, plastic bowls brimming with sausage made days before from local pigs, each farmer donating choice cuts of swine. The orange taste bright and spicy. The red are dark and bold and remind me of a wine had long ago that looked like black licorice and tasted like earth. Put the bread and meat on the grill that’s kept ablaze by the man with a twenty-foot shovel that swings loads of coals through the dense crowd. He fills the first grill, then the next, then the next. He never stops swinging that shovel, working the stumps that roar with heat and light, moving coals this way and that until he gets a nice pile. He gets in close, pouring sweat, and fills the metal blade with embers and pulls back, ready to rescue any sausage that has felt the heat under it’s crackling skin diminish.

Now, grab the chorizo and bread with your fingers. Careful. The first bite is heaven—dark orange juice pouring down my chin like blood from an orange, lava from a crater. The meat crackles and spits grease against my teeth; the bread is toasted and hot and the fat and oil and tomato mix together into a swirl of flavor that leaves me speechless. The second bite is better—the middle is still raw, but it’s dark outside and I can only tell because some of the meat feels cool on my tongue. But it’s better that way; temperatures, flavors, songs in the background, the fire roaring towards me and the crowd swirling away into the distance. I feel alone. I stumble back to the food table and pull a cold glass of cerveza from the sweating keg and pour it down my waiting gullet like a man fresh from the desert, thirsty and confused and divinely happy to find this sustenance that hours before seemed like an impossibility. I don’t know what saint we are honoring, but this is the best party I’ve ever been to. Reilly and Dan smile, equally stunned, and suddenly I’m swept back into the scene. I gobble the rest of it down. We roll cigarettes, fill plastic cups with red wine from the 5 gallon pail, and recline on cheap lawn chairs next to a grill. Meat sizzles and pops and the second chorizo is better than the first.

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