Death By Almond Flakes An almond croissant from El Pan de la Chola

I will have it in my clutches. Maybe not in the next hour, maybe not in the next two hours, but sometime within the next three hours I’ll have an almond croissant from El Pan de la Chola, Lima’s most pituco cafe, in my grime-covered hands.

Though at first I won’t even hold it in my hands. I’ll just let it sit on the plate — which isn’t even a plate but a rustic wooden baker’s tray since plates would be lame — and observe it much like you might observe a baby bird being born. Hatching. You watch as it first nudges its way through the shell and think, Wow, I’ve never seen a baby bird being born. And then, This is exactly like Jurassic Park, and for a moment you wonder if it is exactly like Jurassic Park and if in the next year this baby bird will grow into a velociraptor and devour you and your family.

But it’s not a velociraptor. It’s a pastry.

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH.

After observing the almond croissant I’ll take a fork and knife and cut into its succulent skin. I’ll carve off the perfect, chewy chunk and let it linger on my fork before putting it into my mouth. I’ll savor the moment. It will be over all too soon, of course. And while I’m chewing the first bite I’ll be trying to focus on the texture, the taste, the glory, but what I’ll really be doing is thinking about the next bite. Because you see I’m never satisfied. And even though I’m actively chewing a piece of the the best almond croissant in Lima, Peru — the best almond croissant in South America — I’ll be thinking more about the next bite than the bite that’s in my mouth. And this isn’t very Zen. But when you’re eating an almond croissant, it’s hard to be zen.

After the the first bite it will all be over. My heart rate will dip into the 30’s and if this was an Olympic sport I’d be accused of doping. I’ll have the heart rate of a blue whale. My eyelids will flutter closed and I’ll sit writhing on my chair, groaning, as if Lucifer himself had taken up residence in my sternum. One bites, two bites, three bites, four. My hands ferry pastry back and forth between the tray and my mouth. And then, inexplicably, it’s gone. My eyes open wide now, my pupils dilate. Where once was a croissant are now ashes, almond flecks and powdered sugar. The almond croissant will be gone, and I won’t know what to do. Get another one? Weep? I’ll look over at the waitress and flash a look as if to say, “See what I just did to that croissant? Now imagine how good I am at bowling.” And she’ll smile back as if to say, “I bet you pick up spares all the time.” And then I’ll exit the bakery into the chaos of the non-almond flaked world outside.

 

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My Little Lima Life The Lima Diaries (part 6,024)

miraflores lima

I’ve been asking myself a certain question for the past few days: Is there a tapeworm living in my stomach? The reason I’ve been asking this question is even though my diet has been considerably better since leaving Mexico (i.e. not  binge drinking and ice cream), I’ve still felt bloated most of the time. In fact, until about four minutes ago, I’ve felt bloated pretty much ALL of the time. And I know you probably didn’t wake up this morning and think, “I want to know about Mark’s bloating situation,” but it’s something that must be talked about.

Anyway.

I’ve already settled into a routine in Lima. I do the following things: Get up, rate Instagram ads, go to Cosmo Beans, write, drink coffee, eat Cosmo Bean’s crappy food, come back to my house, teach English classes, rate Instagram ads, and then make my way to El Pan de la Chola, Lima’s premiere cafe for people with tons of money who cannot live without things like almond croissants and “extracts.” Here I drink an americano and generally, from caffeine overload, slip into a state of quiet madness. I scribble in my journal. I fashion exclamation points and haphazard parentheses. I look around at the other customers, one of whom yesterday was a guy with a hairless dog who kept putting his paws on the table (the man, not the dog). The dog was adorable, but the guy less so. The situation was less than hygienic, but I’m by no means a health inspector.

After El Pan de la Chola I usually take a walk around the beautiful neighborhood of Miraflores. Yesterday was no exception. First I walked down Avenida José Pardo, home of such places as the Hilton DoubleTree and the Brazilian embassy, and then walked along the waterfront. The waterfront is Lima’s best feature. It’s essentially a many-mile park on a bluff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with palm trees, walking paths, and a touch of salt in the air. There are also exercise stations located about every 500 meters, and my new routine (as of yesterday), is to do as many pull-ups as I can at each station. So far, my record is three (give or take). But I have no doubt soon I’ll be doing many more, possibly to the point where I draw crowds. My goal is 50 perfect pull-ups (going almost all the way down but not quite, out of respect for my elbows). When I’m able to do this I have no doubt the stars will align and we’ll experience some kind of astrological event not seen previously in our lifetimes or the lifetimes of our ancestors. Orion might do a pull-up hanging from Cassiopeia.

Yesterday, after the pull-ups (grunting, nostrils flared), I made my way back to Magdalena del Mar on foot (foot). It was about four kilometers. I didn’t really want to walk, but didn’t see much other option since the buses were crowded. As far as I know, Lima doesn’t have a metro. It appears there’s one under construction. But as far as a working metro, one you can actually ride on that takes you from place to place and doesn’t just exist as a fantasy inside human brains, Lima doesn’t have one. But I could be wrong. I’m rarely wrong, but I could be.

When I got back to Magdalena del Mar I headed directly for Santa Rosa, the pastry shop of yesteryear, as my host described it, actually using the word in Spanish for “yesteryear.” The greatest thing about Santa Rosa is that the display case is about five and a half feet high and all the women working there are about four and a half feet high. This means that when you order something you sort of see their faces behind the counter, and then a hand reaches up and puts your arroz con leche on the counter, takes your money, and then reaches back up and deposits your change.

Yesterday I sat there, devouring my crema voleteada, which is essentially flan, in fact it’s flan in every way in that it looks like flan, tastes like flan, feels like flan when you pick it up and mash it together with your finger and smear it on your forehead, but isn’t flan. Or at least it isn’t called flan. I’d like to know what would happen if I went to Santa Rosa today and ordered “flan.” Would they give me crema voleteada? Would they make me leave? I intend to find out.

After Santa Rosa I noticed a health food store next door I’d seen before but never gone in because it doesn’t have a sign and I was a little worried it might just be someone’s house. But it was indeed a health food store, complete with organic vegetables and things like maca powder. I must have had a wild look in my eye, because the girl at the counter asked “Can I help you?” as if implying something psychiatric. I said, “No, thank you” and continued to browse, since browsing is one of my strong suits. And then I walked back to my house, where I rated more Instagram ads before going out to dinner.

And that’s my little Lima life.

A Delicious Scab

I woke up with a feeling of urgency this morning. I’m not sure exactly what spurred it. I checked my phone and saw I had an email from one of the people at Roads & Kingdoms saying one of my pieces had been accepted, and took a small minute to rejoice. I decided the other day that the next time I got an article accepted I’d use the money to buy a year membership to the shared bike program here called MIBICI. It actually only costs about $20, so I’ll have a few bucks leftover. Then I lay in bed for 15 minutes, rating Instagram ads for Appen, and then got out of bed and walked to Pan Regio, where I bought a costra.

I’d been interested in the costra at Pan Regio because costra means scab in Spanish. I don’t know why you’d ever name a pastry a scab. This is probably why the costras are always fully stocked and there hasn’t been budín for weeks. I purchased one for five pesos and once in the street ripped off a chunk and bit in.

It was bland. What else would you expect from a pastry called a scab? But then I kept eating, and kept eating, and by the third or fourth bite it was as if the costra was taunting me, daring me to still call it bland. I did not accept the dare. The costra was a work of subtle beauty. I don’t know if I’d ever buy it again. If there was budín I’d probably still go for that, drawn in by its gravitational pull, but the costra is what I SHOULD be eating. The costra is how I should be living my life.

Back in my apartment I made my bed and got ready to seize the day. I said hi to Bill, my aloe plant, who’s looking better and better by the minute. I attribute this of course to his new planter with drainage holes on the bottom and premium potting soil, but also the fact that he’s now surrounded by other plants. I’ve put him in the courtyard, where he’s last in line in a line of much taller, much greener, much more impressive plants. He’s the new kid on the block. Like any parent, I watch nervously, biting my nails, hoping the others will accept him. Bill is an aloe plant. He’s sweet. He’s sensitive. I just hope the others can see him for the person he really is.

And now I’ll walk to the school where I teach, not to teach but to use their blazing fast internet since I have a Skype class at ten and I’m worried the bandwidth here might be taken up by the Czech couple and also by Rodolfo and Adriana, who are also still here. I don’t think Adriana works on Mondays. My days are considerably better when I give good classes, so for this first class a good internet connection must be a priority.

(intermission)

And now I’m finishing this post, sitting at El Terrible Juan. I didn’t realize I hadn’t finished this post. I’m a bit embarrassed. This blog must be the number one priority in my life. Why does the waitress here hate me? I don’t get it. I bow my head and order as quickly as possible. I would love to just ask her, “Excuse me, I’m just curious. It’s obvious that my presence to you is about as agreeable as repeatedly getting punched in the stomach. Why exactly is this?” But of course I would never ask this.

It would be uncomfortable.

A special thanks to Barry Sevig for his contribution to this “błoġ.”

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