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August 26, 2013
Life on Planet Kathy
Tijuana Twilight Zone
by Kathryn H. Kidd

Whenever a new Mexican restaurant opens locally, Fluffy and I are the first ones in line. There is something to be said for a salsa that is crunchy with onions, picante from jalapenos, and exotic from the cilantro leaves. Fluffy usually goes for chicken fajitas. If there’s no chili verde or chili colorado on the menu, I like chiles rellenos. Whatever we order, we’re sure to have a good time.

A new place recently opened in what used to be another establishment. I was a little hesitant to go to this restaurant, however, because the place was iffy for me. It is part of a small Virginia chain, and although the one we had tried in Virginia Beach had been pretty good, the one in Williamsburg was less than stellar. Why go to a restaurant if there’s a fifty percent chance it’s going to stink?

You go for the company, that’s why. Not only was Fluffy going to be there, but we were also going to be meeting two of our favorite people for fun and frolic. I was ready for excitement, and even if that excitement might be accompanied by bad food, I was up for it.

Our first experience with the cuisine came when the chips and salsa arrived. Surprisingly, the salsa had a kick to it. This was a good sign, because the sister restaurants south of here had salsa with no flavor whatsoever. Bolstered by the flavor of the salsa, I decided to go for “Our Famous Chiles Rellenos” to make my meal. How can you go wrong when one of your favorite dishes is so good that the restaurant claims it is famous?

I’m sure you think you know you know where I’m going with this story. You don’t. Pretty soon now, this rocket is headed off to Mars.

I have to admit here that I couldn’t read the menu. Ever since I was in the hospital, my eyes can’t read print close-up. I was wearing Fluffy’s reading glasses, but they didn’t help much. I kept glancing at the menu, and eventually my eyes settled on something I was pretty sure I couldn’t be reading.

One of the words in the description, “camarones,” was okay. That means shrimp, and I’m fine with shrimp. Another word in the title of the dish was “chipotle,” and I’m well aware from all the cooking shows I watch that chipotle is simply a smoked jalapeno.

The other word was where I got stuck. I got stuck because it looked suspiciously like “pasta.” I am a very old person, and in all my very old years I have never seen the word “pasta” on a Mexican restaurant menu. I couldn’t have been seeing what I thought I saw.

The waiter showed up at that point, and I pointed at the mystery dish and asked him what he thought about it. He was a bona fide Hispanic, so he couldn’t steer me wrong.

“It’s an awesome dish,” he said, gushing over the word awesome. “It’s the best thing on the menu. The shrimp are spectacular!”

“What about the Famous Chiles Rellenos?” I asked.

He sniffed disparagingly. “I haven’t tried those.”

“I guess I’ll have the shrimp dish,” I said, choosing to believe that I had misread the word “pasta.” I was unconvinced by the choice I had made, but I can be easily swayed by a waiter. I can be even more easily swayed by a Hispanic waiter at a Mexican restaurant. The politically correct among you may think it’s racist of me, but I expect the natives to be the authorities. At least I expect them to be smarter about their cuisine than I am.

We ate mass quantities of chips and salsa. Eventually the food arrived. The waiter put my platter at my place with a flourish. I looked down to see a steaming pile of — fettuccini Alfredo.

I wondered if maybe I was experiencing one of those hallucinations that have been all too common in this year of medical adventures. Was I really looking at a plate of pasta? Was I just imagining what I was seeing? Or had we really gone to an Italian restaurant and only my mind was in Mexico?

Determined to make the best of things, I dove right into the plate of steaming orange fettuccini. Yes, it was a pretty darn good fettuccini Alfredo. The chipotle made a great addition to the Alfredo sauce, and our waiter was right about one thing: The shrimp were killer shrimp. But it was fettuccini Alfredo, at a Mexican restaurant. This is not something that occurs in the natural world.

I have to admit I’m easily overwhelmed these days, but eating pasta while being surrounded by chips and salsa and Mexican décor and peppy south-of-the-border music made me feel like I was in the Twilight Zone. What Mexican cook even thinks of serving fettuccini Alfredo at a Mexican restaurant? The ones in my home town, that’s who!

Sometimes the course God serves to us is far different from what we would order up from the menu of life. This has certainly been driven home to both Fluffy and me since last December. But looking back at those events, we both have to say that blessings have come our way that we did not anticipate. Does this mean we want to relive a coma and a three-month hospitalization and life in a wheelchair? I would hope not. Once in each lifetime is enough, thank you.

But our lives are much happier if we just sit back, enjoy the ride, and see where the roller coaster takes us. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When your Mexican waiter serves you pasta, you just dig in with a hardy shout of, “Ole!”

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