Blue Eggs, Home Food, No Sunday
by Ali Berlow
Señora Sanchez revealed to her only daughter Maria, her secret recipe for Pollo en Ajo-Comino (chicken in garlic and cumin) on the day her daughter married that no-good gold miner, Ernesto Nuñez. The Señora also gave young Maria her best breeding stock of Araucana chickens prized for their bluish-green eggs to take with her to America. She told Maria that those chickens would become her fortune and that she’d never go hungry, even married to that fool with dreams of gold in his eyes.
The Señora was convinced that all gold miners were liars standing in holes in the ground.
After Maria and Ernesto left for the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, the Señora lit a candle and said a prayer to the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint.
Maria and Ernesto’s place is just a few miles southwest of Yosemite National Park—it’s past the bad curve, at the bottom of the dip in the road marked by a stand of ponderosa pines and a hand-painted sign that reads ‘Blue Eggs, Home Food, No Sunday’. Or you can just find it by the scent of Maria’s cooking.
Six days a week she grinds cumin seeds and peppercorns in her mortar and mashes in cloves of garlic and salt. She simmers bunches of dried ancho chilies to breathe life into their crinkled, reddish-brown skin and then blends them into a thick paste. Pieces of chicken roast in a pan over a wood stove till they’re crisp and then she adds the garlic to fry for a minute or two. But if you breathe in too deep when she stirs in
the chili paste—you could set a fire smoldering down deep in your lungs.
Señora Sanchez was right about those chickens—Maria and Ernie (as he’s known in America) never went hungry. Maria’s roadside food caught on quick with the ranchers and she sold her share of hard-boiled blue eggs to picnicking tourists— while Ernie went go to dig in the dirt and pan for flecks of gold in the icy waters of the Merced River. The chicken flock grew and soon the birds took over the place—scratching and pecking at the red clay and fighting over any stray tarantulas.
The day Maria was busy cooking a huge batch of chicken to sell at the county fair—Ernie let out a scream from out back where he was butchering birds. ‘A fi ne time to chop a fi nger’ she thought, ‘what with all the work we have to do’. But when she got to Ernie he was standing there holding the biggest gold nugget that she’d ever seen and since Maria had never seen one, it did look extraordinary.
The gold had dropped out of a gizzard, right there on the cutting board. It turned out that those chickens had been scraping and tugging at the earth to give up its gold better than any one man could do in a lifetime. It’s safe to say that that nugget wasn’t the last of the gizzard gold for Ernie and Maria.
The Virgin of Guadalupe had watched over them when they settled down in that gulch and that night they sang, prayed, it candles and even recited poetry to the Virgin. They also said a prayer to the patron saint of chickens, even though they weren’t really sure there was one.