PROVedge: Tongues of Glory

chilangosAs an unmistakably retired veteran, Bobby Pastrami’s penchant for wearing comfy pants suggests his fondness for napping and general relaxation. In contrast, my smart blazer and carefully coordinated neckwear is indicative of my desire to take on deadlines, on top of an existing workload filled with lecturing, grading and offering electronic support. In terms of stature, we could not possibly be any farther from seeing eye-to-eye. Literally (the dude is five-foot-three on a “tall” day). Despite our differences, the cause for the unbreakable bond between my father and I is our collective fondness for entertaining (ourselves mostly), a passion for food and an unwavering resilience in the face of the most trying of life’s obstacles.

My dad had been in the mood for tacos, so I penciled him in for a Friday lunch date at our favorite Mexican hole-in-the-wall. Tradition maintains that just as we are setting out to leave, he then decides it is best to inform me of the day’s errands. I have to earn the meal. This late-morning included delivering a custom-made bench to a bowling buddy’s house and then picking up a few essentials at the coupon-preying liquidator, Job Lot.

While en route to his big score – this week’s being the ubiquitously red boxes filled with Panettone and bags of fun-sized Snickers – my father’s not-iPhone sounded off to the theme of the Godfather.  Because he is elderly, he finds it necessary to use speakerphone, regardless of both the caller and the location where the call is received. Crunchy tortilla triangles dripping with mildly spiced house-made salsa was my primary preoccupation.

“Yeeellow.”

“Hello Bob,” his friend said between sips of Coors Light. “How ya feelin’? I heard you had a little issue.”

This was how I found out that my father had cancer. Again.

Over the past decade and a half Bobby has been diagnosed with and successfully battled many malignancies. These have been cause for the removal of countless internal organs, located beneath his naval. The culprit this time was a growth that developed on his bladder – his “second” bladder.  This news would not be cause for a rescheduling of our almorzamos a Chilango.

As we poured the tamarind-flavored soda into the stout glasses before us, my father spoke with optimism for the road ahead. “Doctor says he can catch it… I don’t see lingua on the menu, do you?” his thoughts shifted to the taqueria’s offerings.

“Do you have lingua?” he called across the dark dining area to our waitress, while gesturing to his fully agape mouth.

“Lingua? Yes,” she replied, as she sidled up to the table, ready to take our order.

“Beauuutiful.  Ah-ha-ha, I’m happy,” my father sing-songed back.

I too inquired about an off-the-menu selection – tender cactus tacos.  I, however, was considerably more reserved in my contentment, as I learned of the item’s availability.

Our discussion continued, over chips and jarritos. Pastrami outlined the intended oncological procedure, while addressing each of my follow-up questions, without any sign of uncertainty.

“Can I ask you something?” I interjected. “What is it about cow tongue that you enjoy so much?”

Without hesitation, his dramatic response was, “The extreme. Beef. Flay-vuh.”

Say what you will about my father and his culinary quirks. In fact, roll him up, sprinkle him with chopped white onions, a pinch of fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Much like Chilango’s food, the man is authentic – and he fits snuggly in a corn tortilla.

Chilango’s Taqueria, 477 Manton Ave, Providence, 401-383-4877

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