Certainly, one of the great delicacies of the world is the humble pupusa. I’ve written before about my abuela’s technique for making this Salvadoran dish. In the Midwest, where I grew up, the only way to actually get a pupusa was to have an old woman like my grandmother make one for you in her kitchen.
However, now that I live in Los Angeles (and of course, because Hispanics continue to exert a growing influence on American culture), it’s easy to go to a pupuseria and order a dozen of them.
There’s a great place a short walk from our apartment, and my wife and I go there often. Recently, we were picking up dinner when I noticed that they also serve Salvadoran quesadillas.
I ordered a slab, and a guy standing in line behind me got very excited.
“Wow!” he said. “They have quesadillas too? I love quesadillas!”
He was clearly talking about Mexican quesadillas.
The Salvadoran version is actually a dessert, and very tasty. The more famous Mexican quesadilla is synonymous with bleary-eyed happy hours that feature cheap appetizers based on cheese.
The guy behind me resembled a white-collar worker on a break, and I figured he expected the quesadilla to be a tastier version of something he picked up at TGIFs.
He ordered before I could tell him that there was a substantial difference between the two dishes. It was a golden opportunity to explain how Latino culture is vast, and that each country has its own proud quirks and wacky traditions. I could have went on about how the quesadilla is a metaphor for the differences in Hispanic society, and I may have urged him to avoid making generalizations about Latinos.
But then I figured I would just come across as condescending, and possibly a little bizarre (who discusses abstract food metaphors with total strangers while standing in line?).
So I let him order the quesadilla, knowing that he would be completely perplexed when they presented him with the Salvadoran version.
He was baffled, of course, when he received his order. But then he shrugged and accepted it. With hope, he discovered a new culinary favorite.
In any case, the next time you go to a pupuseria, walk right up to the counter and in a clear, confident voice, announce that you want some quesadilla. When some smug guy interrupts you to say that it’s a dessert, smile and say that you know that already.
Your Salvadoran friends will be impressed.