By Alex Dominguez
From the salt-of-the-earth dept.
BARSTOW, Calif. (JNS) _ Humming through the high desert on the way to Vegas, feeling plush this time in a rented Hummer, El Conde decides he will dine again on Mexican food before accepting the endorsement offer.
A sign atop a tall pole reads "Steak Your Way" with "Mexican Food" underneath, obviously added afterward.
"Low-rent fusion," the Count thinks.
The phone rings.
"Conde," the voice asks.
"Si," the Count replies.
"How can I help you?"
It is an aquaintance familiar w/ the computer industry returning a call seeking advice on the offer.
"What do you think of the deal?" the Count asks.
"It's a cute idea, but why are they pushing NT? That's an outdated platform. Are they trying to unload excess inventory?"
"Hmm. I don't know. Thanks."
The idea gnaws at the Count as he heads into what he soon learns is the "Home of the $7.99 T-bone," and much more.
The place used to house a steak chain franchise. Now, the salad bar sits unused and a crowd of locals dine on items ranging from eggs to octopus cocktail.
The Count and his father, O Conde Pai, are excited by the octopus and try to determine, in English and Spanish, how it is prepared - a la feira?: boiled, cut into pieces and dressed w/ olive oil, paprika, cayenne, sea salt and garlic?
Boiled, yes, but served in a salsa rich w/ avocado, lime & cilantro.
OK, we'll split it as an appetizer, they decide.
Ceviche, tongue, carnitas, carne asada and guisado, chicharrones, and various hamburgers, sandwiches and breakfasts also fill the menu.
O Conde Pai, ever distrustful of all other cuisines, opts for the safe choice - the steak.
The Count orders the carnitas.
Admiring the plate of pork, tomatoes, pepper, onions, avocado, beans and rice, the Count notes corn tortillas take the place of bread.
When O Conde Pai was young, he says, corn bread - pan de broa - was much more common because wheat was scarce.
"In those years only the biggest growers fed corn to their pigs or cows. Ninety percent was for the people," he says.
Pigs were fed the cobs and sometimes nabos or remolacha, turnips or beets, and more often the tough, yellowed outer leaves from kale or collard green plants.
Cows and oxen, valuable for milk production and labor were slaughtered for meat less often. Pigs also ate table scraps, and in Extremadura and Andalucia are allowed to run free to graze on acorns.
They gave us corn, tomatoes, chocolate, peppers, we gave them pork.
"Pork free, as free as free as the wind blows," the Count quietly hums to the tune of "Born Free."
"I can't do it," he decides. "I can't lead people astray."
He will call Sid, after he has coffee.
"Hay cafe?" he asks Gabriella.
"Si quieres, lo hago."
Fortified, the Count calls Grift to cancel.
"Listen Sid, I can't do it."
"What? Kahn-dee, you're killing me. It's all set up."
"It's against everything I stand for. I like pork more than beef, it costs less and it takes a lot less grain to raise a pig," the Count says. "I have a Linux server in my basement that costs nothing to run. I can't sit here while we try to suck dry people's life savings.
What's next? I smoke the occasional cigar, you'll probably want me to get people to smoke 3 packs of Marlboro Lights a day."
"I've been meaning to talk to you about that" Grift says.