Pride of The Cinco
For the better part of two decades I’ve been celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a good sized fiesta. It’s taken on many different faces over the years, starting out as a sit-down dinner party when I would spend weeks — sometimes months — tracking deown hard-to-find ingredients and sharing recipes with which precious few in Oklahoma were familiar.
Then one year, I got overly ambitious with both the food and the invites and dinner ran way late. That was a pivotal year as it was also the one and only time I ever rented a frozen margarita machine. While folks were forced to wait to eat, they were not forced to wait on those margaritas and the ice-bathing cervezas. The party was such a success, the format changed the following year: enchiladas, mole, beans and chorizo rice were out; tacos were in.
Last year, I had to cancel the party because my mother fell ill a week before the big day. As rough as that was, this year’s has been even more trying.
For the second time in the last 18 months, The Oklahoman announced a reduction in workforce. Fifty-seven good folks are now out of work. More than a few I consider friends. One in particular I consider among my closest friends.
Just so happens the announcement was made on May 5, and my good friend Jesse Olivarez was among those left with no job.
Jesse might just be the Sultan of Cinco. No, not because he’s Hispanic. Because there’s no one that loves my annual Cinco de Mayo party, which rarely ever falls on the 5th, like Jesse.
This year’s fiesta is dedicated to him and the decade of hard work he gave The Oklahoman and in turn the community, including grunt work, holidays, nights and weekends for half the pay he was worth.
If there’s one stereotype of Hispanic folks born from overwhelming anecdotal evidence, it’s a propensity for loving spicy food. Jesse is the reason I know it’s a stereotype, it’s because Jesse would choose sugar over chile any and every time.
This recipe, derived from Rick Bayless’ first book, “Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico” (William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1987) for Manchamanteles, which means tablecloth-stainer, is perfect for my very good friend Jesse as it combines spicy and sweet beautifully. And I love it because I can now acquire all the ingredients needed right here in Oklahoma City.
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