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My secret pupusa world

I had some fantastic pupusas the other day. Hot, with delectable gooey cheese and tasty pork stuffed inside a thick…

By Magally Zelaya , in Latin American encounters of a Canadian kind , on January 13, 2009 Tags: , , ,

I had some fantastic pupusas the other day. Hot, with delectable gooey cheese and tasty pork stuffed inside a thick tortilla, topped with a perfectly spicy tomato sauce. Heaven. 

I don’t often talk about pupusas even though they rank right up there with my all-time favorite foods.They have always been part of my special and rather personal home life: a secret life where I speak Spanish and eat food with the word “poo” in it. 

Though the pupusa, a traditional Salvadorian dish, contains absolutely nothing off-putting, as a child I would keep hush-hush about what my real favorite food was. Pizza, of course!

I let few into my secret pupusa world. My childhood best friend was one of the lucky ones. She loved them and would sometimes take a single one home treating it as a prize wrapped carefully in tin foil placed carefully on a small plate. But her adoration couldn’t convince me to share my love of the pupusa with other friends.

Even as a young adult I still held the childish fear that the outside world might not fully understand the pupusa the way I did.  An ex-boyfriend who loved the dish called them papusas. A mistake I politely ignored for six years.

But all of that is over now and I am ready to proclaim my love for the pupusa from the rooftops. I love pupusas. Love, love, love them. No, I couldn’t eat them everyday like people very nearly do in El Salvador. But, once in a while, there is nothing more satisfying and comforting than a plate of pupusas.

I’ve always said that one of the things I miss most about living at home with my parents is the food. Not because I’m too lazy to cook for myself — which, I am — but because I miss out on what I identify to be part of my family, my heritage . . . part of me. I am a pupusa. Ha! No, no I am not. Although . . . once, when I was in grade six, I did eat eleven of them in one sitting. (Today, I can barely eat four.)

Enough about my eating habits. If, however, my pupusa-worship has intrigued you, I suggest you check out Rinconcito Salvadoreño on Commercial Drive here in Vancouver. The owner is lovely, the prices affordable, and the pupusas give my mom’s a run for their money. I happily sat alone at a window-side table tearing into a few with my bare hands (pupusas are traditionally eaten sans utensils) as passersby looked on.

And by the way, I am not the only one who has had a tortured relationship with the pupusa. This past summer, New York Times dining editor Pete Wells reported on his blog that the pupusa was being persecuted in New York. Outrage! I haven’t been able to find the outcome of the story, but my thoughts and prayers are with NYC.

Well, it seems that I have matured to the point where I am able to write openly about my love affair with the pupusa. But, I wonder . . . am I able to talk about it? A note: I am quite sensitive to words and there are some that I wouldn’t say aloud if you paid me. So, the true test remains.

The next time someone asks me what my favourite food is, will I boldly say, “My favorite food is the pupusa”? Dare I say it aloud? We’ll see.


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