Andrew Evans shares a taste of the road food available on Guatemalan buses.
Words are powerful tools. They can start wars and make people fall in love. They can make you cringe or make your mouth water. After three hours on a bus from Guatemala City, I heard the chilling cry from the road–two words that made my heart jump.
“¡Hay Pupusas!” A young girl banged the side of the bus and cried the unmistakable word again and again. We had entered El Salvador–crossed the bridge from one little Central American country into the next and had entered the realm of the most glorious food ever invented.
Pupusas are similar to fresh corn tortillas–thick round disks of maize cooked on a griddle. What makes them so spectacular is that they are stuffed–with cheese, refried beans, pork–whatever you want. They are simple, a Salvadoran staple, and I am totally addicted.
I live in Washington, D.C., which boasts one of the largest populations of Salvadorans outside of El Salvador. There are about fifteen pupuserias within walking distance of my house, but as wonderful as they are, none of them compare to what you get down in El Salvador.
Security was high at the border, so the bus driver was not letting any vendors onto our bus to sell things to passengers. And yet, all of us were hungry, as it was hours past lunchtime and we hadn’t had anything since we left. All of our noses were following the cartoon curl scent of fresh pupusa that came wafting all the way to the back of the bus.
The gringos on the bus resisted: every guidebook denounces “street food.”
It’s dangerous; gives you indigestion or worse, parasites. But these were pupusas, I reasoned. They were piping hot, just cooked. Plus, I was in El Salvador and I had to have one.
I jumped up, ran to the front of the bus, and poked my head out the door. I handed the young girl a dollar and she handed me three beautiful, hot, greasy, heavenly, cheesy pupusas–seasoned with loroco, or squash blossom greens.
The bus was silent as I alone ate my first pupusa, dipping the melted cheese and cornmeal into the curtido (a spicy pickled cabbage) and stuffing it like a pig into my mouth. Then, like someone raised a checkered flag at a drag race, the rest of the bus went rushing to the front and the little girl in the pink lacy apron sold out in about two seconds.
Andrew is currently onboard the National Geographic Sea Lion, which is traveling from Costa Rica to Panama. Follow his Twitter feed here @Bus2Antarctica, bookmark all of his blog posts here, and get the full story on the project here.
Photos: Andrew Evans.