The meal at Señora del Campo’s was interesting, Diary. We had huarches con chorizo, corn cakes with sausage and salsa, to start with. There was also ceviche, but I don’t like raw fish, so only Papa and Sandro ate that. Then we had mushroom soup with chiles, and then crab enchiladas and rice. The señora ate only some clear soup and a little crab salad, I noticed. There was wine with dinner, but she only sipped a little of that, as well. But she did eat all of her dessert, a mango sorbet served with some of Mama’s chocolate crisps—brought fresh from the bakery as a gift.
“Your food was excellent, Señora del Campo,” said my father as he sipped his coffee. “But your bakery is not as good as ours.”
“I can tell by the cookies,” replied the señora.
“I will send you some of our best bread,” promised Papa, “and some of Mama’s tamales. You will get your appetite back!”
Mama nudged Papa under the table, but the señora just smiled. Papa is never one to dance around a situation, Diary, and tonight was no exception.
“You have an enormous house for one person. How can you rattle around in such a beautiful big museum?” asked Papa. “Isn’t it too much for you?”
“Ricardo!” Mama hissed at him, but Señora del Campo laughed. It was a small, rusty, sound, like a gate seldom opened.
“Is that what you think this place should be?” she asked Papa. “A museum?”
Papa got up and walked around, peering through doorways. “I think it is that, already! But you have a magnificent kitchen…wonderful stone work…beautiful lights…so much room…”
“Maybe you think it should be a restaurant, instead?” said Señora del Campo in a sly voice.
Papa stopped and looked at her, as if the thought hadn’t entered his head.
I could see Tomas stiffen from his position by the kitchen door. He scowled.
“Of course not, how ridiculous!” said Mama. “All these beautiful things, this lovely home of yours…”
“A huge home. An empty home,” said Señora del Campo. She held up a finger. “More house than home, now. And I am an old woman, with time so heavy on her hands. Perhaps time enough to wonder what to do with all—” and here she waved around the room, “—of this.”
“A wise thing, to consider your situation,” agreed Papa. He narrowed his eyes. “You would really consider turning your home into a restaurant?”
“I have thought so more than once,” Señora del Campo replied. “When my daughter became a chef.”
“Ah!” Papa took his seat again and leaned over the table. “If it was a restaurant, she might be tempted to come back and cook here, si?”
Señora del Campo shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe. She wasn’t interested when she left for Canada. But…time has gone by, and she’s written that she dislikes the cold. The hotel business. And, I suspect, the man she was so in love with when she left.”
Papa said nothing, but waited for her to continue.
“Who cooked your food tonight?” Sandro interrupted. “It was very good!”
“Oh, Tomas and Bella have been cooking for me for years,” answered Señora del Campo. “They are part of the reason Bernadette wanted to become a chef. I’m a pretty good cook myself, though my hands are too stiff now to cut and roll anymore.”
“Señora…” protested Tomas from his corner, but she waved him back.
“And we are all getting old,” she added firmly. “Anyway…maybe I don’t want a restaurant, after all.” She looked at me and Sandro, then at Mama. “Tell me about these children you are helping,” she asked Mama.
So she did, with a little help from everyone else.