Editor’s Note: Since I posted this, multiple people have informed me that it is “platanos” not “plantanos.” I’m leaving this in as a prime example of my whiteness. Maybe this was why the waitress smiled at me when I asked for more…
My boyfriend, James, lives in Harlem and every night he eats at a little chicken and rice restaurant down the street from his apartment.
It’s $5 for a whole plate of food, and he speaks about it with the reverence that devout Catholics have for Jesus or the excitement that Kristen Bell feels when a “sloth is near”*
I went there with him the other day, and it went something like this:
(We walk in, greeted by a smiling Dominican woman behind the counter)
Woman: (to James) Hola papi! Lookin’ good! How are you?
James: I’m great, darlin! Got that ill mondongo today?
(they both break out in a chorus of laughter)
Woman: (laughing) Oh you!
Me: (hovering in the background in my puffy coat, laughing loudly, clearly confused) HA! HA! Right??
Both: (stop laughing and look at me as if I had just farted)
James: (pause) So anyway… Can I get the lunch special?
At this point, I feel like I should mention something to you.
Alright, borderline translucent…
And I don’t just mean skin color. I’m talking country-club going, khaki-wearing, socks with sandals white.
If I was a genre of music I would be smooth jazz.
I used to try to pretend I wasn’t as white. I went tanning, dyed my hair dark brown, and wore hoop earrings. But it just felt weird, like that time Christina Aguilera was brunette and did a music video with Lil’ Kim*
I wish my life was like one of those Old Navy commercials with the black dad and Asian mom and Native American children all dancing in the sunlight, throwing snowballs and wearing knit hats.
But alas, I am sorely, painfully, Caucasian.
James is white too. But I don’t think anyone has ever told him this, and sometimes I literally have no idea what he is saying.
The other day we were walking down the street and he pulled me aside whispering, “Yo, everyone be sleepin’ on Harlem son.”
“Yeah, son…” I whispered back, “They mad tired!”
Judging by the sad look on his face, I feel like this wasn’t the correct response.
Back to restaurant: at that point I wanted to yell, “Hey! I can dig it! Chicken is the ill na na!” but I restrained myself and instead climbed onto one of high stools on the counter with my hands in my lap, like a five year-old waiting for din din.
James quickly ordered two lunch specials. As the waitresses were dancing to the radio, flirting with the regular customers and dipping ladles into different spicy sauces, I sat there tapping my foot to the beat in my J. Crew turtleneck.
Then it came: a heaping plate of morro rice, kidney beans, plantanos and roasted chicken breast with crispy skin glistening.
It was over. I dove in, forsaking all cutlery, face in the plate, eating bite after bite of delicious chicken with rice, kidney beans, and plantanos.
I alternated between James’s plate and my own, stealing his chicken skin, to which he promptly responded, “What the f**k son??”
“Sorry daughter!”, I joked. He didn’t laugh, but I know he liked it.
Then with crazy eyes and chicken grease on my face, I grunted to the woman with maroon hair behind the counter, “More plantanos please!” She gave me a nod and spooned six extra fried plantains on my plate and smiled. We finally understood each other.
“Food is colorblind”, I thought, downing a 22 of Budweiser.
Then a second thought came to mind, “This beer tastes like sh*t.”
JUST EAT THE FOOD
*This is actually really cute: http://youtu.be/t5jw3T3Jy70
* Still not sure what the f**k that was about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg8QgUIKXHw