It took me by surprise, too.
Only one has actually been to Mexico — with the Peace Corps. He makes the verde rendition with tomatillos, serranos and jalapeños. Most make the red, or roja, with ancho and guajillo.
Fresh tomatillos are hard to find year-round.
They all use pork shoulder or chicken and shudder at a vegetarian version. They craft it anyway — unsure, but challenged — and unabashedly triumphant.
The toppings — sliced red radishes, cabbage, crisp cucumber, cilantro and lime (quartered to squeeze generously) — remain the same. The one who served in Mexico adds avocado, perfectly ripe.
Another heats the tortillas, one-by-one, in a cast-iron pan and places them in a covered rubber container to keep them warm.
The container has a small cactus pressed into the lid, designed for this very purpose.
He has made and served a lot of posole; clearly, his date-night go-to. Even the name of the dish — posole (Americans spell it with an “s”) — demonstrates that, although he has not stepped foot out of Western Pennsylvania, he is a man of the world. He drinks the gifted wine greedily from a juice jar and smokes Camel Lights on the couch — soccer game on.
And yet another insists on frying the tortillas — not on making his own — but deep frying the Mission brand he purchased at the Shop & Save. He cuts them into ragged triangles with an old bread knife and pops them in, one after the other, as if performing some kind of culinary feat.
I return the shudder as I watched the grease spatter like fireworks falling to a slick, grimy end on the dirty electric stove. Turning the burning chips with weathered grilling tongs, he takes a sip of reposado and toasts the air, raising an eyebrow in grim satisfaction.
It’s official. Pozole has low-key assumed a role in the contemporary casual dating ritual.
I expect it now. Stock up on Modelo.
For, indeed, posole shows you he can cook. He fancies an air of the quixotic.
He must be a feminist.
He will make it without animals for you — you are special.
He is expansive.
He, however, will expect praise and that you note his singular character, his authentic ingredients, more praise, more than a kiss.
Lord knows what the Mexican men are doing now, their pozole love potion appropriated. Damn abuela and her digital cookbook ….
You don’t tell any of them that on every second or third date in the last three years, the man has made posole.
It’s clearly a secret, underground movement of suburban men united to show their sofisticación, to impress with their largesse and palatable avant-garde — unbeknownst to them, an unspoken trend.
I imagine there must be a smarmy Mexican cartel offering discrete masterclasses to single white men, empowering them to woo and dazzle with pozole. Selling fresh chiles by the bushel, tomatillos and imported cerdo to unsuspecting hombres anxious to get laid.
Or, maybe there is something to be said for the common denominator — me — who must look like I either appreciate, or am in some desperate need of any culture indicator, to be fed.
Mostly, in the end, the men stop at their posole.
They kiss poorly, have weak opinions or are already onto the next masterclass in rock climbing, dropping terms like “wired” and “dyno” … taking selfies of themselves in a harness.
So now, I am just in it for the occasional margarita — and the toppings. The crunchy radishes, the organic cucumbers, the spritz of lime, the precious avocado.
Thus far, I have resisted the indoor bouldering.
However, I am thinking of offering a masterclass in puttanesca, just to have some skin in the game.
My great uncle owns an olive farm in Umbria and my cousin deals in capers.