Dish 64: Cochinita Pibil, Las Bugambilias, 148 South Street, http://lasbugambiliasphilly.com/
Chemistry was one of my favorite subjects in high school—we used to find any reason we could to run flame tests—remember those? Where you soak a wood strip in solution and then spark it alight to determine the mystery chemical in the solution? The sparks, the fluorescent colors—tiny fireworks, right in your hands…
I am continually in pursuit of this spark; architectural brilliance, gastronomic perfection, deep friendship, clothing that re-imagines the bounds of fashion—people, places, things, and ideas that exercise our full range of taste, touch, happiness, sadness—and because one only feels emotion to the fullest extent that one has felt the contradictory emotion, pure hedonism is self-defeating. One must embrace sadness and anger in order to more fully enjoy happiness and contentment.
Dani and I intended to go to Horizons the other night; we thought we had double checked that it was open Mondays, but we were mistaken. After consulting The List, we opted for Las Bugambilias and minutes later found ourselves in the enveloping familial dining room that recalls the warm squishy hug of a beloved chubby aunt. (Editor’s Note: None of my aunts are chubby. This is a theoretical situation.)
We mixed and matched the little heaps on our plates- rice, beans, chopped salad adorned with pickled onion, plantain, pulled pork, to varied results— a smear of beans with a scoop of rice was mundane, but a bite of plantain with a smidge of pulled pork was explosive—the smoke of the meat! The creaminess of the fruit! The light sweet and the heavy sweet, the molasses… it was Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in Top Gun—hot, heavy, hold-your-breath drama, culminating in the satisfying, “I’ll be your wingman anytime.”
Why is it that my heart races and my breath stops when Iceman turns from his locker to criticize, to offer condolences, to embrace Maverick into his life—but when Maverick and Charlie profess their love to one another, I am left cold?
Iceman and Maverick possess that elusive ember, that strange conviction that binds friends and enemies through fights and ennui, the intrinsic knowledge that we belong together; the flame instinctively recognizable to all humans that makes life worth living and cinema worth watching.
Think of how frequently we are entirely surprised when the spark unveils its tormenting, tumultuous, glorious self. There is no pattern between the sparks in my life, save for an intelligence and depth in my cohort (save for Demon Bunny, who admittedly possesses only the intelligence of his German engineers), and a complete submission to life’s waves and troughs at that moment. It follows no rules and knows no bounds.
I wonder if the casting directors knew what was occurring when they cast Val Kilmer across from Tom Cruise in Top Gun—I like to think the heat was undeniable to all in attendance, but that could be the bromantic in me. Perhaps the directors were simply trying to have dinner on South Street, and ran into Val when the restaurant they chose had closed for the night.
Tags: anger, beans, bougainvillea, bro, bromance, bromantic, bromeo, charlie, chemistry, cochinita pibil, contentment, dani, demon bunny, flame test, happiness, happy accident, horizons, iceman, las bugambilias, love, maverick, mexican, philly, picked onions, plantain, pulled pork, rice, sadness, salad, south street, spark, tom cruise, top gun, truth, val kilmer, vegan, vegetarian