For Vegan MoFo, I’m doing a series called Back in Thyme, in which I travel to other periods of my life. Today I’m setting the date to the year 2000…
Valleys make the hills grander, desert makes the ocean more captivating, and absence makes the heart grow fonder. Nothing tastes better than coming in from a frigid January day with frozen feet inside of snow boots to have a brimming bowl of soup. Trail mix is better on a mountaintop in the middle of a long hike, and a hearty breakfast burrito tastes best before the sun has lit up the horizon and the rest of the city slumbers.
As I’ve written before on my blog, for over a decade I was a touring children’s theatre artist. I’d go to schools and perform plays for kids, bringing them up on stage to act out parts in the show. It was a wonderful job, but it didn’t come without its flaws. One of those flaws was that the shows often started first thing in the morning. The schools that we traveled to were scattered all around the Southland, sometimes as deep as San Diego or as far north as Santa Barbara. Being there on time was essential or else the other two actors in the show would have to feverishly work out how to perform a three-person show with two people as school children filed into the auditorium.
That meant waking up at 4 am or 5 am to get on the road. You never knew when a sudden traffic jam would erupt, and so you had to be prepared, leaving two or three times what Mapquest would guess you’d need. Sometimes that still wasn’t enough. And sometimes I’d arrive an hour earlier than necessary. And on those days when the traffic gods smiled on me, I’d seek out what was available for breakfast in the pockets of towns within a mile or two of the school.
Southern California is dotted with tiny mom and pop restaurants selling tacos, enchiladas, pupusas, and burritos. And some of those shops opened early – with cinnamon infused coffee on offer and breakfast burritos stuffed to the brim. In my work uniform of a nearly neon top and brightly colored but clashing pants, I walked in and ordered a burrito wrapped in paper and foil. I’d cart it to the school, sit behind a pillowing curtain of an elementary auditorium, and sigh into bites of roasted potato and tortilla.
I wasn’t vegan in the year 2000 and the burritos weren’t either, but the ones that I make at home now recreate the memory so completely. Warmed tortillas encase a hearty tofu scramble, potatoes, and veggie bacon or seitan sausage. I top it with avocado or guacamole, salsa, hot sauce, jalapeno peppers, or cilantro. I add a shake of cinnamon into my coffee and take a leisurely sip. No freeways and no traffic, but it sure takes me back.