There are certain things that transcend the sense of "the stranger." One is fishing. Anywhere I've ever gone, meeting a fellow fan of bait and tackle means that immediate conversation is possible. It usually starts with "Any luck today?" followed by discussions of what they're biting on, what spots are dry, and such. Now, there are certain protocols that are followed. One would never drop line right next to that person, poaching on their territory. Unless invited to, of course. A large cooler of beer you're willing to share makes that incident more probable.
The other arena in which strictures against talking to strangers, and especially someone who is "not like you," are dropped is cooking. Age, culture, even language, are no barriers to two cooks talking.
We are having a tamalada tomorrow, making lots of tamales for the holidays. I went to the Mexican mega-mart today to load up on heavy bags of wet masa, manteca de puerco, and corn husks. An older Mexican woman peeked at my cart and said, "Oh, you're making tamales!" We wound up talking for about 15 minutes, exchanging recipes and ideas. I, of course, came out much the richer for it. Cooks do not mind being bossy with each other. I told her that I was going to cut a few corners this year -- using ground chile rather than roasting my own peppers, that sort of thing. She directed me over to an unfamiliar can of sauce, used for enchiladas, and told me how to doctor it up for my pork filling. We parted, each giving advice -- she telling me that I can make spinach tamales without having to cook the filling first (use frozen spinach), and me encouraging her to tell her adult son that if he wants tamales, well, he better get over to her house and start spreading masa. "Have good holidays!" she called after me.
The BFF-DRE is coming over, after a church meeting. Not that she had much of a choice. Her boys are tamale-making fiends, and I think they were coming with or without her. Making tamales together has now become one of our holiday traditions. One year, we convinced our church cooking group to make tamales as a fundraiser. We took orders for traditional pork tamales, turkey mole tamales, vegetarian black bean and cotija cheese tamales, vegan chipotle bean tamales, sweet potato tamales.
We had orders for over a 100 dozen.
Late Saturday night of that tamalada, we were all near tears. "I just can't make anymore," our friend T cried, throwing up her hands. Sometimes you have to know when to throw in the towel. Nonetheless, I think we'd made about 98 dozen. We gave apologies to a few people who didn't get their full orders. Everyone was very nice about it.
But we never did that again.
Certain things you do for love, not money, even if the money is going to go to something you love. Tamales are one. Fishing, too.