I don’t know about your culture, neighborhood, or upbringing but in my inner-city, working-class, Latino culture there is something called el plato…the take-home plate. Whether it’s a quinceanera, birthday party, baby shower, bachelorette celebration, or Tupperware party you got the take-home plate. There was an etiquette to these social gatherings – a certain unwritten code of behavior that my people followed. As a guest you didn’t even have to ask. It was just something given to you, like the air you breathe. However, this day was only the second time in my 35-year existence that it didn’t happen. It was weird…like an inexplicable X-Files that Moulder and Scully needed to investigate.
I didn’t know what to make of it. I mean I barely survived my mayonnaise chocolate cake encounter the other day through the awesome power of Sal de Uvas Picot antacid. I mean even the Mayonnaise Lady offered me a plate home…granted it was denied because I was on the verge of throwing up, but it was offered. Perhaps things were changing, but when I got home I realized they hadn’t.
There I was enjoying the baby shower festivities, which included a nice carne asada tacos, rice, beans, and tostadas. I thought I was having a great food weekend with the spring rolls and cookies and then this savory meal hits my taste buds … whoa. Did I have seconds? Yeah… I did. I even had thirds. My people make enough to feed King Kong’s family. There’s no shame in getting thirds, my people encourage the curvaceous look.
As the celebration came to an end, people started picking up casseroles, moving chairs, cleaning tables, drinking Budweiser and singing Chente’s Volver Volver. Vincente Fernandez‘s song for those of you that don’t know, this is THE HYMN that usually appears towards the end of the festivities. Drunk and sober people sing it all the time.
So as I’m making my good-bye rounds, I notice I’m getting closer and closer to the door and no plato in sight. I make my final good byes to the guest of honor and her family at the door and nothing.
I linger…still no Dixie plate with aluminum foil any where in sight. But I know they still had enough food to feed half of the New York Giants. So I try to drop some hints.
“It was a great party. The food was great. So delicious.”
“Mmm-hmm. Yes it was. We have so much of it.”
“Oh yeah it was good.”
“Thanks…Glad you made it out.”
“Oh, you were?”
“Of course! We always love having you ladies over.”
I glanced over her shoulder. Nothing. No more stalling. It’s just not coming.
“Well, O.K. Gotta go.”
They stare at me. I stare back.
I open the screen door and leave. No carne asada, no rice, no beans, no salsa. No plato.
I walk through the door at home. My mom sits on the couch watching something Don Francisco related. I put my keys on the table and sit.
“What happened? I thought you went to a party?”
“Y el plato?”
My aunt walks down the stairs and says hello. She looks around the kitchen and table.
“So you didn’t go to the party?”
“Y el plato.”
“Do they not like you?”
“Yeah they do… just no plato.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, not anymore. But initially yeah they did.”
My husband comes down the stairs and gets a beer from the fridge.
“Where’s the plate?”
“No plate! What’s up with that? Was it an unvitation party?”
“No dude. They like me. There was just no plate.”
“Not possible. Maybe they don’t like you enough.”
So after a thirty minute analytical inquisition by family I realized, sometimes there are just no plates. Not even an offer of one. It happens. People have brain farts all the time and the unwritten rule remains unspoken and without action. You chalk it up to too much alcohol and their family living on the west side.
West siders…an interesting no-plato species.